Researchers: American Psychological Association (APA) – Board of Education Affairs, Learner-Centered Principles Work Group
Format: PDF report
This report by the esteemed American Psychological Association (APA) defines learner-centered education according to 14 principles organized into Cognitive and Metacognitive, Motivational and Affective, Developmental and Social, and Individual Differences factors. In the words of the APA: “Our immediate goal in offering these learner-centered psychological principles is to provide a framework that can contribute to current educational reform and school redesign efforts. Through dialogue with concerned groups of educators, researchers, and policy makers, these learner-centered principles can evolve further to contribute not only to a new design for America’s schools, but also to a society committed to lifelong learning, healthy human development, and productivity.”
Studies of learner-centered educational environments and comparisons with conventional education.
Researchers: Ron Newell, Mark van Ryzin
Format: Research paper
The Hope Study creates a new model of assessment for schools, focusing on the degree to which schools enable student autonomy, belongingness, competence, engagement, and ultimately student hope. The study was created to assess EdVisions schools and compare them with conventional schools. The results indicated higher results in all categories for the EdVisions schools, demonstrating that self-directed learning and strong advisory programs lead to greater student development in these categories than conventional educational approaches.
Researchers: Robert C. Pianta, Jay Belsky, Renate Houts, Fred Morrison – The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network
Format: Research reporrt as PDF from Science Magazine
Additional Material: Full article available at Science Magazine
This study assessed the classroom activity in over 700 5th grade classrooms across the country. Results showed that over 50% of the time the entire class is involved in a whole group lesson directed by the teacher, and that 38% of the time students are doing worksheets and other assignments individually, leaving only about 10% of the time for small group activities and other formats for engagement. Reading, math and transitions from one to the next subject take up 78% of teaching time, relegating science, social studies, free time and all other pursuits to the remaining 22% of time. Additionally, lower-level activities such as computation and reading comprehension take up much larger percentages of classroom time as opposed to higher-level activities such as analysis, critical thinking, and problem solving. Teachers spend very little time comparatively attending to or speaking with individual children, and students spend little time talking or working with other students. More results are available in the above link.
Researchers: Lynn Davies and Gordon Kirkpatrick
This report provides striking evidence of the gulf between the UK and many of our European partners with regard to the status of children in schools. Based on research in Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and Germany, this report examines the sophisticated and multi-layered strategies they have introduced to promote the concept of democratic education:
- a legal requirement on schools to involve children in a wide range of decision-making committees
- participation by children in the development of the curriculum and teaching methods
- pupil representation on local, regional, and national education committees
- funding and support for national unions of schools students
This report is vital reading for anyone interested in promoting effective education. It describes schools which respect children and enhance their opportunities for personal growth and development. It also delivers important messages for all of us concerned with strengthening democracy and promoting a culture of respect for human rights.
Researchers: Barbara Kent Lawrence, Ed.D, Paul Abramson, et. al.
Format: PDF (must fill out a brief form first)
This report deepens the argument for small schools in three important ways. First, analysis of more than three thousand construction projects shows that smaller schools are no more expensive to build than much larger schools. Second, analysis of the budgets of 25 good small schools throughout the United States demonstrates that on average they spend less per student on educational program, maintenance and operations than the per-pupil expenditure in their districts, yet they achieve results that are equal to or better than schools in the same area. Third, these schools offer innovative and effective educational programs, facilities, and strategies for cost effectiveness that can serve as models and inspiration to people interested in cost-effective good small schools.
Researchers: Barbara Kent Lawrence, Ed.D., Steven Bingler, et. al.
Format: PDF (must fill out a brief form first)
Even though people may appreciate the benefits of small schools, too many think that the cost of such schools is prohibitive. To answer their concerns, Dollars & Sense summarizes research on the educational and social benefits of small schools and the negative effects of large schools on students, teachers, and members of the community, as well as the “diseconomies of scale” inherent in large schools. As the research shows, measuring the cost of education by graduates rather than by all students who go through the system suggests that small schools are a wise investment. In addition, Dollars & Sense answers two fundamental questions: can small schools be built cost effectively, and has anyone done so? Using data drawn from 489 schools submitted to design competitions in 1990-2001, Dollars & Sense answers both questions with a resounding yes, demonstrating that small schools are not prohibitively expensive. Investing tax dollars in small schools does make sense.
Researchers: Angeline Lillard and Nicole Else-Quest
Format: Research report as PDF from Science Magazine
Additional material: Full article available at Science Magazine
A comparative study of Montessori and conventional school students on academic and social criteria, including determining the extent to which kids referred to issues of justice in social situations, and the degree to which students thought their school has a strong sense of community. Students from the Montessori school measured higher on those factors compared with students from more conventional settings. The study is especially notable for controlling for parental involvement and parental interest in the Montessori approach, factors which have a significant influence on kids and in research on non-conventional education. In this study the experimental group was composed of students in the public-choice Montessori school, while the control group was composed of students who had applied to the Montessori school but lost the school’s lottery – a “retrospective lottery loser design.”
Researcher: Rick Posner
This project entails an in depth follow-up of the graduates of an unusual public school: the Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. The Open School (as it is usually called) is a public school that goes against the grain of current educational practice. For nearly 36 years, the Open School has thrived as an alternative to conventional schooling. The pre K-12 school is non-graded, self-paced and experiential. No standardized tests, grade point averages or academic credits cloud its approach to the education of the heart, mind and spirit. Every student has a personal advisor on the staff or in the community as well as a personal learning plan with goals in the social, personal and intellectual domains.
Researchers: The Commission on the Relation of School and College of The Progressive Education Association
The Eight Year Study, considered by many educational researchers to be one of the best program evaluation studies ever conducted, followed the students from more than 30 experimental high schools during the 1930′s. Although the students from the experimental schools only did as well or slightly better on standardized test scores than students from their traditional counterparts, the students from the experimental schools showed many improvements in other areas. The study isn’t well remembered, since it was published in 1942 and the American mind was focused on other matters. . . .The National Middle School Association explored republishing at least the first volume (The Story of the Eight Year Study), but decided that the project was cost prohibitive. . . . A more affordable solution to making the study available to educators and educational scholars is to republish the study on the Internet.
Researchers: Peter Gray and David Chanoff
Format: Full Article in PDF
A follow-up study was conducted of the graduates of the Sudbury Valley School (SVS), a democratically administered primary and secondary school that has no learning requirements but rather supports students’ self-directed activities. Although these individuals educated themselves in ways that are enormously different from what occurs at traditional schools, they have had no apparent difficulty being admitted to or adjusting to the demands of traditional higher education and have been successful in a wide variety of careers. Graduates reported that for higher education and careers, the school benefited them by allowing them to develop their own interests and by fostering such traits as personal responsibility, initiative, curiosity, ability to communicate well with people regardless of status, and continued appreciation and practice of democratic values.
A Pilot Study To Evaluate The Impact Of The Student Participation Aspects Of The Citizenship Order On Standards Of Education In Secondary Schools
Researcher: Derry Hannam
Within the limitations of this investigation the original hypothesis that ‘in schools that are already taking the ‘participation an responsible action’ elements of the Citizenship Order seriously for significant numbers of students of the full range of academic ability an improvement in attainment would be found across the full range of GCSE results though not necessarily mainly at the higher grades’ has been found to be true when a sample of 12 such schools is compared to other ‘schools in similar circumstances’ (using the Ofsted/QCA free school meal bandings). The hypothesis continued ‘If the hypothesis proves to be accurate this might well be, in part at least, a consequence of higher self-esteem and a greater sense of ownership and empowerment of students leading to greater motivation to ‘engage’ with learning across the curriculum.’ This investigation has found that these desirable qualities do indeed develop through student ‘participation and responsible action’ of the kind envisaged in the Citizenship Order.
Researcher: Dana Bennis
Format: Word document
The purpose of this study was to compare conventional and freedom-based (democratic) schools in terms of their educational atmospheres and to assess the impact of the schools on student autonomy, student levels of intrinsic motivation, and students’ development of personal qualities, which for this study included self-confidence, independence, compassion, curiosity, responsibility, critical thinking, and self-awareness. In summary, the results of this study establish: a correlation between freedom-based schools and a positive school atmosphere, high levels of perceived autonomy-support, high levels of student intrinsic motivation and self-determination, and strong development of personal qualities such as self-confidence, responsibility, and compassion; higher levels of each factor for the freedom-based schools as compared to the conventional school.
Researchers: Daniel Greenberg, Mimsy Sadofsky, and Jason Lempka
This book explores the lives of former students who spent their formative years at the school. It examines in depth their values, their character, and their careers, drawing extensively on their own words.
Researchers: Daniel Greenberg and Mimsy Sadofsky
This earlier study of Sudbury Valley School examined the personal and professional history of former students, and includes much anecdotal information about their lives after they left the school.
Researchers: Craig Kridel, Robert V., Jr. Bullough, and John I. Goodlad
Presenting the first complete history of the Progressive Education Association’s Eight-Year Study, which took place during the 1930s and the 1940s, this book corrects common misinterpretations of one of the most important educational experiments of the twentieth century and explores the study’s value for reexamining secondary education in America today.
The Guinea Pigs After Twenty Years: A Follow-up Study of the Class of 1938 of the University School Ohio State
Researcher: Margaret Willis
A follow-up study of one of the schools in the Eight-Year Study, demonstrating the effect of a progressive educational approach on the lives of alumni 20 years later.
Playing in the Zone of Proximal Development: Qualities of Self-Directed Age Mixing between Adolescents and Young Children at a Democratic School
Researchers: Peter Gray and Jay Feldman
Format: Full article in PDF
At an ungraded, democratically structured school, we documented 196 naturally occurring interaction sequences between adolescents (ages 1219) and children (ages 411) who were at least four years younger than the adolescent. Children and adolescents appeared to be drawn together by common interests and play styles, personal attraction, and complementary desires to nurture and be nurtured. Further analyses identified apparent contributions of such interactions to both parties’ physical, intellectual, and social/moral education. Adolescents led children to act within the latter’s zones of proximal development (Vygotsky’s term), and children stimulated adolescents to make implicit knowledge explicit, be creative, and practice nurturance and leadership.
Researcher: Jay Feldman
Format: Dissertation summary
The goal of this dissertation is to describe qualitatively the kinds of age-mixed interactions that occurred among children in an age-mixed setting and to generate ideas concerning the nature and potential educational functions of such interactions. The study was based on three years of observations of children, aged 4-19, enrolled at the Sudbury Valley School (SVS). The special significance of SVS for this study is that it is an age-mixed environment in which children are free to choose their own partners and activities, and in which children have ample same- and cross-age partners from whom to choose. Through the qualitative analysis of 375 vignettes of children’s age-mixed interactions, three themes were derived which addressed separate potential functions of children’s age-mixed interactions. First, children appeared to use age-mixed interactions to develop skills and gain knowledge. Second, age-mixed interactions appeared to help children develop a sense of responsibility for others. Third, children developed friendships with mixed-age partners.
Researcher: Jay Feldman
Lawrence Kohlberg believed children needed to be in an environment that allowed for open and public discussion of day-to-day conflicts and problems to develop their moral reasoning ability. This study examined moral discourse, reflection, and development in a school community with a process similar to that described by Kohlberg. Data were drawn from an extensive set of field notes made in an ethnographic study at an ungraded, democratically structured school [Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA] where students, ranging in age from 4 to 19, are free to choose their own activities and companions. Vignettes were analyzed using grounded theory approach to qualitative analysis, and themes were developed from an analysis of observations of meetings. Each theme describes a participation level that students assume in the process and that provide opportunities for them to develop and deepen understanding of the balance of personal rights and responsibilities within a community. The study adds to the understanding of education and child development by describing a school that differs significantly in its practice from the wider educational community and by validating Kohlberg’s thesis about developing moral reasoning.
Researchers: Peter Gray and David Chanoff
The school described here operates on the principle that play for the sake of play, without unsolicited adult intervention, entails the acquisition of skills and knowledge. Sudbury Valley School promotes cultural acquisition in a manner harmonious with the child’s biological self-education system, without age segregation, grading, or academic requirements.
Studies in the growing field of neuroscience, the study of the brain and nervous system, and its connection to education and learning.
Researcher/Author: Eric Jensen
When the first edition of Teaching with the Brain in Mind was published in 1998, it quickly became a bestseller, and it’s gone on to inspire thousands of educators to apply the latest brain research in their classroom teaching. Now, author Eric Jensen is back with a completely revised and updated edition of his classic work. In easy to understand, engaging language, Jensen provides a basic orientation to the brain and its various systems and explains how they affect learning. After discussing what parents and educators can do to get children’s brains in good shape for school, Jensen goes on to explore topics such as motivation, critical thinking skills, environmental factors, the “social brain,” emotions, and memory and recall.
Researchers/Authors: Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine
This book by two neuropsychology experts examines how the brain functions during learning experiences and how this knowledge can influence teaching strategies.
Researcher/Author: Robert Sylwester
Robert Sylwester offers educators an introduction to “the only mass of matter in the known universe that can contemplate itself,” the human brain. We all know that the brain is where learning takes place, but how many of us understand the brain’s basic workings and use that understanding in our work with students? “A Celebration of Neurons” is more than an introduction to the brain, however; it is also an urgent call for educators to become actively involved in discovering useful applications for brain theory and research in the schools. Developments in brain research have already provided scientific support for educational practices such as cooperative learning, and new developments will almost certainly influence other aspects of teaching and learning, from the content of the curriculum to the layout of the classroom. The question we must ask ourselves now, says Sylwester, is whether the education profession as a whole can continue to ignore the significant role that brain research can play in improving teaching and learning.