No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
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Scientifically Based Research

What is scientifically based research?

Scientifically based research is research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs. Because scientifically based research includes different types of research methods, it is critical that the research methods used in a particular study are appropriate for answering the questions that are addressed by the study. Understanding the quality of a research study is critical. Low quality studies of the effectiveness of an intervention or program do not provide trustworthy answers to the question, "Does this intervention or program work?"

How can teachers determine the effectiveness of an educational intervention or program?

As teachers prepare lessons for their students, they are faced with these questions:

  • How do I know what works?
  • What intervention is best to support a student who lacks certain skills?
  • How do I analyze a program's or intervention's effectiveness?

The field of education includes a vast array of education interventions that claim to improve achievement and be supported by evidence. Practitioners are often faced with the challenge of deciding if the evidence is credible and clear as to whether the practice or intervention is truly effective. To help practitioners assess the quality of evidence about the effectiveness of an education practice, the U.S. Department of Education has developed a guide titled Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence.13 This guide provides information on how to tell if a research study provides trustworthy information on whether or not an education practice is effective.

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). Judging the quality of a research study is not always easy. The Department of Education's WWC provides assessments of the quality of specific studies of the effectiveness of education interventions. The reports indicate whether specific studies provide strong evidence about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of an education practice. Teachers are encouraged to check on the WWC web site periodically. To find out more about the WWC, visit

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009