From my inbox this morning:
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released an intervention report this week that reviews the research on Great Books.Great Books is a program that aims to improve the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills of students in kindergarten through high school. The program is implemented as a core or complementary curriculum and is based on the Shared Inquiry™ method of learning. The program includes both oral and written activities designed to help students think and talk about the multiple meanings of texts. Great Books reading selections are collections of traditional and modern literature. This report focuses on Great Books programs for reading in grade 4 and higher. The WWC identified 36 studies of Great Books for adolescent learners that were published or released between 1989 and 2010. Five studies are within the scope of the Adolescent Literacy review protocol but do not meet WWC evidence standards. Thirty-one studies are outside the scope of the Adolescent Literacy review protocol. No studies of Great Books that fall within the scope of the Adolescent Literacy review protocol meet WWC evidence standards; meaning that, at this time, the WWC is unable to draw any conclusions based on research about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Great Books on adolescent learners. Read the full report now at [link].
I like this on several levels. First, and most important, it seriously engages and summarizes the available evidence on a particular educational intervention. The summary is based on precise substantive criteria. Second, it highlights how much time, energy and money is wasted in the education literature on studies that do not meet even very basic standards of evidence. Third, it helps to illustrate how educational interventions can spread despite the lack of any serious empirical demonstration of their effectiveness.