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International comparative research in education can help to expand the repertoire of possible practices and policies in several ways. curring variation in other countries can help develop more confidence in—or courage to consider changing—U. Many of the benefits of international comparative education studies, however, are achieved by relatively small-scale, low-cost, more open-ended studies.For example, a July 1994 NCES strategy document noted, “Education policy makers and analysts now routinely request information about how American schooling compares to that found in other countries . Such studies, in addition to contributing to our understanding of the broader range of possibilities in education, are essential precursors to large-scale studies because they help to identify contextual features of school systems that are common to many countries and can be quantitatively measured.Data are not collected regularly, systematically, or with enough coordination either to satisfy natural curiosity about education systems around the world or to answer the questions of researchers and policy makers about changes over time in education in a variety of countries.
tionship between the practice and desired outcomes in different settings.
More often, informal experiments initiated by practitioners using innovations from other countries attract the attention of researchers post hoc; policy makers call on researchers to investigate promising practices; and, of course, researchers themselves may initiate exploratory studies.
Instances of each of these cases are highlighted in boxes throughout the next chapter.
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Indeed, there is an increasing concern that international assessments are now conducted more frequently than reforms can produce change in the U. education system, which may discourage ongoing, longer term reform efforts.
In addition, the results of large-scale domestic and international surveys are raising a host of questions that often are addressed best by smaller scale studies requiring a wide range of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative.
He cited one educator who claimed that “the practical value of studying other systems of education is that much can be learned about one’s own system of education.” His second claim was that “what goes on outside the schools matters even more than the things inside schools to an understanding of any system of education” (p. However, the country rankings that were so widely publicized did little to suggest the breadth of international research. In contrast, education systems in many other countries encompass a far greater degree of diversity.
Cuban (1988) has argued that one remarkable feature of U. For example, there tends to be great diversity across nations regarding what citizens expect of their schools, what roles teachers play in society, and what education services governments and private organizations provide. The effort to provide a quality education to all of America’s students has increasingly used international comparisons to assess our school’s effectiveness and to generate ideas about ways to reform our schools” (U. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1994:ii,1). Studies such as PISA, for example, demonstrate that high average performance does not have to be associated with the wide disparities in performance found in the United States.
Similarly, questions raised by counterintuitive findings of large-scale studies are often best explored by smaller scale, targeted studies. All these benefits do not flow automatically from every study.
International comparisons of education systems often produce outcomes that are not part of their original rationale but that nonetheless make valuable contributions to the improvement of U. Rather, they are more likely to result from systematic investments in a variety of studies, differing in methodology, scope, and purpose, at least some of which try to test and build on earlier findings. Ideally, promising practices would undergo several rounds of study in the context of their country of origin, and in the United States, in which practitioners and researchers attempt to construct and test hypotheses about the rela- The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was conducted in 1995.