Research and Reports

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A new study of 1,400 freshmen at Harvard University has concluded that coaching for college-admission tests makes little difference in student performance on the tests.

The study, conducted by Dean K. Whitla, director of the university's office of instructional research and evaluation, found that, when taking the test a second time, the 14 percent of students who said they had been coached raised their scores by an average of 94 points, compared with an average 67-point increase for the 77 percent of students who said they had not been coached.

But those who were not coached scored higher initially than those who were, the study found, and the increase provided by coaching failed to make up the difference.

The study was presented this month at the annual New England regional meeting of the College Board.

The College Board administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the admissions test used by Harvard.

Judith Allen, director of the board's New England office, said the study corroborates findings that show a correlation between test scores and academic background.

But John S. Katzman, founder of the Princeton Review, a major test-coaching firm, said the study proves that coaching is effective. "Kids who prepped went up an average of 94 points," he said. "That's a great number."

In a report based on a five-year study of the use of technology in elementary and secondary mathematics, science, and computing instruction, a federally funded research center suggests that curricular enhancements should not be an end unto themselves.

Curriculum specialists should develop materials that supplement existing curricular models, rather than large-scale projects that supplant them, says the report by the Educational Technology Center, housed at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

These supplementary materials, which the report calls "metacourses,'' would "provide regular courses with a vitamin shot of technology-enhanced assistance both to teaching content and to teaching students how knowledge is made in a particular subject area."

The report, "Making Sense of the Future," also says that the center's experience in the field indicates a need for additional research into the way students think, the design of materials, and the impact of such materials on student learning.

Copies of the report, which the center calls a "position paper," are available for $3 each from the Educational Technology Center, 337 Gutman Library, Appian Way, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

Vol. 07, Issue 22

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