Effective Programs for Elementary Science: A Best-evidence Synthesis

This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science.

Full Description: 

This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. Different versions of the synthesis are written for audiences of researchers, policy makers, principals, and teachers. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science. The review is a part of a series of reviews that are part of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE), an on-line resource that disseminates systematic reviews of research on achievement outcomes of programs at all subject areas and grade levels (see www.bestevidence.org), and is led by Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University.

The review is carried out by a US-UK partnership of science educators and experts on systematic reviews of research. An advisory group of scientists, science educators, and experts on research review oversees the design of the review, monitors review procedures, and comments on drafts. This review takes a broad approach to searching the literature in order to locate every study that meets inclusion requirements for valid research. It includes electronic searches of educational databases (JSTOR, ERIC, EBSCO, Psych INFO, Dissertation Abstracts) using different combinations of key words (for example, "elementary students" and "science achievement"), covering the years 1970-2010. Results are narrowed by subject area (for example, "educational software", "science achievement", "instructional strategies"). Web-based repositories and education publishers' websites are included. The review also discusses each study that meets the inclusion requirements for a valid research design.

A strength of this work is that it takes on the synthesis of what is known about best practice for elementary science education, relying only on studies that meet the criteria for inclusion as having credible research designs. This is a review that is sorely needed in the field of science education. The lengthy and detailed review will be available on the BEE network, along with educator-friendly summaries. The work is also vetted via publication in a top, peer-reviewed journal. The study will include a set of tables showing ratings of programs according to consistent criteria in terms of the strength of the evidence base for each, with brief descriptions of the methods and findings. This educators' summary, patterned on Consumer Reports, is intended primarily for superintendents, principals, and teachers who are making choices among programs for implementation with their children.

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