LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION
A SERP RESEARCH AGENDA
M. Suzanne Donovan and James W. Pellegrino, editors
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Grant No. R305U000002 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education; Grant No. 00-61980-HCD from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Grant Nos. 200200171 and 20030091 from the Spencer Foundation; and Grant No. B7070 from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Learning and instruction : a SERP research agenda : panel on learning and instruction / M. Suzanne Donovan, and James W. Pellegrino, editors.
“Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.”
ISBN 0-309-09081-4—ISBN 0-309-52762-7
1. Education—Research—United States. 2. Reading—United States. 3. Mathematics—Study and teaching—United States. 4. Science—Study and teaching—United States. I. Donovan, Suzanne. II. Pellegrino, James W. III. National Research Council (U.S.). Panel on Learning and Instruction.
Additional copies of this report are available from the
National Academies Press,
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Copyright 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Suggested citation: National Research Council (2004). Learning and Instruction: A SERP Research Agenda. Panel on Learning and Instruction. M. Suzanne Donovan and James W. Pellegrino, editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
PANEL ON LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
JAMES W. PELLEGRINO (Chair),
University of Illinois at Chicago
JOHN R. ANDERSON,
Carnegie Mellon University
DEBORAH LOEWENBERG BALL,
University of Michigan
JILL HARRISON BERG,
Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge, Massachusetts
STEPHEN J. CECI,
MARY ELLEN DAKIN,
Revere High School, Revere, Massachusetts
BARBARA R. FOORMAN,
University of Texas-Houston Medical School
University of Colorado, Boulder
ROBERT A. MORSE,
St. Albans School, Washington, DC
SHARON P. ROBINSON,
Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ
Research for Better Teaching, Inc., Carlisle, Massachusetts
JOSEPH K. TORGESEN,
Florida State University
MARK R. WILSON,
University of California, Berkeley
SUZANNE M. WILSON,
Michigan State University
M. SUZANNE DONOVAN, Study Director
ALEXANDRA K. WIGDOR, Director, SERP
JAMES A. KELLY, Senior Consultant
ALLISON E. SHOUP, Senior Project Assistant
SHIRLEY THATCHER, Senior Project Assistant
ELIZABETH TOWNSEND, Senior Project Assistant
STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
JOE B. WYATT (Chair),
JOHN S. REED (Vice Chair), formerly chair,
CATHERINE SNOW (Vice Chair),
Michigan State University
JAMES N. BARON,
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
University of Michigan
Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Illinois
Meridian National, Inc., Houston, Texas
RICHARD R. NELSON,
Zavala Elementary School, Corpus Christi, Texas
THOMAS W. PAYZANT,
Boston Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts
Education Commission of the States, Denver, Colorado
PHILIP URI TREISMAN,
University of Texas
ALEXANDRA K. WIGDOR, Director
M. SUZANNE DONOVAN, Associate Director
JAMES A. KELLY, Senior Advisor
ALLISON E. SHOUP, Senior Project Assistant
This report was prepared by the Panel on Learning and Instruction as a companion document to the report Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP), prepared by the SERP Committee. The committee’s report provides the vision for a new organization, program, and partnership that would allow education research and development (R&D) to be linked to, and embedded in, educational practice. This report puts flesh on the bones of the proposal for an R&D program focused on educational practice.
The panel and the committee worked simultaneously and separately. Because the staff to both groups was the same and the panel chair attended all committee meetings, the panel was kept informed of the committee’s work throughout. The vision of the possible in this report assumes the research and development infrastructure that is proposed in the committee’s report.
The task given to the panel was in some respects an uncomfortable one: to create a research and development agenda that would produce work that is genuinely useful to classroom teachers. To accomplish our mission, we needed to identify both the problems of practice that are particularly important to tackle early on, and cases of existing R&D that are particularly promising for improving classroom practice if carried further. This required that we make the case that some problems are more urgent than others, and some approaches to solutions show more promise than others.
This was a challenge for two reasons. First, a thorough review of all the literature that is relevant to K-12 education was beyond our scope and time frame. Instead, we relied on the syntheses of literatures done by previous National Research Council committees and committees formed elsewhere (including the RAND Corporation and the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development), as well as on the breadth and depth of knowledge brought by panel members. While we believe our agenda is carefully considered and, if carried out, would genuinely improve educational practice, we are also aware that a different group of individuals might have produced a different agenda with equal merit.
Second, those who engage in research often are inspired by the interesting questions that still remain to be answered. Research findings are often viewed as an opening to new questions. But those in the world of educational practice require closure: When can we say that we know something with enough confidence to change the way we teach? Closure is anathema to researchers whose training leads them to question whether they have seen only a small piece of the puzzle, and whether the next piece will show them a picture different from what they had imagined.
If the researchers on the panel were somewhat hesitant, however, the teachers were less so. They work with children whose success in school and opportunities for the future they care deeply about. Their message was clear: we need access to the best research-based knowledge available, even when there are questions that remain unanswered, and even when more work remains to be done. If falling short of certainty means we do not identify and build on research and development with high potential for improving practice, then we will miss opportunities to improve student achievement that are sorely needed.
What we offer in this report, then, is an “illustrative” agenda: the best effort of a group of practitioners and researchers to identify research and development opportunities and directions that can support and sustain improvements in educational practice. We believe the overall framework we offer is one that can productively guide the development of a use-inspired R&D agenda on learning and instruction, even if any specific line of research we propose is replaced with another deemed to be of higher priority. We also believe that the lines of research outlined in this report have considerable potential for enhancing educational practice in the near term and for the more distant future. Most of all, our hope is that the agenda we have outlined, and its framing, will be helpful as a point of departure for a more extended and multifaceted discussion and decision-making process regarding SERP research priorities that will become a standard feature of education R&D in the future.
The panel is grateful to the many people who contributed to this report. The financial support of our sponsors at the Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York was essential. Our thanks to C. Kent McGuire, former assistant secretary of education research and improvement, and to his successor and now director of the National Institute for Education Sciences, Grover J. Whitehurst; thanks likewise are due to Valerie Reyna, Mark Constas, and Sue Betka. We are grateful to Daniel Fallon, director of the education program at Carnegie Corporation, his predecessor Vivien Stewart, and colleague Karin Egan; Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, former president of the Spencer Foundation; and Paul Goren, vice president of the Spencer Foundation and before that education officer at the MacArthur Foundation.
The panel benefited greatly from the contributions of colleagues who shared their insights about the challenges of creating an agenda that could link research and practice more successfully than in the past. Catherine Snow of Harvard University and vice chair of the SERP committee talked with the panel during a formative stage, and her ideas and insights contributed significantly to the chapter on reading. Thomas Glennan of the RAND Corporation also spoke with the panel at the outset, sharing his extensive experience on issues of linking research with development and with practice. Kenneth Koedinger of Carnegie Mellon University and Kathleen Metz of the University of California, Berkeley, responded very helpfully to requests by the panel for further information on their work. Laura Cooper, assistant superintendent in Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, and a member of the SERP committee, provided feedback to the panel from her extensive experience in linking research with practice in school settings.
At the National Academies, Alexandra Wigdor provided suggestions and valuable feedback as the panel shaped its report, giving us the benefit of her vast experience throughout the process. Carole LaCampagne, a study director for mathematics projects, provided the panel with assistance on the mathematics chapter. Several project assistants supported the project. Shirley Thatcher supported the project at its inception, Allison Shoup carried the project through several meetings and a first draft of the report, and Neale Baxter and Elizabeth Townsend saw the report through its final stages. The panel is grateful to all for
their hard work and good spirit. Final editing of the report was done by Christine McShane, with her trademark skill and careful attention to detail.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Sherri Andrews, General Studies, North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem; Nicholas A. Branca, Mathematical and Computer Sciences, San Diego State University; James R. Brown, superintendent, Glendale Unified School District, CA; Williamson M. Evers, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Richard M. Felder, Department of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University; Henry M. Levin, Teachers College, Columbia University; Marcia C. Linn, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley; Barbara Schneider, Sociology and Human Development, The University of Chicago; and Neil J. Smelser, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Richard J. Shavelson, School of Education, Stanford University, and William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus and vice chairman, Board of Trustees, Washington University. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Finally, we would like to sincerely thank all of the panel members who generously contributed their time and intellect to the completion of this project. Generating a comprehensive re-
search agenda on learning and instruction in a short period of time represents an extraordinary challenge, requiring individuals with different backgrounds and interests to select among and prioritize a broad array of possible topics and issues, all of which may have purchase for improving educational practice. Throughout the process, the panel members displayed an extraordinary ability to make choices and maintain a sense of purpose and focus. Simultaneously, they showed a strong commitment to drawing on each other’s expertise and the collective knowledge of the group. It has been both a professionally stimulating and personally gratifying experience to work with the members of this panel and everyone at the National Research Council associated with the SERP effort.
Jim Pellegrino, Panel Chair
Suzanne Donovan, Study Director