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SREE, Advancing Education Research
Building an Education Science: Investigating Mechanisms
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Research in education has both practical and scientific goals. In order to improve educational outcomes, research must evaluate the impact of educational interventions, practices and policies. Over the course of the last decade, there has been significant improvement in the rigor of research in education designed for pragmatic ends. This improvement has been driven by several forces: the development and improvement of experimental and quasi-experimental research designs and methods, the emphasis of the Institute of Education Sciences on rigorous research designs, including randomized controlled trials, and the development of a growing cadre of education researchers trained to use these methods. As a result, education research which addresses “what works” is now both more common and more influential.

In addition to informing current practice and policy, research in education should support the development of explanatory and predictive theories of educational processes and mechanisms. Education research must answer questions about why, how, under what circumstances, and for whom, education practices and policies affect individual outcomes. Without an evidence-based theory of educational processes and mechanisms, pragmatic evidence of effectiveness may not be generalizable to new settings or different populations. Because many of the mechanisms through which education interventions, practices, and policies operate cannot be manipulated through random assignment or other quasi-experimental designs, testing hypotheses regarding the mediators and moderators of educational practices may be more complex than estimating the overall impact of a practice itself.

The theme for the spring 2011 research conference, Building an Education Science: Investigating Mechanisms, focuses attention on the need to advance beyond primarily pragmatic education research in order to build an evidence-based science made up of explanatory theories of educational mechanisms. Symposium and paper presentations that address issues of process and mechanism within the context of rigorous experimental or quasi-experimental designs and that advance our understanding of the effectiveness of educational practices and policies, will offer the best fit for the spring 2011 conference. Topics of particular interest include studies that: (a) test hypotheses regarding the mechanisms through which educational practices and policies affect student outcomes or differentially impact individuals or groups, (b) investigate interactions among emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social processes and outcomes, or (c) develop new methods and research designs to enhance rigor in the evaluation of educational processes and mechanisms.

Sections (Section Chair):
Early Childhood Education (C. Cybele Raver)
School and Classroom-Based Educational Practices (Beth Gamse)
Social and Behavioral Processes and Mechanisms in Education (Laurie Miller Brotman)
Education and Social Inequality (Meredith Phillips)
Education Policy (Douglas Harris)
Post-Secondary Education (Lashawn Richburg-Hayes)
Research Methods (Spyros Konstantopoulos & Kim Maier)

 
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