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Finding What Works in Learning: A Rubric for Analyzing Research Studies of Curricular Programs

There are educational research studies that tout amazing results. With the expanding number of print-based and digital curricula available, how do you understand the claims being made that a given program positively impacted learning? This paper by Dr. Tim Hudson helps you understand how to successfully review educational research and know how to thoroughly investigate the study, ask probing questions, and access the fine print about how a program “improves scores” or “doubles growth” using a clear rubric and three educational research examples, including a recent Center for Educational Policy Research at Harvard University study of DreamBox Learning Math.

Now you can get past educational hype and headlines with tools that help you understand how to critically examine curricular programs.

First, consider the underlying principles of the educational resource. An evaluation team should know how to assess whether or not a program is research-based and informed by principles published in educational and cognitive science research literature. For example, John Hattie’s meta-analysis in Visible Learning ranks Piagetian Programs as having one of the highest effect sizes and therefore one of the strongest impacts on learning.

Next, use a rigorous rubric. Critically analyze educational research studies to better understand the “fine print,” the implications of the study, and ultimately the potential of a program for improving student achievement in your classroom, school, or district, using a clear rubric. Dr. Hudson explains his rubric and then puts it into practice measuring three research studies by asking eight key questions.


About the Author: Dr. Tim Hudson

Vice President of Learning

Tim Hudson

Dr. Tim Hudson is a learning innovator and education leader who frequently writes and speaks about the intersection of learning, schooling, and technology. At DreamBox, Dr. Hudson oversees the development of innovative learning experiences that engage students in mathematical thinking and provide teachers with useful information to support differentiation and personalization in their classrooms. He has spoken at national conferences such as ASCD, iNACOL, NCTM, and SXSWedu and along with DreamBox advisor Cathy Fosnot, co-authored the chapter “Classrooms Where Children Learn” in an NCTM book about Mathematics Intervention. Prior to joining DreamBox, Dr. Hudson spent more than 10 years working in public education, first as a High School Mathematics Teacher and then as a K–12 Mathematics Coordinator and Strategic Planning Facilitator for the Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis, MO. Follow his conversations on Twitter (@DocHudsonMath) and on the DreamBox Learning blog.