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Column One: Research

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For years, scholars and commentators have derided education and social-science research as "restating the obvious." But such claims misstate both the value of education research and what people consider "obvious," argues N.L. Gage, professor of education emeritus at Stanford University.

Writing in the January-February 1991 issue of Educational Researcher, Mr. Gage notes that some principles that seem obvious--such as the statement that if students spend more time studying a subject, they will learn more--turn out, from research, to be more complex. Citing a turn-of-the-century study by Joseph Meyer Rice, which found that increasing time for spelling instruction did not increase achievement, Mr. Gage states that "showing a relationship between time on task and achievement was not as easy as falling off a log."

Moreover, Mr. Gage writes, two recent studies found that people consider even contradictory findings "obvious." Mr. Gage writes: "People tend to regard as obvious almost any reasonable statement made about human behavior."

Mr. Gage concludes that education researchers can "improv[e] human affairs by applying scientific methods to the development and evaluation of new 'treatments."'

Male high-school teachers tend to consider female principals less effective than female teachers do, a study by a University of Michigan researcher concludes.

Using data from the massive High School and Beyond Survey, Valerie E. Lee also found that male teachers working for female principals feel "especially disenfranchised."

The findings, she writes, may help explain one of the survey's more ''troubling findings": Although half of all high-school teachers are women, 90 percent of principals are men.

Although few teachers explicitly state their dissatisfaction with women leaders, she suggests, "it is probably the case that such reasoning operates to constrain the numbers of women in the principal ranks."

The National Science Foundation is soliciting applications for grants for projects to develop new ways of assessing student learning in mathematics and science.

The awards will support a range of projects designed to "redefine the nature of state, national, and international tests" in the subjects, as well as to determine the growth of students over time, according to foundation officials.

The deadline for preliminary applications is March 1.--rr

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