The Fabulous 20%: Programs Proven Effective in Rigorous Research

Robert Slavin's Blog

blog_4-18-19_girlcheer_500x333 Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Over the past 15 years, governments in the U.S. and U.K. have put quite a lot of money (by education standards) into rigorous research on promising programs in PK-12 instruction. Rigorous research usually means studies in which schools, teachers, or students are assigned at random to experimental or control conditions and then pre- and posttested on valid measures independent of the developers. In the U.S., the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) and Investing in Innovation (i3), now called Education Innovation Research (EIR), have led this strategy, and in the U.K., it’s the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Enough research has now been done to enable us to begin to see important patterns in the findings.

One finding that is causing some distress is that the numbers of studies showing significant positive effects is modest…

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Can attention span in infancy predict later executive function? (Best Evidence in Brief)

From experience to meaning...

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with some interesting studies, such as this one, although I do think it can be regarded in part for an extra argument that executive functions (note the plural) are heavily influenced by nature:

Infant attention skills are significantly related to preschool executive function at age three, according to a new study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

One hundred and fourteen children took part in the study. Jessica H. Kraybill and colleagues measured children’s attention at five months by using parental-report questionnaires and by assessing look duration and shifting rate while the children watched a video clip. Children’s single longest continuous look and the number of shifts of gaze at the video were recorded. Shorter looking durations were taken as an indication of better information processing, and high shift rates typically represent better attention. The performance…

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Benchmark Assessments: Weighing the Pig More Often?

Robert Slavin's Blog

There is an old saying about educational assessment: “If you want to fatten a pig, it doesn’t help to weigh it more often.”

To be fair, it may actually help to weigh pigs more often, so the farmer knows whether they are gaining weight at the expected levels. Then they can do something in time if this is not the case.

It is surely correct that weighing pigs does no good in itself, but it may serve a diagnostic purpose. What matters is not the weighing, but rather what the farmer or veterinarian does based on the information provided by the weighing.


This blog is not, however, about porcine policy, but educational policy. In schools, districts, and even whole states, most American children take “benchmark assessments” roughly three to six times a year. These assessments are intended to tell teachers, principals, and other school leaders how students are doing, especially in…

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Three things that are not explicit teaching

Filling the pail

Explicit instruction has a large quantity of supporting evidence. This means that it is ripe for subversion by those who would like to lend its credibility to less effective practices. It is important to appropriately challenge such attempts when we encounter them.

Here are some things that are definitely not supported by the evidence base that supports explicit teaching.

1. A little just-in-time teaching

Explicit teaching is a whole system that is planned and sequenced, progressing through the stages of I-do, we-do and you-do. It can contain open ended tasks and the appropriate time in this sequence. The key defining feature is that new concepts are fully explained when students first meet them – we might even suggest they are ‘over-explained’ in order to prevent the formation of misconceptions.

Barak Rosenshine summarises this process well. I also like Blaise Joseph’s definition in his recent report for the Centre for Independent…

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Countering Science Denial in Education

Mr. G Mpls

There is a naive, Enlightenment-inspired belief that when we know better, we do better – that evidence and facts alone change minds. In this dream world, after being shown the latest research, teachers would hastily adopt best practices and refrain from using unproven and ineffective fads in the classroom.

But if we look to history, it becomes apparent that bridging the gap between research and practice has never been easy, because emergent myths and unproven practices are almost always perpetuated by industries and individuals who depend on the survival of the idea, no matter the evidence against it.

As author and historian Robert Crease writes, “contemporary science deniers have not one (religious) motive, but many — greed, fear, bias, convenience, profits, politics — to which they cling with various degrees of sincerity and cynicism.”

Rather than sticking to statistics, graphs and charts, Crease argues the best way to counter…

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Funny on Sunday: what group project taught me…

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The ‘Ambassador Model’ in science communication

From experience to meaning...

I’m taking a bit of leap here, as my colleagues in Leiden are much bigger experts on science communication than I am. I mean they do research on science communication while I just communicate about science. Still I thought this study to be pretty interesting and relevant. The study shows that building relationships between scientists and communities that are founded on shared values, does work.

An excerpt from the press release:

Bring science to people where they are. That’s the driving philosophy that propels U biology professor Nalini Nadkarni to stretch the possibilities of science communication and bring the beauty of science to people and places that others have overlooked.

Building public trust in science is about more than just providing information and improving science literacy, she says. It’s about building relationships between scientists and communities that are founded on shared values. It’s called the “Ambassador Model”, and Nadkarni…

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