Instructional Improvement Study
David Cohen, University of Michigan
Deborah Loewenberg Ball, University of Michigan
This study focuses on instruction and its improvement. Funded by OERI (through CTP and CPRE), foundations, and private sources, it builds on a study of whole-school interventions, which is designed to build capacity for instruction in high-poverty elementary schools. Here, in particular, we focus on instruction, teachers' practices in reading and mathematics, and students' opportunities to learn, and we probe relations among teachers' learning, their teaching, and student performance. Our premise is that in order to understand efforts to change instruction we must focus on teachers' opportunities to learn, how they use those opportunities, what they actually learn, and how that learning affects their practice. We seek to understand ways in which the environments in which schools and intervenors operate shape instruction and efforts to improve it. The research involves longitudinal case studies in 12 schools associated with four different reform approaches in several different environments. Using several rounds of surveys, interviews, and teacher logs in a broader range of environments, we also study about 125 schools involved in the same interventions. We plan to collect student achievement data for three cohorts of students in those schools over six years.
Main Research Questions
- What elements in the design of school improvement interventions are most likely to contribute to improved instruction and student performance?
- What features of state and local policy environments are most likely to support or impede effective intervention?
- What features of intervention implementationincluding community involvement, instructional coordination, new instructional roles, leadership, or teachers' opportunities to learnbear most directly on instruction and student learning?
- What are the costsin human and social resources, political commitment, organization, and moneyof effective intervention implementation and improved student performance?
Longitudinal case study, survey research, teacher logs
Ongoing (anticipated completion, 2006)
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New Tools for Research on Instruction and Instructional Policy: A Web-based Teacher Log
A Working Paper by Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Eric Camburn, Richard Correnti, Geoffrey Phelps, and Raven Wallace, December 1999.Description:
This Working Paper reports on the initial development and pilot-testing of a web-based instrument designed to collect daily data on instruction, which then could be aggregated to create portraits of content emphasis and pedagogy. The instrument was developed for use in the Study of Instructional Improvement and although it is not currently being used, the authors think there are elements of its design that may be of use to those interested in instructional tracking tools.Abstract:PDFAbstractOriginal Study
This working paper reports on the initial development and pilot testing of a Web-based instrument designed to collect daily data on instruction. This instrument, referred to as the teacher log, was being developed for use in the Study of Instructional Improvement, a large scale, longitudinal study focusing on school improvement in high poverty schools. Although the instructional log we are ultimately using in this research is not a Web-based tool, and its features are both similar to and different from the one under discussion in this report, we think that there are elements of our early instrument design work that may be of use to others interested in the development of such tools to track instruction.
In recent years, a number of studies seeking to generate more detailed data on instruction have pioneered the use of teacher logs. Such logs are generally self-administered instruments which ask teachers to report on topics covered, pedagogy, and more. Teachers fill out such logs on a daily basis and data from these daily reports is then aggregated to create portraits of content emphasis and pedagogy over time.
In this pilot work, we set out to further develop the potential of teacher logs by experimenting with Web-based technology and computer branching. These features open up possibilities for capturing a much wider range of data and for linking this data to the work of individual students in classrooms. Furthermore, where paper and pencil logs must be distributed to teachers and data from each log entered into a data base, Web technology allows data to be entered directly as teachers complete the log, potentially reducing the burden on both teachers and researchers. The teacher log pilot study was conducted in the spring of 1998 to test the feasibility of using a Web based instrument to collect data on instruction. Seven teachers in two schools used the teacher log to report on 29 lessons in mathematics and reading. In addition, project researchers observed classroom instruction, filled out log reports, and wrote detailed narrative descriptions for 24 of these lessons.
Results from this pilot were encouraging. All teachers were able to use the teacher log to report on instruction. Data was successfully entered through a Web interface into a data base and subsequently used to conduct provisional analyses of both instruction and the reliability and validity of the instrument.
Resources, Instruction, and Research
A Working Paper by David K. Cohen, Stephen W. Raudenbush, and Deborah Loewenberg Ball, December 2000.Description:
This Working Paper looks at resource use in schools and discusses research designs that would be appropriate to identify resource effects. Whereas education policymakers have long believed that conventional resoures, i.e. books, bricks, class size, and teacher qualifications directly affect student learning and achievement, the authors here argue it's all about how those resources get used in instruction. How resource use is influenced by the management of certain key problems of instruction, including coordination, incentives to use the resources, and management of instructional environments, is also discussed.Abstract:PDFAbstractOriginal Study
Education policymakers have long believed that conventional resources, i.e., books, bricks, class size, and teacher qualifications, directly affect student learning and achievement. This working paper builds on more recent research and argues that learning is affected by how resources are used in instruction, not by their mere presence or absence. If use is central to resource effects, research on the effects of resources should be broadened to include the chief influences on use, including teachers' and students' knowledge, skill, and will, and features of teachers' and learners' environments, including school leadership, academic norms, and institutional structures. We discuss how resource use is influenced by the management of certain key problems of instruction, including coordination, incentives to use resources, and management of instructional environments. Having framed the issues in a way that places use by teachers and learners at the center of inquiry, we then discuss research designs that would be appropriate to identify resource effects.