I am constantly bombarded with instructional strategies, design recommendations, and means to improve instruction. However, while that’s awesome and I love to see new innovative ways to teach, I have stumbled onto a question that we do not ask very often unless it’s in the context of K-12 standardized testing – how much does this improve learning?
So when someone tells me that some constructivist approach, for example, problem-based learning (insert any strategy here) is a good strategy for the classroom I need to know how it impacts learning. Specifically, I want to know how it affects low-level learning, such as recall, and high-level learning such as problem-solving/transfer. How much does it affect achievement? I don’t want to just hear that it improves it over another method/strategy but I want to hear that it improves it by X% amount. Because if that improvement is only 5%, it might not be worth changing an entire curriculum.
If we start to think this way we can start to make better decisions about what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. This will save us both time and money because we won’t waste significant amounts of time on changes that offer little to no improvement in achievement.
Of course, we need to consider other variables like motivation and such, which could very well be more important than achievement in various settings but that is going to be case dependent. And regardless, we still need to have improvement numbers to ensure there is going to be a return on investment.
If we could agree that this is an important piece of data to have we could start to figure out what these numbers are. This involves experimental testing using GOOD methodologies, GOOD content, and GOOD tests; otherwise, we cannot trust that research.