This resource was developed in response to needs expressed by educators in the northwest. The 2004 NWREL Regional Needs Assessment, Northwest Educators' Priorities for Improving Low-Performing Schools, found that two highly rated areas of need were incorporating a variety of classroom practices to address diverse learning needs of students, and fully integrating technology into the curriculum. Focus on Effectiveness addresses these issues in a form readily accessible to educators.
The scope of the research resources included two key areas: instructional strategies that make a significant difference in the achievement of all students, and the effective integration of technology into teaching and learning. The first encompassed the research meta-analysis done at McREL by Marzano, Pickering, and Pollack (published by ASCD in 2001). The second drew from recent well-known educational technology publications, published by reputable leaders in the field.
The instructional strategies identified by Marzano and colleagues and references in their work defined the scope of this section of the research. One of their original categories, Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback, was divided into two based on the breadth of the topic. A new category on Thematic Instruction was based on the research around student-centered and project-based instruction. A category on Simulations and Games was included that offers the current writing and suggestions for their use in classrooms. While little definitive or long-term research exists, it is cited mainly to raise awareness, and to offer the shared perception in many research and high education organizations of the potential for simulations and games to improve learning.
Sources in the second area, effective technology integration, were drawn from well-known researchers such as Bransford, Brown, & Cocking (1999); Kozma (2003); policy statements/research by national organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and Snow, Burns, & Griffin (1998).
The search strategies include recognized online resources such as the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET). In general, the criteria for selection of the resources included that the research had been published in a reputable, peer-edited journal, that the research was conducted in an appropriate manner (e.g., experimental or quasi-experimental study if possible) and that it referenced other work in the field. In areas of emerging technologies where little research had been conducted, the research was selected that best matched the above criteria. The research selected illustrated uses of technology that were found to be effective.
Technology integration was aligned to the instructional strategies - i.e. when students set goals their achievement increases. Therefore, technology was chosen that would, if used to help students document and publish their goals, support the research on goal setting. The technologies used in the examples were based on professional experience, and their use in actual classroom practice. Practitioners reviewed the examples and recommendations for practicability.