Worthwhile Research to Answer Worthwhile Questions

By Joanna Gorin

My two sons are dressed, fed and ready for school while my husband and I hastily review drop-off and pick-up duties. He has an early meeting so it’s my day to drive them to school.

Upon arrival, we say our goodbyes and I encourage the boys to work hard and to have a great day. They pile out of the car and race each other to the school’s front doors. Morning routine complete.

My thoughts then begin to focus on the workday ahead. They don’t have to stray too far because the work my colleagues and I have dedicated our careers as researchers to has and will continue to influence many things that occur within the walls of my boys’ school.

Data excites me. It helps us discover better ways forward. For example, bilingualism is a goal for my family. My husband is from Spain, and we wanted our family to be able to speak both English and Spanish. We found the “one parent, one language” approach to children learning multiple languages was supported by research.

Data excites me. It helps us discover better ways forward.

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This technique is not only working for my boys, but it’s also helping me practice my Spanish and learn alongside of them. Although, I better make sure I keep up because who knows what mischievous plans can be concocted when they suddenly start speaking Spanish and dad isn’t around.

Finding answers to what we don’t know motivated me to study statistics and measurement and eventually teach them to graduate students at Arizona State University and continues to through my work today as a vice president of research at ETS.

There are big challenges in education right now that we don’t necessarily know how to solve. Raising literacy levels. Increasing access to high-quality teachers. Improving higher-ed learning outcomes. Clearing pathways to careers in STEAM. Closing the achievement gap. This is just to name a few.

There are big challenges in education right now that we don’t necessarily know how to solve.

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Over the last few years, ETS leaders challenged all of us to evaluate whether our efforts are aligned towards improving the advancement of quality and equity in education.

This not only caused us in the Research area at ETS to look inward but also to look outward. Putting our mission at the center meant really thinking about what challenges are important to educators, students, parents, administrators and policy makers.

Was our research dynamic enough in considering the cognitive and social and emotional variables associated with student learning? Do solutions we propose take into consideration budget, teaching time and education policy realities?

Putting our mission at the center meant really thinking about what challenges are important to educators, students, parents, administrators & policy makers.

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Was our research benefiting the many or just satisfying the curiosity of the few?

What resulted from this time of organized reflection started to take shape in 2016. ETS’ research agenda was re-organized to have many projects hyper focused on prominent challenges facing education.

The point of these efforts is to use targeted research and its resulting data and capabilities to inform and implement effective solutions to these challenges. In the end, it’s about our mission, it’s about students achieving learning outcomes everywhere, including my boys; even if it means their Spanish skills stay one step ahead of my own.