School & District Management

NRC Publishes Follow-Up on Student Learning

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — January 11, 2005 3 min read

The National Research Council’s synthesis of the research on learning turned into an international best seller after its release six years ago. Now, the council has released a companion volume intended to help teachers convert the abstract research-based principles identified in the earlier report to effective practice.

But the report is unlikely to quell debates about which methods are best for teaching the subjects.

“How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom” is available for online viewing or purchase from the National Academies Press.

How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom outlines how three central tenets of learning theory might shape instruction in those subjects. Those tenets, drawn from the extensive research analysis of a committee of scholars, suggest that teachers must address students’ initial understanding and preconceptions about particular topics, provide a foundation of factual knowledge and conceptual understanding, and teach strategies to help students take control of their learning.

“These principles, even if teachers [understood] them, were still at too abstract a level,” said M. Suzanne Donovan, who directed the study for the NRC, a part of the National Academies, which advise the federal government and the public on issues in science, engineering, and medicine. “We were looking for a set of chapters that took all three principles and addressed them in depth and communicated them effectively to teachers.”

‘Repertoire of Strategies’

The 600-page volume is divided by subject area, with recommendations from experts for incorporating the three principles into lessons and activities in those areas. The book also features a number of detailed descriptions of how skilled educators have designed lessons around the principles.

A case study of a history lesson, for example, outlines how students can use textbook descriptions and a number of primary sources to put into broader context the experience of the Pilgrims and Native Americans in the early part of the 17th century.

John D. Bransford

Another example is a discussion by 2nd graders and their teacher of the varying strategies they use to solve math problems. And an extended section describes how to lead students on a scientific study of light.

“The individual chapters in this volume might be viewed as presentations of the strategies taken by individuals (or teams) who understand the rules of the teaching and learning ‘game’ as we now understand them,” Ms. Donovan and John D. Bransford write in the introduction. Mr. Bransford, a professor of education at the University of Washington in Seattle, has done research on how people learn and was a co-chairman of the original committee.

The subject-area sections will also be published separately in the hope of making them more useful to teachers.

A range of instructional methods could be used to cover the content of lessons and help students master them, but the report falls short of suggesting how to teach the subjects—a question that has stirred vigorous debate in each of the fields and among policymakers.

“We don’t believe, nor do the chapters indicate, that there is a single method that can be used,” Ms. Donovan said. “We hope teachers will see things they can incorporate into their own repertoire of strategies.”

The report is, however, a step toward bridging the gap between research and practice and improving instruction for all students, according to Beatrice L. Bridglall, the assistant director of the Institute for Urban & Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Teacher Access

But while it could prove a valuable resource, disseminating research for use in classrooms has long been difficult.

“One of the challenges . . . is the lack of time teachers and other educators have for reading, honestly reflecting on what they read, and integrating relevant information in instruction,” Ms. Bridglall wrote in an e-mail. “I am not sanguine that the main audience for whom this book is intended, namely teachers, will even know about this resource.”

The earlier publication, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, was one of the council’s most popular, selling 85,000 copies in a number of languages, including Chinese, Finnish, Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as NRC Publishes Follow-Up on Student Learning

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Sponsor
Drive Improvement in Your School With Harvard’s Certificate in School Management and Leadership
Aubree Mills had two dilemmas she needed to address: One was recruiting and retaining good teachers at the Ira A. Murphy Elementary School
Content provided by Harvard Graduate School of Education
School & District Management Opinion Are Your Leadership Practices Good Enough for Racial Justice?
Scratch being a hero. Instead, build trust and reach beyond school walls, write Jennifer Cheatham and John B. Diamond.
Jennifer Cheatham & John B. Diamond
5 min read
Illustration of leadership.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: DigitalVision Vectors, iStock, Getty)
School & District Management We Pay Superintendents Big Bucks and Expect Them to Succeed. But We Hardly Know Them
National data is skimpy, making it hard to know what influences superintendents' decisions to move on, retire, or how long they stay. Why?
8 min read
Conceptual image of tracking with data.
marcoventuriniautieri/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Data For the First Time in the Pandemic, a Majority of 4th Graders Learn in Person Full Time
The latest monthly federal data still show big racial and socioeconomic differences in who has access to full-time in-person instruction.
3 min read
Student with backpack.
surasaki/iStock/Getty