Research & Reports

Ed-Tech Evaluation Brief

Effective principals have a positive influence on student learning outcomes, as McREL’s analysis has previously found. In this new paper, we review these connections and describe updates to our Balanced Leadership for Student Learning™ professional learning program that help principals have even more impact on student success.

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Digital Lessons Learned: How the Online Pivot of 2020 Can Make Teaching and Learning Better Forever (2021)

Teachers are surrounded by the greatest professional development resource ever created: other teachers. So, doesn’t it make sense to team up for mutual support and growth? In this white paper, we describe the research that supports peer coaching and lay out the components of an effective coaching triad, with participants taking turns coaching, being coached, and observing. While school leadership can promote an environment that values and encourages trusting working relationships, the real work of coaching needs to be planned and executed by teachers themselves, the authors say.

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The “Silent Epidemic” Finds Its Voice: Demystifying How Students View Engagement in Their Learning (2020)

McREL researchers Samantha Holquist and Marisa Crowder collaborated with members of student voice organizations in Oregon and Kentucky to provide us with a deeper level of understanding about what may be shaping students’ engagement in the school community.

Holquist, S. E., Cetz, J., O’Neil, S. D., Smiley, D., Taylor, L. M., & Crowder, M. K. (2020). The “silent epidemic” finds its voice: Demystifying how students view engagement in their learning. McREL International.

Classroom Walkthroughs: Where Data-Gathering and Relationship-Building Meet for School Improvement (2020)

Many school leaders have embraced classroom walkthroughs as an informal school-improvement tactic. Learn how walkthroughs originated, why researchers think they’re effective, and how to match the right type of walkthrough to your school’s goals.

Rouleau, K., & Corner, T. (2020). Classroom walkthroughs: Where data-gathering and relationship-building meet for school improvement. McREL International.

To Make Big Changes for Students, Teachers Should Think a Little Smaller (2020)

While districts and policymakers focus on sweeping changes to schools, teachers can get big results by making comparatively small changes to their daily practice. This companion piece to the McREL book Tilting Your Teaching introduces you to the seven Simple Shifts—adjustments that every teacher can make immediately to turn dodgy classroom situations into engaging learning opportunities. And the paper shows how the Simple Shifts can be adapted to online learning to help teachers thrive in the COVID-19 environment.

Pearsall, G. (2020). To make big changes for students, teachers should think a little smaller. McREL International.

Changing Digital Learning From the Inside Out (2020)

Online teaching and learning can be more engaging and effective for students and teachers alike if districts take into account several key considerations when formatting their digital plans and processes. Combining and building on ideas from change management, improvement science, and inside-out systems development, Dr. Kris Rouleau from McREL’s Learning Services team offers seven guiding principles for district leaders who are looking to refine their systemwide approach to digitally mediated learning.

Rouleau, K. (2020). Changing digital learning from the inside out: System-level considerations for shaping online experiences that engage learners and teachers. McREL International.

Student Engagement: Evidence-Based Strategies to Boost Academic and Social-Emotional Results (2019)

Researchers have been refining their thoughts on student engagement for decades, and teachers who familiarize themselves with this history have an advantage in identifying opportunities to make their own work resonate with students, according to McREL’s Cheryl Abla and Brittney R. Fraumeni. The authors present McREL’s definition of student engagement as “A condition of emotional, social, and intellectual readiness to learn characterized by curiosity, participation, and the drive to learn more.” Research shows engagement is correlated with academic success and reductions in antisocial behaviors and substance use. And thankfully for teachers, there are evidence-based tactics that can be used to assess and improve students’ engagement, several of which are detailed here.

Abla, C., & Fraumeni, B. R. (2019). Student engagement: Evidence-based strategies to boost academic and social-emotional
results. McREL International.

Instructional Models: Doing the Right Things Right (2019)

Adopting, adapting, or creating an instructional model for your school or district could be the key to boosting instructional consistency while also encouraging teacher creativity. That may sound like an easy sell, but the process is rife with opportunities for crossed signals and misaligned ambitions. Whether you’re a superintendent or a teacher who wants to see some things change, learning the basics of group dynamics will keep your project moving forward.

Hubbell, E. R., & Goodwin, B. (2019). Instructional models: Doing the right things right. Denver, CO: McREL International.


Personalizing Professional Development: How Empowered Teachers Can Take Charge of Professional Learning and Growth (2019)

McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin teams up with ASCD authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral in this white paper to tackle a question of urgent interest to teachers at all career stages: Can professional learning be better? It can, they argue, if the profession recognizes that large PD sessions—while an appropriate starting point to share foundational practices—should be followed up with a highly personalized plan of action. Reflection holds the key to identifying and addressing problems of practice as teachers advance in their skills. Also important to bear in mind: Teachers are most effective when they develop an understanding of why certain techniques work, not just what they are.

Goodwin, B., Hall, P., & Simeral, A. (2019) Personalizing professional development: How empowered teachers can take charge of professional learning and growth. Denver, CO: McREL International.