Proposed Topics for Research Centers

September 20, 1989 4 min read

Following is a list of research-center topics proposed last week by the Education Department, as well as a list of existing centers that would not be continued under the proposal.

New topics not covered by an existing center include:

Families, Communities, and Young Children’s Learning. Would include family and community influence on education; parental choice; learning outside school; how very young children learn; and ways to help parents improve their children’s achievement.

Education in the Inner Cities. Would include education of minority and disadvantaged students; the operation of urban school systems; the influence of inner-city conditions on schools; how cultural diversity shapes students’ educational experience; and the impact of activities outside school.

Adult Literacy. Would include assessment of the effectiveness of basic-skills programs and the use of new technology, and identification of model programs.

Topics that correspond at least partially to the subject area of existing centers include:

Student Learning. Would focus on patterns of thinking in different academic subjects; the role of social interactions in the acquisition of higher-order thinking; integration of knowledge; alternative methods for teaching thinking skills; and the relationship between higher-order thinking skills and student motivation. (The existing Center for the Study of Learning focuses specifically on thinking and learning in mathematics, science, and social studies.)

Writing and Literacy. Would include the intersection between writing, reading, and oral language; writing assessment; writing as a learning tool; the acquisition of writing skills by students with different language backgrounds; the use of technology; and early literacy learning. (The current Center for the Study of Writing focuses only on the teaching and learning of writing, with no literacy component.)

Mathematics Teaching and Learning. Would study improved teaching practices; how students learn mathematics; barriers to curricular reform; assessment; the use of technology; and integration of mathematics and other subjects. (This mission would be similar to that of the existing center on this topic.)

Science Teaching and Learning. Would focus on increasing scientific literacy; integration of science with other subjects; the use of technology; assessment; and the effect of organization and policy on student reasoning. (The current Research Synthesis Center for the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment of Science focuses primarily on dissemination of research and promoting change in assessment, curriculum, and instructional policy.)

Learning To Teach. Would focus on the cognitive processes through which teachers learn to teach and how various methods interact with them. (The current Center for Research on Teacher Education primarily studies the effectiveness of different methods of formal teacher education.)

Education Policies and Student Learning. Would examine the impact on learning of policies such as parental choice, higher standards, and changes in teacher certification, as well as the development of innovative approaches and processes to implement effective policies. (This mandate would be narrower than that of the existing Center for Policy Research in Education, which studies more generally the relationship between policy and education and the effect of different policy approaches.)

Assessment, Evaluation, and Testing. Would continue the existing center’s study of the impact of assessment, focusing particularly on diverse student populations and the intended and unintended effects of assessment practices and reforms.

Educational Quality of the Workforce. Would continue the current mission of the Center on Education and Employment, with an emphasis on the needs of modern workplaces, the effect of school and college achievement, and the value of postsecondary degrees.

Postsecondary Learning and Teaching Assessment. Would focus on the relationship between student achievement and such factors as resources and faculty preparation; the effect of student backgrounds, skill, and motivation; graduation requirements and course content; and the identification of effective assessment methods in higher education. (The current Center for Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning focuses on teaching strategies, policies, and cognitive development of students.)

Centers that are to expire in 1990 but were not included on the list of proposed topics include:

The Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools and the National Center on Effective Elementary Schools. These study a variety of topics as they apply to policy at the school level and to students in particular age groups.

The Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature. This studies teaching and learning methods, assessment of literature, and curriculum at the precollegiate level.

The Arts Education Research Center. This studies teaching methods and curricula at the precollegiate level.

A version of this article appeared in the September 20, 1989 edition of Education Week as Proposed Topics for Research Centers