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16 March 2014 @ 01:33 pm
Audio research  
A recent article (and thank to Sara Kajder for pointing it out to me via Facebook) proclaimed that audiobooks were not as effective as reading when it came to learning. Here is the assertion: "'Don’t listen to audiobooks if you want to pay attention,' said the headline at the Electric Literature blog. Fast Company ran a similar headline: 'Your brain on audio books: distracted, forgetful, and bored.' Yikes. Both referred to a recent scientific study in Frontiers that argued, 'While listening to an audiobook or podcast may seem to be a convenient and appealing option, our findings suggest that it might be the least beneficial to learning.'”

Of course, I had to read more to try to discern why these conclusions had been reached. It did not take me long to reassure myself that this is not really a significant piece of research. To being with, the number of participants was small (n=36); they were all college students; they all listened to a passage (and not the entire book) of ONE nonfiction book by Bill Bryson. Additionally, the study centered on the issue of how much the mind wandered when reading, reading aloud, or listening to a passage. Interestingly enough, there was not significant difference among the groups when it came to REMEMBERING what had been read.

Whenever we see research, we are somehow driven to give it credence before knowing all the facts. This is, in part, what has kept AR and similar programs making money. If you take a careful look at the research, the studies not funded by the company itself, you need to look at sample size, at control groups, at what exactly is being measured, and so much more. The fact is that companies bandy about the term research as part of their smoke and mirrors deflection from the truth about their programs. And some programs and curriculum exist with little or no research to suggest their efficacy.

CCSS architects decried the lack of progress during the era of NCLB (which touted its research base from the NRP, another case of research being mangled). Now, it demands large outlays of money without the research into its efficacy. Before jumping to conclusions, perhaps we need to take a closer look at the research behind the assertions?
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