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IES Releases Its New Research Priorities List

The Institute of Education Sciences published a proposed list of research priorities yesterday. (Thanks to Jim Kohlmoos of the Knowledge Alliance for alerting me to the Federal Register notice making the announcement.)

If you've been following the media reports on IES Director John Easton's talks and interviews, you have a pretty good idea what those priorities are. IES is placing a big emphasis, for instance, on the idea that "effective education research must be informed by the interests and needs of education practitioners and policymakers."

"To this end," the priorities list reads, "the Institute will encourage close partnerships between researchers and practitioners in the conceptualization, planning, and conduct of research and evaluation." Indeed, that kind of collaborative focus is already embedded in some of the research grants the institute has given out this year.

The priorities also reflect the new director's interest in: looking beyond student achievement and studying "the behaviors, skills, and dispositions that support learning in school and later success in life"; learning how to generate higher-order thinking in students; developing "innovative approaches" to improve education outcomes; developing a better understanding of the educational processes through which policies and programs affect students; and studying the context of schooling.

When it comes to study methods, the priorities reiterate the institute's long-standing commitment to "rigorous scientific methods." But they also say "the work of the institute will include a variety of research and statistical methods" and that the IES will work to ensure that the methods used are appropriate to the questions being asked.

These priorities aren't yet set in stone. The institute will accept comments from the public until Sept. 7. The National Board for Education Sciences, which advises the institute, has to weigh in on them, too. That's likely to happen in the fall when the newly reconstituted board convenes.

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