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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Research

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

July 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

When swimming through data, skeptism can be a life raft

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Few news beats offer a monsoon of data equal to that in education.

Numbers frame every argument and initiative. But Mark Twain said it best: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

In other words: Beware the study with provocative findings advertised by a screaming headline that supports one silver-bullet approach or another. A piece from The Atlantic makes this point eloquently, quoting Maine math teacher Tracy Zager:

Public education has always been politicized, but we’ve recently jumped the shark. Catchy articles about education circulate widely, for understandable reason, but I wish education reporters would resist the impulse to over-generalize or sensationalize research findings.

We hear that.


Comments | More in News | Topics: data, Research

March 31, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Baby talk 101: New program puts brain research into action

The research is clear: the first few years of life are crucial to a child’s brain development and future language skills. The best way to build strong neurological connections? One-on-one, verbal interactions between the child and an adult caregiver.

But what does that interaction sound like? What’s the best way to talk to a baby who can’t talk back yet?

A Sunday story from reporter Katherine Long describes how a new pilot program is working to give parents in South King County the tools to strengthen early brain development. Called Vroom, the program includes hundreds of suggested activities — from mimicking a baby’s babbling noises to playing peek-a-boo — that parents can try at different ages.

A sampling:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, early learning

January 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Listen up, parents: Your baby can’t talk yet, but she’s absorbing every word

Researchers have long known that babies whose caregivers speak to them frequently learn more words — especially when parents use baby-talk, or “parentese.” Now, a new research study underscores the importance of the style of speech and the social context.

If you’re a parent, the quick takeaway is this: The more you talk to your baby face-to-face, using baby-talk, the more words your child will know when he or she reaches the age of two.

The most effective technique is to exaggerate vowel signs and raise the pitch of your voice. When you use these techniques, your baby is more likely to babble back — a sign that he or she is picking up the tools needed to learn new words.

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The latest research comes from Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and one of the country’s foremost researchers in language development in infants. The research is unique because “this is the first time babies have been recorded at home” while their parents spoke to them using parentese, Kuhl said.


Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, Research

December 4, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Ice cream doesn’t cause drowning and other warnings about interpreting data

Amid the national debate over how best to improve our nation’s public schools, data  from scientific studies often are used (and misused) to bolster one argument or discredit another – about the effectiveness of charter schools, say, or the value of standardized testing.

But how is an educator, policymaker or parent supposed to sort out credible evidence from the hype?

The science journal Nature recently published a list of 20 concepts that non-scientists should understand about scientific research.

Many of the concepts make good sense for evaluating education research, including this biggie that bears repeating often.

Correlation does not imply causation:  “It is tempting to assume that one pattern causes another,” according to the Nature article.  “However, the correlation might be coincidental, or it might be a result of both patterns being caused by a third factor — a ‘confounding’ or ‘lurking’ variable.”


Comments | Topics: Research, U. S. Department of Education, Washington Post