I was losing my patience helping my son with some particularly tricky math homework last week, and I angrily asked my husband "I wonder if there is even any research to support this program?!". He looked at me like I was crazy, and said "Research? It's a math worksheet, what is there to research?"
And he was right. My son just needed to get through a few more problems. But my husband's response got me thinking about what parents know about education research.
There is so much education research being done at universities around the country and the world. Experts are studying better ways to predict which students will struggle with reading, which programs work to keep kids in school, how to best help students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and so much more.
I don't think parents need to follow every ed-research development, or question teachers and schools about the "research" behind their every move. But there are a few things about education research that could really help parents. Here are my tips for using educational research to help your family.
The Teacher's Answers About Education Research
1. Where do I find education research?
News sites like NPR ED cover some education research, but not all. If you are looking for something specific, you will have to do a little digging. One of my favorite sources is the What Works Clearinghouse. It is a government-funded resource that identifies school-related programs that are supported by scientific research. You can search for resources on any specific topic, from math interventions for elementary students, to autism support for high school students. Another searchable database is ERIC, which is short for Education Resources Information Center. I also find a lot of education research using Google Scholar. Many of the research articles require a fee for full-text access, but I read the abstracts to get ideas, and many local libraries have online access to academic journals.
2. Why would I use education research?
Education research is most helpful when you are facing a big decision or a big problem. Are you deciding between a Montessori school and a traditional school? You could read about the merits of each. Can't decide about redshirting your almost Kindergartener? There's research on that. Is there a big IEP dispute about your child's access to a specific program? You could find out if the research supports the program's effectiveness.
Delving into to the educational research won't answer every question or provide a handful of easy solutions, but it can arm you with enough knowledge to ask the right questions and make informed decisions.
3. Is all education research equal?
Nope. Just like in every other field, there are some questionable studies that are funded by special interest groups or don't follow best practices for research design. I like to check that the research was published in a peer reviewed journal. I also pay special attention to meta-analyses. These are studies of studies that compile results from many different research projects on the same topic.
You may never need to take a deeper look at education research, or maybe it's just the thing you need. Do you have an education question you would like some help on? Ask me a question, and I will review the research for you!