Better Thinkers Make Better Test Score Takers


Meaning Makers - Thinkers - Problem Solvers

Many factors influence our classroom practices. During the high-stakes testing epidemic, teachers are increasingly focused on fact-based content learning first while considering thinking tasks that are more time consuming to be something they would do with any time left over.

But research is thick and pervasive that engagement and "sticking power" for content facts require rigor and relevance. The good news --> Educators do NOT have to choose between the pervasively, very visible and political high stakes testing and the life long goals of students as thinkers, problem-solvers, inventors, collaborators and communicators aka 21st Century Skills.

We can have both outcomes through well designed learning tasks that require making meaning of fact-based information in service to a demanding reasoning/thinking question or challenge. Rigor and relevance are best of friends with basic skills outcomes . . . combining both is the success story of what was learned on the way to making meaning of intriguing work that matters.

Bernajean's Handouts

• Learning Spectrum of Technology Uses
• Where's the Beef - PDF Article
• Depth of Questions - PDF Handout
• About What - PDF Handout

Research and Studies to Consider

While I have not found research convinces nay-sayers, it is helpful as support for projects, curriculum, or initiatives that expect to be substantiated before acquiring either the funding or system support in launching what will make a difference for kids! May the following references be helpful to those reclaiming inquiry or PBL as a core strategy for learning across all disciplines and grade levels.

Increasing Use of Higher Cognitive Questions

Use of Heuristic Problem-solving vs Algorithum approach - know the difference and WHICH approach will serve learners better in real-world situations.

• Black, S. (2001). Ask me a question: How teachers use inquiry in the classroom. American School Board Journal, 188(5), 43–45.

• Increasing the use of higher cognitive questions to at least 50% or more - percent incidence noted in most classes) produces superior learning gains for students above the primary grades and particularly for secondary students. Bernajean's Curated Research and Resources for "Technology" of Questioning

• Goodman, L., & Berntson, G. (2000). The Art of Asking Questions: Using Directed Inquiry in the Classroom. The American Biology Teacher, 62(7), 473–476.

• Redfield, D. L., & Rousseau, E. W. (1981). A meta-analysis of experimental research on teacher questioning behavior. Review of Educational Research, 51(1), 237–245.

Use of Problem-based Learning / Inquiry

• A REVIEW OF RESEARCH ON PROJECT-BASED LEARNING - a Meta-Study by John Thomas (200) supported by AutoDesk. Available on the Web at

• eMINTS focuses on innovative instructional processes, and supporting elementary teachers to develop student-centered, inquiry-based instructional practices through multimedia and computer technology. eMINTS classrooms scored at significantly higher levels when compared to students from similar demographics not enrolled in eMINTS classrooms.

• Document Source: eMINTS Evaluation Team Policy Brief, January 29, 2002,

• Bartscher, Gould, & Nutter, 1995. Increasing student motivation through project-based learning. Master’s research project, Saint Xavier and IRI Skylight. (ED 392549).

• Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3&4), 369-398.

• Peck, J. K, Peck W., Sentz, J., & Zasa, R. (1998). Students’ perceptions of literacy learning in a project-based curriculum.

Studies have shown a positive impact on learning when students participate in lessons that require them to construct and organize knowledge, consider alternatives, engage in detailed research, inquiry, writing, and analysis, and to communicate effectively to audiences (Newmann, 1996). Authentic achievement: Restructuring schools for intellectual quality. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

• Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning [Online].

• Williams, D. C., Hemstreet, S., Liu, M., & Smith, V. D. (1998). Examining how middle schools students use problem-based learning software. Proceedings of ED-MEDIA/ED-Telecom 98 World Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Freiburg, Germany.

• Putting Understanding FIRST

• Enhancing Student Thinking Skills

How Project-based Learning Drives Passion and Mastery (Creative Teacher / Fires in the Mind)

Examining Technology Rich Environments and Pedagogical Practices

[aka Constructivism vs Delivery]

• The Beliefs, Practices and Computer Use of Teacher Leaders by Becker and Reil. This longitudinal study found a significant difference in classroom practices between teacher leaders defined as collaborators and learners and private teachers who considered themselves "done" rather than engaging in workshops, reflective practices, and other learning events.

• Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper Series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

• Document Source: eMINTS Evaluation Team Policy Brief, January 29, 2002,

• Pellegrino, J.W., Hickey, D., Heath, A., Rewey, K., & Vye, N. J. (1992). Assessing the outcomes of an innovative instructional program: The 1990-1991 implementation of the "Adventures of Jasper Woodbury." Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Learning Technology Center.

• Ryser, G. R, Beeler, J. E., & McKenzie, C. M. (1995). Effects of a Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE) on students' self-concept, self-regulatory behavior, and critical thinking ability. Journal of Educational Computing Research 13(4), 375-385.

• Lowther, D.L., Ross, S.M., Strahl, J.D., Inan, F.A., & Pollard, D. (2005). Freedom to learn program: Michigan 2004-05 evaluation report. Prepared for the Michigan Department of Education and Ferris State University. Memphis, TN: Center for Research in Education Policy. Retrieved March 2008 from

• In E. G. Sturtevant, J. A. Dugan, P. Linder, & W. M. Linek (Eds.), Literacy and Community (pp. 94–100). Texas A&M University: College Reading Association.

• ACOT Research—Source: Teaching with Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms, Sandholtz, Judy, Ringstaff, Cathy, and Dwyer, David C., 1997

• NCREL-Published Research—Source: Computer-Based Technology and Learning: Evolving Uses and Expectations, Valdez, Gilbert, McNabb, Mary, Foertsch, Mary, Anderson, Mary, Hawkes, Mark, and Raack, Lenaya, 2000,

• Rockman ET AL—Source: The Laptop Program Research, Rockman ET AL, June 1997, September 1998, June 2000,

• Means, B. & Olson, K. (1997). Technology and education reform (ORAD 96-1330). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

• Coley, R. J., Cradler, J., & Engel, P. K. (1996). Computers and classrooms: The status of technology in U.S. schools (Policy information report). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

• Examining Technology and Impact on Schools

• SRI Report: Targeting Multi-media in Schools