Keep up the good work

In his Huffington Post blog, Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, discusses a study that evaluated a behaviour management programme, First Step to Success, for students with behaviour problems. The programme has been evaluated successfully many times. In this latest study, 200 children in grades 1 to 3 (Years 2 to 4) with serious behaviour problems were randomly assigned to experimental or control groups. On behaviour and achievement measures, students in the experimental group scored much higher, with effect sizes of +0.44 to +0.87.

The researchers came back a year later to see if the outcomes had been maintained. Despite the substantial impacts seen previously, none of three prosocial/adaptive behaviour measures, only one of three problem/maladaptive behaviours, and none of four academic achievement measures now showed positive outcomes. However, the students had passed from teachers who had been trained in the First Step method to teachers who had not.

Dr Slavin says, “Imagine that all teachers in the school learned the program and all continued to implement it for many years. In this circumstance, it would be highly likely that the first-year positive impacts would be sustained and most likely improved over time.” He discusses the implications of the research, and the importance of continuing with successful interventions.

Source: Keep Up the Good Work (To Keep Up the Good Outcomes) (2016), Huffington Post

Success in evidence-based reform: The importance of failure

The latest blog post from Robert Slavin, a Professor in the IEE and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, considers the large number of randomised experiments evaluating educational programmes that find few achievement effects. This is a problem that will take on increasing significance as results from the first cohort of the US Investing in Innovation (i3) grants are released.

At the same time, the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK, much like i3, will also begin to report outcomes. It’s possible that the majority of these projects will fail to produce significant positive effects in rigorous, well-conducted evaluations. However, there is much to be learned in the process. For example, the i3 process is producing a great deal of information about what works and what does not, what gets implemented and what does not, and the match between schools’ needs and programmes’ approaches.

Is education research looking at the right issues?

A new report published by the Aspen Institute considers how US federal policy influences education research. The report includes a useful summary of the way that the federal government funds education research through a plethora of agencies. This is followed by a series of essays looking at ways in which this might be improved in the future. In his essay, Robert Slavin suggests some potential new directions for education research. “Research, evaluation, and dissemination of effective approaches should be the cornerstone of progress in America’s elementary and secondary schools,” he says.

Source: Leveraging Learning: The Evolving Role of Federal Policy in Education Research (2013), The Aspen Institute.

Tailoring evidence-based reform to different problems

Robert Slavin, professor at the Institute for Effective Education and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, focuses his latest blog post not just on reading, writing, and arithmetic, but on the sometimes harder-to-define problems of education, such as managing resources and cultivating relationships.

He says, “Is there anyone out there who thinks that it is not important to identify effective and replicable approaches to teaching reading, algebra, and all the other relatively easy-to-define, easy-to-measure problems of education? Yet solving these does still leave some very important but less-well-defined problems that may take different approaches. These approaches should still be informed by evidence, but perhaps different types of evidence from the design-build-evaluate-disseminate model that usually leads to proven and replicable approaches to reading or algebra, if anything does.”

Innovation in education and medicine

“Education research is as likely as medical research to lead to profound breakthroughs in practice and outcomes in the coming years.” That is the conclusion of the latest blog post from Robert Slavin, professor in the IEE and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, in which he discusses similarities and differences in the way evidence affects, or could affect, education and medicine.

To support his conclusion, Slavin offers several reasons why, with greater support, education research could have at least as profound an impact on education outcomes as medicine or public health do on health outcomes. For example, he says, “Education research is easier to do than medical research. The unlikelihood of serious negative side effects is one reason. Another is that because pretests in education are so highly correlated with post-tests, we can accurately predict what students would have achieved without treatment, making it easier to do studies.” Ultimately, Slavin says, “When we build up a stock of proven programs and have the support of government for using them, watch out. Education could show medicine a thing or two about how to improve outcomes on a national scale using rigorous research and innovation.”

New York Times profiles evidence-based education

The New York Times has published an article on the work of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the rise of evidence-based education.

The institute (an office in the US Education Department), aims to get real data about what works in education, particularly from randomised controlled trials, and shares findings through its What Works Clearinghouse website. Among those interviewed are Robert Slavin, a professor in the IEE (and Director of the Centre for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins School of Education), Peter Tymms from Durham University, and Jon Baron, president of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy.

The article covers the history of the IES and considers the difficulties of translating the institute’s research into practical change. As Slavin explains in the article “It’s fascinating what a secret this is”. Instead, he says, educators are often “swayed by marketing or anecdotes or the latest fad.” However, he is hopeful of change. Despite little political drive in the US, the Obama administration has said its goal is to enable schools to use programmes that have been proven to work.