With the dearth of vetted high school research and research-based interventions, it is important that high school educators acquire skills in determining the rigor of emerging research and that education media writers do a thorough job of fact-checking before quoting from sources that invoke a new “study” or “research report”. For example, several education and news media outlets recently reported “high schoolers less interested in STEM degrees, study says“. The study cited in the articles was conducted by EducationDynamics and reported that students seeking information on bachelor’s degrees from their Web site and a companion site, eLearners.com, clicked on information 1% of the time for engineering and 3% for computer science and computer engineering, as opposed to 10% for business and 8% for health professions. While this information indicates an interesting trend regarding users of these Web sites, the methodology of counting clicks, the sampling limitation to the Web site users, and the generalization of the findings to the broader pool of “high schoolers” goes beyond the traditional bounds of objectivity in integrating research into practice.
Over the past decade, ED’s Institute of Education Sciences has worked to expand the use of education research and a more methodological approach to determining the effectiveness of instructional interventions. These efforts have resulted in a greater focus on and use of the terms research-based, evidence-based, and scientifically based in addition to the “gold standard” of randomized control trials (RCTs) in both daily practice and in educational literature and media. While researchers continue to debate the nuances between these approaches and other research issues such as internal and external validity and fidelity, there is a general consensus among both researchers and practitioners that seeking out research and research-based interventions and strategies is an important element of school improvement efforts at all levels, including high schools. In doing so, whenever readers see a “study” referenced they should be cautious about automatically assuming that the study findings are accurately described and that the study itself meets minimal criteria for validity.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.