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SRI International Report: Missed Opportunities for Innovative Teaching Around the World

MENLO PARK, California, Nov. 10 - /EWire/ -- A new multinational study led by SRI International finds that innovative teaching practices supported by technology can indeed promote 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving. Unfortunately, in classrooms around the world, these important learning opportunities are rare. SRI's Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) research program, sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning and local country partners, examined teaching practices in 159 schools in Australia, Finland, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, and England. The new report, ITL Research 2011 Findings: Evolving Educational Ecosystems, summarizes results of Phase 1 of the ITL program and offers insights into how schools and systems can best support more innovative teaching practices. The studies were conducted in partnership with leading researchers and policy partners in each participating country. Despite the diversity in geography and cultures, researchers found that students engaged in innovative learning activities were more likely to demonstrate 21st century skills. High-achieving students tend to experience more innovative teaching than low performers and the lack of computers for students to use in classrooms was reported by teachers as the largest barrier to integrating technology in learning. "This research confirms the critical message that students are unlikely to build the skills they need for life and work in the 21st century unless the assignments they're given explicitly invite them to build those skills," said Linda Shear, director of international studies at SRI and principal investigator of the study. The report also revealed wide variation among teachers within the same school in both innovative pedagogies and use of technology in the classroom. When technology was used in teaching, it was most often used by a teacher to present information, and not by students to support their learning. Researchers found that ongoing collaboration around teaching and learning, active models of professional development, and an overall school culture that supports innovative practices are crucial for providing teachers with adequate opportunities and incentives to use advanced pedagogies in combination with technology in rich, interactive, and meaningful ways. Even though most policy-makers and school leaders in the participating countries stated the goal of innovative teaching and learning, researchers found that assessments and accountability systems did not support innovation in classroom teaching practices. Teachers often lacked professional development opportunities to support adoption of more innovative practices, and they felt pressured to spend time presenting material relevant for national subject-matter tests. The next phase of the ITL project is to transform the research methods developed to study innovative teaching and learning into capacity-building and professional development programs. All instruments and tools from the ITL research program are freely available at: Additional partners are welcome to join the project. The research presented in this project was supported by Microsoft Corporation under SRI contract number 9616085. About SRI's Education Research SRI conducts education research in three main areas: education reform, education policy, and the application of technology to improve education. Our researchers study reforms that hold promise for improving the K-16 system of schooling and lifelong learning and evaluate the design, implementation and impact of educational programs, especially those targeted at disadvantaged students. We also undertake projects to examine the design, implementation and impact of policies, programs and practices in the areas of early childhood, special education, school partnerships, and community services and strategies. One of our missions is to improve teaching and learning by conducting research on the innovative design, use and assessment of interactive learning environments. A particular focus is helping educational technology firms improve their products by providing research insights and strengthening educational designs. About SRI International Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, performs sponsored R&D for governments, businesses, and foundations. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. Commemorating its 65th anniversary in 2011, SRI is known for world-changing innovations in computing, health and pharmaceuticals, chemistry and materials, sensing, energy, education, national defense, and more.

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