BlogGeneralThe 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021   

The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021   

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    For teachers and school officials, it was a year of extraordinary adversity. We looked at hundreds of studies to see if we could figure out exactly what had happened: The findings painted a nuanced picture of a trying year in which millions of educators struggled with burnout, mental and physical health challenges. In the meantime, many of the old debates raged on: Is paper superior to digital? Is project-based learning as efficient as traditional classroom instruction? What do you perceive a “good” school to be? Other research drew our attention and, in some cases, made the front pages of newspapers. Artificial intelligence was unleashed on 1,130 award-winning children’s novels by researchers from the University of Chicago and Columbia University in search of hidden bias patterns. (Spoiler: they discovered some.) Another study shed light on why many parents are hesitant to support social and emotional learning in schools, as well as recommendations for how educators might alter the narrative.

    What do parents fear about their children?

    Nothing seemed to add up when Fordham Institute researchers asked parents to rank terms related to social and emotional learning. Parents who did not want their children to participate in “social-emotional learning” objected to the name. The programme rose to No. 2 in the rankings after the researchers added a single clause, generating a new phrase—”social-emotional & academic learning.”

    What’s going on?

    The researchers believe that parents were picking up on minor hints in the list of SEL-related terms that irritated or worried them. “Soft skills” and “development mindset” appeared to be academically useless and “nebulous.”Many complained that the word sounded too much like “liberal indoctrination code.”However, the study reveals that parents may only need the most basic reassurances to get through the political cacophony. Eliminating jargon, focusing on positive phrases such as “life skills,” and connecting social and emotional learning to academic growth often puts parents at ease—and appears to protect social and emotional learning in the process.

    Expert teachers’ secret management techniques

    Classroom management can appear practically invisible in the hands of skilled teachers: behind the scenes, subtle tactics are silently at work, with pupils falling into regular routines and participating in difficult academic assignments almost as if by magic.

    According to new research, this isn’t by chance. While outbursts are unavoidable in school, excellent instructors instill proactive, relationship-building tactics in their classes, which typically prevent misbehaviour before it happens. They also take a more holistic approach to discipline than their less-experienced peers, continuously reframing misbehaviour in the perspective of how lessons may be more engaging or how clearly expectations can be communicated.

    Expert teachers typically look the other way at all the right moments, too, since they focus on the underlying dynamics of classroom behaviour rather than surface-level interruptions. Rather than succumbing to the lure of a tiny transgression of etiquette, as many new instructors do, they choose to play the long game, probing the sources of misbehaviour, expertly negotiating the terrain between punishment and student liberty, and confronting misconduct privately wherever possible.

    Presting’s surprising power

    It may seem like a waste of time to ask students to take a practice test before they’ve ever seen the material—after all, they’ll just be guessing.

    However, recent research shows that the practice, known as pretesting, is actually more effective than other common study methods. Pretesting outperformed taking practice tests after learning the content, a tried-and-true technique approved by both cognitive scientists and educators. On a follow-up test, students who took a practice test before learning the material outscored their peers who studied more traditionally by 49 percent, while students who took practice tests after learning the material outperformed their peers by 27 percent.

    The “Generation of errors” piqued students’ interest and prepared them to “search for the correct answers” when they finally explored the new content, according to the researchers, adding grist to a 2018 study that found that making educated guesses helped students connect background knowledge to new material. The research reveals that students’ learning is more enduring when they try hard to rectify mistakes, reminding us once again that being wrong is a crucial step on the path to being right.

    Debunking an old idea about immigrant students

    Immigrant students are commonly painted as a drain on the educational system, but new research is systematically debunking that myth.

    Over 1 million people were analyzed by researchers, academic and birth records for kids in Florida communities in 2021 and found that immigrants in the United States, students have a “strong impact on academic success— As the number of immigrants in schools expands, test results are expected to go up. The benefits were enormous for low-income children. While immigrants may experience “assimilation issues” that necessitate additional educational resources, the researchers discovered that “hard work and persistence may enable them to flourish,” and thus “positively alter exposed U.S.-born learners’ attitudes and behaviour.” However, instructor Larry Ferlazzo believes that the improvements are due to the fact that he has the English language. When students are present in the classroom, teachers are compelled to consider “problems like prior knowledge, scaffolding, and optimizing accessibility,” which improves teaching.

    A better understanding of what a ‘good’ school is:

    Researchers claim in a paper published in late 2020 that it’s time to reassess our understanding of what constitutes an “excellent school.” The researchers discovered that traditional indicators of school quality, such as test results, frequently present an incomplete and misleading picture.

    The study examined over 150,000 ninth-grade students in Chicago public schools and found that emphasizing the social and emotional dimensions of learning—for example, relationship-building, a sense of belonging, and resilience—improves high school graduation and college matriculation rates for both high- and low-income students, outperforming schools that primarily focus on improving test scores.

    The findings emphasize the significance of taking a comprehensive approach to assessing student progress, and they serve as a reminder that schools—and teachers—can have an impact on kids in ways that are difficult to quantify and may take time to manifest.

    Teaching is exactly the same as learning

    Teaching an idea to someone else is one of the most effective methods to learn it. But do you really need to put yourself in the shoes of a teacher, or would the mere anticipation of teaching suffice?

    Researchers divided students into two groups in a 2021 study and offered each group a science passage about the Doppler effect, a sound and lightwave phenomenon that explains the progressive change in tone and pitch as a car speeds away into the distance, for example. One group was informed they’d be teaching the information to another student, while the other was told they’d be studying the text for an exam.

    The second half of the activity was never completed—students read the excerpts but the lesson was never presented. After that, all of the participants were evaluated on their ability to recall facts about the Doppler effect and draw deeper implications from the reading.

    What’s the bottom line? Students who prepared to teach outperformed their peers in terms of both time and depth of learning, scoring 9 percent higher on factual memory and 24 percent higher on their ability to generate inferences a week after the classes came to an end. As per the research, making students prepare to teach something—or consider “could I teach this to someone else?”—can have a significant impact on their learning trajectories.

    In Kids’ Books, a Disturbing Strain Of Bias

    According to new research, some of the most popular and well-regarded children’s books—including Caldecott and Newbery honorees—consistently depict Black, Asian, and Hispanic characters with a lighter complexion.

    Researchers compared two sets of varied children’s novels, one a collection of popular works that earned major literary awards, and the other favoured by identity-based awards, using artificial intelligence to trawl through 1,130 children’s books created in the last century. Data on skin tone, race, age, and gender were examined by the software.

    While more characters with darker skin tones appear over time, the most popular books—those most commonly checked out of libraries and adorning classroom shelves—continue to portray people of colour in lighter skin tones. Adult characters’ skin colour tends to appear lighter when they are “moral or upstanding,” According to Anjali Aduki, the study’s primary author, some books convert “Martin Luther King Jr.’s complexion from a dark brown to a light brown or beige complexion.” Meanwhile, female characters are commonly seen but not heard. The researchers conclude that cultural representations mirror our values: “Inequality in representation, therefore, is an explicit assertion of inequality of value.”

    The never-ending ‘paper vs digital’ conflict

    The argument goes like this: Digital screens make reading a chilly and impersonal experience; they’re useful for information gathering but not much more. The heft and “tactility” of “actual” books, on the other hand, make them intimate, compelling, and irreplaceable.

    However, researchers have frequently discovered inconclusive or ambiguous evidence suggesting the superiority of reading on paper. While a recent study found that when many of the digital features were eliminated, paper books produced better comprehension than e-books, the effect sizes were minor. A meta-analysis from 2021 adds to the complication: Children understand print versions better when digital and paper books are “essentially comparable,” but ebooks become more interesting when features such as motion and sound “address the starters for the story.

    Nostalgia is a force that must be confronted by every new technology at some point. Writing with a pen and paper encodes learning more profoundly than typing, according to numerous studies. However, new digital book formats include powerful tools that allow users to annotate, search up terms, respond to embedded questions, and share their thoughts with other readers.

    These are the kinds of activities that generate deeper engagement, improve understanding, and leave us with a lasting recollection of what we’ve read, even if we’re not ready to admit it. Despite the skeptics, the future of e-reading looks bright.

    New research strengthens the case for PBL

    Many classrooms today resemble those of a century ago when students were studying for factory jobs. However, the world has gone on: Collaboration, advanced problem-solving, and creativity, for example, are more sophisticated abilities that might be difficult to teach in classrooms that rarely provide students with the time and space to develop them.

    Project-based learning (PBL) appears to be the best option. However, detractors argue that PBL throws too much responsibility on beginner learners, dismissing evidence of direct instruction’s effectiveness and, as a result, eroding subject tempo. Student-centered learning and direct instruction, on the other hand, can and should coexist in the classroom, according to proponents.

    Now, two recent large-scale studies, including over 6,000 students from 114 different schools across the country, show that a well-structured, project-based approach improves learning for a varied group of pupils.

    Tracking a racking a tumultuous year for teachers

    According to a year’s worth of data, the Covid-19 epidemic cast a long shadow over educators’ lives in 2021.

    According to the Centre for Reinventing Public Education’s January 2021 report, the average “The workload of teachers increased dramatically last spring” and then “never let up,” defying the rules of physics. A RAND research published in the fall found an amazing shift in work habits: 24 percent of instructors reported working 56 hours or more per week, compared to only 5% pre-pandemic.

    The vaccine was the promised land, yet nothing seemed to alter when it arrived. In a study performed in April 2021, four months after the first vaccine was delivered in New York City, 92 percent of teachers reported their work was more stressful following the pandemic, up from 81 percent in a previous survey.

    Also read: Online Classes vs. Traditional Classroom Learning


    Q.1) What are the most pressing educational concerns today?

    Ans- Some educational challenges reflect current political and social issues, with topics such as wealth inequality, gender differences, and civil rights issues infiltrating our educational institutions. The continuing gun issue has an impact on school security.

    Q.2) What is the status of the education report for 2021?

    Ans- The Pratham Foundation released the 16th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 (Rural) on November 17, 2021. It assesses the schooling status of children aged 5 to 16 and their basic reading and maths ability based on a large survey of around 77,000 rural families across India.

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