Wouldn’t it be great if someone went around gathering all of the evidence about the impact of various educational curricula, interventions, and policies, and curated all of that content in one place? That way you, the educator, could know which efforts in education are actually supported by research. One more thing: What if it were free?
Well, you’re in luck! This essential resource actually exists. It’s called the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). The WWC is an initiative of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the independent statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The WWC estimates the effectiveness of programs by evaluating the quality and quantity of evidence about them.
Many educational researchers rely on the WWC as a high-quality, objective resource for what’s working in education. Yet in our experience, very few school district leaders have heard of the WWC. That’s why we wrote this blog post, to introduce educators to the WWC and tell you why we believe it’s so valuable for school districts.
Here’s why we think the WWC is a great resource for educators:
- It relies on rigorous research designs.
- It’s methodical.
- It’s independent.
Rigorous research designs
Reviewing educational research can be challenging. Research studies are often published in journal articles that are not free to access. Even if you do get your hands on them, they are often written for other researchers, packed with technical language and complex statistical models. Yet the technical details of a research study’s design have implications for whether you can trust its results.
Luckily, the WWC reviews studies, paying attention to their design, and incorporates only those that have a high likelihood of identifying the true relationship between a program, product, practice, or policy and student outcomes. Check out this flow diagram to get a quick sense of the review process the WWC uses.
The WWC uses teams of researchers well versed in various specialties (e.g., Adolescent Literacy, Early Childhood Education, etc.), who review the research on a particular program, product, practice, or policy. The reviewers follow a specific process to identify research studies that meet high standards. Finally, the teams combine the results on studies that meet these standards, summarizing them in readable reports that are made available online.
To ensure an unbiased review process, WWC reviewers must reveal their own research involvement and are not assigned to review any studies that present a potential conflict of interest.
Although there are legitimate criticisms of the WWC, we believe its goal and the framework it provides are, on balance, a positive contribution to the field of education.
Are you an educator, and have you used the What Works Clearinghouse? If so, what do you think about it? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
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