New research examining the impact of different classroom instructional practices on student achievement in math and science found that learning gains were greatest in math when calculators, computers and other technology were integrated in the class and in science when the student completed a science experiment or project in class. The second most effective practice in both subjects was the traditional classroom approach where the teacher lectures and the students listen and take notes. Also effective was having students work together in groups to solve math or science problems.
The study, published in the American Journal of Education, used standardized math and science test score data from middle school students in North Carolina. Included on North Carolina’s tests are survey questions that ask students about the kind of instructional activities they encountered in their classrooms, which allowed researchers Michael Hansen and Thomas Gonzalez, both of the American Institutes for Research, to look for correlations.
The researchers found that less effective practices in math included having students explain their answers in class; read about math; and talk about how math is used in other subjects. For science, the less effective practices were having students read about science or complete a science project outside the classroom. These results held for students of all income levels and all races and ethnicities.
The researchers recommended that educators try to integrate the most effective instructional practices in their classrooms. They also noted that some of the practices that did not appear to help raise test scores could nevertheless be useful in stimulating student interest in math and science.