Where can I learn about what works best in education?
July 31, 2020 1:40 PM   Subscribe

If I'm going to be homeschooling my kids I'd love to at least avoid messing them up. I know this body of research changes all the time, and it's a thorny topic for all sorts of reasons, and all kids are different, and we need to lower our expectations during this awful pandemic. But all that being said, there are people whose job it is to study how to teach children better. Are there any good places where I can learn what to do and what not to do, at least according to some reasonable consensus of experts? If nothing else it would be comforting for me. Thank you!
posted by malhouse to Education (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Actually yes! Subject to all the caveats you listed of course, the Institute of Education Sciences is part of the US Department of Education, and maintains a resource called the What Works Clearinghouse. There you can find summaries of educational research and best practices in different categories (literacy, math, preschool, children with disabilities, etc.). IES has also put together resources and guides related to COVID-19 and distance education. As you noted, education research is constantly evolving, each child is unique, some strategies will be a better match for your situation than others, etc., but hopefully this will be a helpful place to start!
posted by scalar_implicature at 1:51 PM on July 31, 2020 [9 favorites]

Check out reciprocal teaching. It was all the rage when I was a middle school teacher in LA in 2000 and even now I am using the skills I learned with my own two little preschoolers here in Germany.

The idea is: good learners (readers!!!!) learn how to summarize content, clarify content, question content and predict what happens next. It works for all subjects and is just totally awesome.

So good learners are able to summarize what they know, question what they don’t understand, they can clarify ideas and predict what comes next. All learners/readers go through this process. Even you and I. Reciprocal teaching helps them practice.
posted by pairofshades at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

Oh, and there was tons of research backing it up. Palinscar and brown I think.
posted by pairofshades at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

As a parent, I observed that a teacher's engagement with my son, and attitude towards him, made a huge difference. Get your kids to teach you things, to reflect what they learned, be interested. Provide the most enriched environment you can, most kids are curious and want to learn something, just not necessarily grammar. My siblings and I grew up with tins of books and music annoyance and are good at spelling, grammar, basic writing. Maybe think about what you wished you had learned as a kid and try to help your children learn some things that are not necessarily in the curriculum music appreciation, history from other viewpoints, plant and bird identification, how to sail a boat.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on August 1, 2020

Hi! For STEM topics I highly recommend STEM tools, which is supported by research and is a great introduction to current best practices for Science learning. It is primarily focused on the classroom environment, but should give you an idea how to approach STEM topics. These tools follow the Next Generation Science Standards framework and Science educators know that keeping learning inquiry-based, fun and hands-on is what works.

In regards to specific, age-appropriate activities, look to Science Centers and museums, they're currently working their collective butts off to provide online resources to adults who suddenly find themselves home-based science teachers. Check out the Exploratorium, Pacific Science Center, and your local natural history museum for detailed activities and ideas.

Also, we know through research that getting outside and observing nature is important to science thinking and development, so including that in your home curriculum will be beneficial to learning and health.

Luckily the home envrionment really lends itself to fun science exploration. Be sure to take opportunities to get outside and explore, and feel free to message me if you want more support!
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 3:59 PM on August 1, 2020

You are right that the body of research changes and that sadly topics can be “thorny” but the good news is that there is scientific consensus in terms of what makes a long-term impact in learning. However, this doesn't always translate to consensus within the teaching community.

I recommend having a look at the learning scientists for accessible summaries of what we know works in education. They are scientists, but have worked with and within schools, and are great at disseminating what the science of learning says to educators. They share six strategies for effective learning, focusing on the ones where there is the strongest evidence for impact. Their downloadable materials are great, and they have resources for parents.

Other great communicators are Dylan William and Daniel Willingham. Willingham's book, Why Don't Students Like School? is excellent and eye-opening, and he has a new book out on raising kids who read which I haven't read yet. You might also be interested in having a look at researchED, an organisation that aims to improve "research literacy" in education. They have a YouTube channel with a wealth of talks on all sorts of fascinating and important topics. Finally, the UK-based Education Endowment Foundation looks at the strength of evidence behind different approaches. Their evidence summaries are great. Bear in mind that this is within a UK-context, although much (perhaps most) of their advice applies elsewhere. Here are their resources for parents.

Another area where there is robust evidence for what works is teaching early reading via phonics. It was a hard-won battle to introduce compulsory phonics teaching in the UK on the back of the excellent independent Rose report.

Read-write - some free courses available online for parents
Phonics books for decodable readers follow the read-write scheme

Free Schemes with plans:
Letters and Sounds FREE (older but excellent and still used widely)
Twinkl has lots of resources available linked to Letters and Sounds

Please memail me if you want to talk more. As a teacher, I'm very passionate about the research on the science of learning and how this translates back into classroom practice.
posted by mkdirusername at 12:32 PM on August 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

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