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Committee to Elect Piotr Mitros

For excellence in the Cambridge Public School District

Evidence-based education

Most good ideas in education were invented hundreds of years ago by great educational philosophers, from Aristotle to Dewey to Monressori. The problem was we had no idea which ones worked. Human intuition works well, so most were good, but a few were bad.

In roughly the sixties, we started to see increased numbers of rigorous psychological experiments and population studies no what did and didn’t work in education. Some philosophies turned out to not work, while others turned out to have effects which were quite a bit larger than our intuition had suggested. In the nineties, we started to see increased numbers of metastudies – compilations of prior studies – which showed with high levels of rigour not just what worked, but effect sizes.

In such metastudies, some effect sizes were rather large. In a study of over 6,000 students in 60 classrooms, interactive engagement more than doubled learning gains.

What we learned in this process is that there are no silver bullets; education is too complex for that. We need to design our educational process to follow many principles. We want to:

How do we do that? There are many ways. Techniques can leverage peers, teachers, parents, technology, or other places. Which works best depends on the discipline, age, and economic constraints. Applied effectively, these allow underperforming students to succeed, and more advanced students to excel.

Applied inappropriately, whether by adding more computers, teachers, or otherwise to classrooms, without a good idea of why, tends to result in minimal or no positive effect.

Over the past half-decade, I’ve immersed myself in the study of most major education research communities. I’ve served on working groups with presidents of all of the educational technology research sciences. I’d like to bring that experience to bring rigorous, evidence-based education to our classrooms.