Two Decades of Generalizable Evidence on U.S. Instruction from National Surveys

From Section:
Assessment & Evaluation
Mar. 10, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 113 Number 3, 2011, p. 561-610.

Purpose of the Study

The current article attempts to fill a gap in the research by describing evidence on instruction from all surveys conducted between 1987 and 2005 that measured instruction using nationally-representative samples.
The goal of this paper is to generate a portrait of the evidence from these surveys that identifies strengths and gaps in the literature and that summarizes what this research base says about the relationship between classroom instruction and student outcomes.

Research Design
Evidence on instruction was compiled and summarized in four steps:
(1) all surveys conducted between 1987 and 2005 that measured instruction and were administered to nationally representative probability samples were identified,
(2) manuscripts using data from these surveys were selected for review,
(3) the dimensions of instruction addressed by each manuscript and other manuscript characteristics were coded, and
(4) the methodology and findings of each manuscript were summarized.


It was found that more than half the studies used data more than a decade old; few studies examined instruction during important transition years such as sixth and ninth grade; and subject area emphasis was lopsided, with mathematics and science instruction receiving much greater attention than English/Language Arts and Social Studies.
The summary also revealed a repeated finding of low-SES students receiving diminished learning opportunities than more affluent peers.
The authors also found repeated evidence of a positive association with student achievement for six instructional activities, and repeated evidence of a negative or null association with achievement for two instructional activities.


The authors conclude that more research is needed on disparities in the instructional experiences of low- and high-income students.
More research is also needed on instruction at key transition points and on instruction in English/language arts and social studies.
This review also suggests a need for studies that more rigorously test research questions about instruction using measures that more authentically reflect the complexities of instruction and that examine student achievement growth over longer periods of time.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Academic achievement | Educational research | Evidence | Instruction effectiveness | National surveys | Reviews of the literature