It has been an unprecedentedly difficult year for teachers and principals. We sifted through hundreds of studies to see if we could track exactly what’s going on: Studies reveal a complex year in which millions of educators were affected by persistent burnout issues and physical and mental health. Meanwhile, many of the old debates continue: Is paper better than numbers? Is project-based learning as effective as face-to-face learning? How do you define what a “good” school is?
Other studies caught our attention and in some cases made headlines. Researchers at the University of Chicago and Columbia University used artificial intelligence on about 1,130 award-winning children’s books to uncover invisible patterns of bias. (Spoiler alert: you found some.) Another study sheds light on why many parents are reluctant to support social and emotional learning in schools — and suggests ways educators can change the script.
1. What parents fear (and how to change their minds)
When the Fordham Institute researchers asked parents to rank sentences related to social and emotional learning, nothing seemed to come out. The term “social-emotional learning” is very unpopular. Parents want to discourage their children. But when the researchers added a simple clause to form a new phrase — “social-emotional and academic learning” — the program soared all the way to No. 2.
The researchers suggested that parents included subtle cues that annoyed or worried them in their lists of SEL-related terms. Expressions like “soft skills” and “growth mindset” feel “fuzzy” and lack academic content. To some, the language suspiciously resembles “liberalized code.”
But research suggests that parents may need the simplest of reassurances to cut through the political noise. Removing jargon, focusing on productive phrases like “life skills,” and insisting on associating SEL with academic progress reassures parents—while seemingly saving social and emotional learning in the process.
2. Secret management techniques of expert teachers
In the hands of seasoned teachers, classroom management can seem almost invisible: Subtle tricks work quietly behind the scenes, and students move into orderly routines that deal with rigorous academic assignments almost magically.
According to new research, that’s no coincidence. While school outbreaks are inevitable, experienced teachers seed their classrooms with positive, relationship-building strategies that can often prevent misconduct before it erupts. They also approach discipline more holistically than their less-experienced peers, always placing misconduct in the broader context of how the classroom is more engaging or how clearly they communicate expectations.
Focusing on the underlying dynamics of classroom behavior—rather than surface distractions—means that experienced teachers often turn a blind eye when appropriate. A common mistake new teachers make is not a minor breach of etiquette, but a tendency to play the long game, asking questions about the root causes of misconduct, tactfully navigating between discipline and student autonomy, and standing up for themselves if possible Confrontation to privately decide wrongdoing.
3. The amazing power of pre-testing
Asking students to take a mock test before touching the material seems like a waste of time. After all, they’re just guessing.
However, the new study concludes that the method known as pre-testing is more effective than other typical research strategies. Surprisingly, pretesting outperformed practice testing even after learning the material, a proven strategy supported by cognitive scientists and educators alike. In the study, students who took the practice test before the study material performed 49% better on the follow-up test than their traditionally studied peers, and those who took the practice test after the study material did 27% better.
The researchers hypothesized that “creating mistakes” was the key to the success of the strategy, sparking students’ curiosity and prompting them to “search for the right answers” when they eventually explored new material, adding more emphasis to a 2018 study that Research has found that making informed guesses helps students connect background knowledge to new material.
Research shows that learning is more sustainable when students work to correct misunderstandings, reminding us again that mistakes are important milestones on the right path.
4. Relate to ancient myths about immigrant students
Immigrant students are sometimes described as a costly expense to the education system, but new research systematically dispels that myth.
In a 2021 study, researchers analyzing the academic records and birth certificates of more than 1.3 million students in the Florida community concluded that the presence of immigrant students actually “has had a positive effect on the academic performance of U.S.-born students. impact” and improved test scores. The number of immigrant schools is increasing. The benefits are especially pronounced for low-income students.
The researchers concluded that while immigrants initially “face assimilation challenges that may require additional school resources,” hard work and resilience may allow them to excel, thereby “actively exposing the attitudes and behaviors of U.S.-born students” for impact.
5. A more complete picture of a “good” school
It’s time to reconsider our definition of a “good school,” researchers said in a study published in late 2020. This is because typical measures of school quality, such as test scores, often paint an incomplete and misleading picture, the researchers found.
The study, which surveyed more than 150,000 ninth-graders attending Chicago public schools, concluded that emphasizing the social and emotional dimensions of learning, such as relationship building, belonging, and resilience, increased high school graduation rates and College Enrollment Higher-income and lower-income students have seen higher enrollments, beating schools that primarily focus on improving test scores.
The results underscore the importance of a holistic approach to measuring student progress and remind that schools and teachers can impact students in ways that are difficult to measure and may take a long time to achieve.
6. Teaching is learning
One of the best ways to learn a concept is to teach it to others. But are you really going to step into the role of a teacher, or is just the expectation that teaching is enough?
In a 2021 study, researchers divided students into two groups and gave each group a scientific essay on the Doppler effect, a phenomenon associated with sound and light waves that can explain when a car rushes into the distance Gradual changes in pitch and pitch, such as when one group studies a text to prepare for an exam; another is told they will teach the material to another student.
The researchers never did the second half of the activity, the students read the article but never taught the class. All participants were then tested for their true recall of the Doppler effect and their ability to draw deeper conclusions from the reading.
Result? Students who were ready to teach outperformed their peers in both the duration and depth of learning, scoring 9 percent higher in factual recall and 24 percent higher in the ability to conclude. Research shows that asking students to be prepared to teach something or encouraging them to think “Can I teach this to someone else?” can significantly change their learning pathways.
7. DISTURBING BIAS IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Some of the most popular and respected children’s books, including Caldecott and Newbery winners, continue to feature lighter-skinned black, Asian, and Hispanic characters, new research finds.
Using artificial intelligence, the researchers combed through 1,130 children’s books written over the last century and compared two different sets of children’s books, popular books that have won major literary awards, and those that have benefited from identity-based awards. The software analyzed data on skin color, ethnicity, age, and gender.
Findings include: More dark-skinned characters appear over time, and the most popular books, the ones that are most borrowed from libraries and the ones that fill classroom shelves, continue to appear as lighter-skinned characters. People of color are featured. More insidiously, when adult characters are “moral or upright,” their skin tone tends to appear lighter, Anjali Aduki, the study’s lead author, told 74 that some books turn “Martin Luther King’s chocolate complexion a light brown or beige. .” On the other hand, female characters are often seen but not heard.
Cultural representations reflect our values, and the researchers concluded: “As a result, representational inequality is an unequivocal statement of value inequality.”
8. Infinity War “Paper vs Digital”
Here’s the argument: Digital screens make reading a ruthless task; they’re great for finding information, nothing more. “Real” books, on the other hand, have a weight and “feel” that makes them intimate, captivating, and irreplaceable.
However, researchers often find weak or equivocal evidence for the superiority of paper reading. While a recent study concluded that print books are easier to understand than e-books when many digital tools are removed, the effect is small. A 2021 meta-analysis makes things even more confusing: When digital and print books are “largely similar”, children are more likely to understand the print version, but when enhancements like motion and sound “target stories” content”, the eBook will usually appear at the top of the front.
Nostalgia is a force that any new technology will ultimately have to face. There is overwhelming evidence that writing with pen and paper deepens learning more than typing. But the new digital book format comes preloaded with powerful tools that allow readers to annotate, look up words, answer embedded questions and share their thoughts with other readers.
We may not be ready to admit it, but these activities foster deeper engagement, improve comprehension, and create lasting memories of what we read. Despite its naysayers, the future of e-reading remains bright.
9. New research provides strong support for PBL
Many classrooms today look the same as they did 100 years ago when students were preparing for factory work. But the world has changed: Modern careers require more demanding skills, for example, collaboration, advanced problem-solving, and creativity, and these can be difficult in classrooms where students are given little time and space to develop these skills.
Project-based learning (PBL) seems to be an ideal solution. Critics say, however, that PBL places too much onus on beginners, ignores evidence of the effectiveness of direct instruction, and ultimately undermines disciplinary competence. Proponents counter that student-centered learning and classroom-directed instruction can and should coexist.
Now, two new large-scale studies involving more than 6,000 students in 114 different schools across the country, provide evidence that a well-structured, project-based approach can facilitate learning for a wide range of students.
10. After an exciting year for teachers
The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a long shadow over the lives of educators in 2021, according to a year-long study.
The rank-and-file teacher’s workload suddenly “shot up” last spring, the Center for Reshaping Public Education wrote in its January 2021 report, and then, contrary to the laws of motion, it never eased. By the fall, a RAND study documented a surprising shift in work habits: 24% of teachers reported working 56 hours or more a week, compared with 5% before the pandemic.
Vaccines are the promised land, but when it arrives, nothing seems to have changed. In an April 2021 survey conducted four months after New York City’s first vaccine, 92 percent of teachers said their jobs were more stressful than they were before the pandemic, up from 81 percent in the previous survey.
The change will be difficult; many of the pathologies that exist in the system now predate the pandemic. But having strict school policies that separate work from recess, prevent the introduction of new technology tools without proper support, distribute surveys regularly to measure teacher well-being, and, most importantly, listen to educators to identify And address emerging issues, this could be a good place to start if this research is to be believed.
About the article
It has been an unprecedentedly difficult year for teachers and principals. We sifted through hundreds of studies to see if we could track exactly what’s going on: Studies reveal a complex year in which millions of educators were affected by persistent burnout issues and physical and mental health. In this article, we discussed the 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021.
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