2017 Education Research Highlights

Twelve studies that educators should know about, on everything from the benefits of mentors to the most effective studying strategies.
Hands on a computer keyboard seen from above, overlaid with maps and lines from a graph

Every year, we hope, researchers gain new insights into what works in the classroom—and what doesn’t. In 2017, a group of scientists made the case for why social and emotional learning is essential in schools. We learned that negative stereotypes can discourage students of color from going to college, and that a reflective writing exercise can help. We also learned that it’s OK for second graders to use their fingers to count, and that text messages sent to parents boost family engagement and student attendance.

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Facilitating a Class Twitter Chat

Tips for hosting a Twitter chat with your students—a handy tool for enhancing digital literacy and engaging introverts.
Two speech bubbles formed from icons indicating Twitter and other digital tools

There are many advantages to using Twitter chats in class. Teachers can use them to encourage digital literacy, offer immediate feedback on students’ ideas, and track participation via the chat hashtag. The format allows a large number of students to share thoughts at the same time, and may help shy students participate as they don’t have to speak in public. And Twitter chats can inspire creativity by allowing both students and the teacher to supplement the discussion with digital resources like photos and videos.

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Encouraging a Sense of Gratitude in Students

Activities that foster gratefulness have benefits for students beyond enhancing their social and emotional skills.
A young girl in the foreground and other kids beyond her write in notebooks.

In the glittery bustle of the holidays, teachers often scramble to fit in last-minute lessons and refocus students dreaming of vacation excitement. It’s worthwhile to pause in the middle of all that excitement to build in reflective moments of gratefulness.

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Secret Admirers and Classroom Management

A simple activity can reduce friction in a classroom by guiding students to focus on each other’s strengths.
Two elementary school girls are smiling and standing side by side.

Although my first year of teaching was more than two decades ago, I clearly remember how my second graders returned from Thanksgiving more settled and focused. I was teaching at a public school in Oakland, California, and as December began, I was hopeful, energetic and increasingly confident about the learning routines I’d established in my class. Yet cliques had formed among some of the girls, and too often kids were not nice to each other. Another teacher had given me a book called Tribes, a guide to building a safe and caring learning community in the classroom. I wholeheartedly adopted it.

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Deeper Learning: A Collaborative Classroom Is Key

What’s ideal when it comes to collaboration in our classrooms? Here’s one coveted scenario: several children gathered at a table engaged in a high-level task, discussing, possibly debating an issue, making shared decisions, and designing a product that demonstrates all this deeper learning.

A photo shot from above of four girls working together at a table.

As teachers, we’d love to see this right out of the gate, but this sort of sophisticated teamwork takes scaffolding. It won’t just happen by placing students together with a piece of provocative text or an engaging task. So how do we begin this scaffolded journey? Here are some steps for supporting students in deep and meaningful collaboration.

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