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Introducing PLOS ONE’s Education Research Collection

Understanding teaching and learning—what works, how, and for whom—is an academic endeavor in its own right. This may be conducted by medical researchers who are also educators or by education scholars whose main expertise is in pedagogy or educational psychology. As PLOS ONE welcomes rigorous original research regardless of disciplinary boundaries, it is a home for education research. Our journal welcomes a variety of study designs and methods, including quantitative research, but importantly also for education research, mixed-methods and qualitative research.

The newly published Education Research Collection illustrates the breadth of contributions made in PLOS ONE to this field over the years. The Collection includes both small-scale interventions (such as on the teaching of fractions related to Common Core State standards [1]) and curriculum-wide observations (for example, of the most effective forms of active learning in biology classrooms [2]). It ranges from early childhood development (such as the assessment of the Early Childhood Environment scale [3]) to higher education faculty professional development programs (for instance, on changing teaching practices of science faculty [4]).

The Collection includes a variety of study types, whether randomized control trials (such as the assessment of educational tools [5]),  large longitudinal studies (such as on the long-term effects of the early childhood Chicago School Readiness Project [6]), or systematic reviews and meta-analyses (such as on the effect of child-staff ratios in early childhood education [7]). It highlights innovative programs (for instance on teaching critical thinking skills and argumentation through bioethics education [8]) and novel teacher assessment tools (for instance in medical education [9]).

This Collection also includes studies on the gender gap in STEM education, such as the effect of an intervention on gender ratios in higher education [10] or the analysis of multinational PISA data [11].

The papers in this Collection also include several studies on teacher attitudes that can be relevant to their professional development, whether on teachers’ attitude toward the inclusion of students with disabilities [12], on teachers’ emotions [13], or the role of teachers’ expectations about children’s socio-economic status and their performance [14].

This is only a small selection of the education research published at PLOS ONE over the years, and we welcome new submissions to this Collection.

For authors who are new to education research

If you want to know more about methodological and reporting standards in the field, we can recommend some useful resources such as:

  • American Psychologist’s Journal Article Reporting standards for both quantitative research (Appelbaum et al. 2018 [15]) and qualitative research (Levitt et al. 2018 [16]).
  • Annotated education research articles at the CBE-Life Science Education journal’s website (published by the American Society of Cell Biology).
  • The Institute of Education Sciences’ resources for researchers.

For papers describing new methods or programs, including teaching methods and class interventions, PLOS ONE has specific criteria of utility, validation, and availability (see more here). 

Credit: Jess Bailey

In general, we expect sufficient methodological details enabling other teachers and researchers to replicate a teaching intervention such as sample worksheets, a detailed lesson plan or curriculum or other educational materials. For any intervention, we look for sufficient details to assess its generalizability: how students were recruited, the frequency of class meetings, teachers’ experience, teaching objectives, school setting, but also detailed assessment methods and a comparison with existing methods. Educational evidence may consist both in quantitative assessments (such as pre/post test results) and qualitative evidence (such as student works and testimonies). 

We also expect papers to provide sufficient background about the study they report to embed its rationale in relevant scholarly discussions about education theory or motivate a pedagogical intervention with reference to teaching standards, when applicable.

We look forward to your continuing submissions in education research to PLOS ONE and are excited to see this Collection grow in the years to come!   

References

[1] Fazio, L. K., Kennedy, C. A., & Siegler, R. S. (2016). Improving children’s knowledge of fraction magnitudes. PLOS ONE, 11(10), e0165243.

[2] Weir, L. K., Barker, M. K., McDonnell, L. M., Schimpf, N. G., Rodela, T. M., & Schulte, P. M. (2019). Small changes, big gains: A curriculum-wide study of teaching practices and student learning in undergraduate biology. PLOS ONE, 14(8), e0220900.

[3] Brunsek, A., Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., McMullen, E., Fletcher, B., & Shah, P. S. (2017). The relationship between the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale and its revised form and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178512.

[4] Bush, S. D., Rudd, J. A., Stevens, M. T., Tanner, K. D., & Williams, K. S. (2016). Fostering change from within: Influencing teaching practices of departmental colleagues by science faculty with education specialties. PLOS ONE, 11(3), e0150914.

[5] Diamond, A., Lee, C., Senften, P., Lam, A., & Abbott, D. (2019). Randomized control trial of Tools of the Mind: Marked benefits to kindergarten children and their teachers. PLOS ONE, 14(9), e0222447.

[6] Brunsek, A., Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., McMullen, E., Fletcher, B., & Shah, P. S. (2017). The relationship between the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale and its revised form and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178512.

[7] Perlman, M., Fletcher, B., Falenchuk, O., Brunsek, A., McMullen, E., & Shah, P. S. (2017). Child-staff ratios in early childhood education and care settings and child outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 12(1), e0170256.

[8] Chowning, J. T., Griswold, J. C., Kovarik, D. N., & Collins, L. J. (2012). Fostering critical thinking, reasoning, and argumentation skills through bioethics education. PLOS ONE, 7(5), e36791.

[9] Arah, O. A., Hoekstra, J. B., Bos, A. P., & Lombarts, K. M. (2011). New tools for systematic evaluation of teaching qualities of medical faculty: results of an ongoing multi-center survey. PLOS ONE, 6(10), e25983.

[10] Sullivan, L. L., Ballen, C. J., & Cotner, S. (2018). Small group gender ratios impact biology class performance and peer evaluations. PLOS ONE, 13(4), e0195129.

[11] Stoet, Gijsbert, and David C. Geary. “Sex differences in mathematics and reading achievement are inversely related: Within-and across-nation assessment of 10 years of PISA data.” PLOS ONE 8.3 (2013): e57988.

[12] Vaz, S., Wilson, N., Falkmer, M., Sim, A., Scott, M., Cordier, R., & Falkmer, T. (2015). Factors associated with primary school teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of students with disabilities. PLOS ONE, 10(8), e0137002.

[13] Frenzel, A. C., Becker-Kurz, B., Pekrun, R., & Goetz, T. (2015). Teaching this class drives me nuts!-Examining the person and context specificity of teacher emotions. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0129630.

[14] Speybroeck, S., Kuppens, S., Van Damme, J., Van Petegem, P., Lamote, C., Boonen, T., & de Bilde, J. (2012). The role of teachers’ expectations in the association between children’s SES and performance in kindergarten: A moderated mediation analysis. PLOS ONE, 7(4), e34502.

[15] Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 3.

[16] Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report. American Psychologist, 73(1), 26.

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