What works?

Transfer knowledge according to evidence-based standards

The Mercator Institute’s work area "What Works?" intends to bridge the gap between research, policy-making and educational practice. A research team brings together existing knowledge about language eduction regarding the effectiveness of concepts, measures or models. This knowledge is evaluated and recombined according to defined evidence-based criteria. Finally, the conclusions address specific target groups across several formats.

Background

Empirical educational research has shown that language proficiency plays a crucial role for students’ educational success. Numerous empirical findings show the interrelationships between both individual and social factors and language competences. Many language-related topics and questions such as multilingualism, literacy or the influence of digital media are the focus of public controversy. This also includes opinions and positions that do not accurately reflect the current state of research, misinterpreting or ignoring it altogether, which can lead to myths and prejudices. One reason for this is that scientific knowledge is scattered across many studies and different disciplines, without systematic collation, or transparent appraisal and synthesis. Furthermore, efforts to prepare scientific findings for practical fields of action in education have so far seen little success. Other disciplines, such as medicine and health care, have been working on this for more than two decades.

Objectives

The central concern of the work area What Works? is to build bridges between research, politics and practice in the field of language education. Together with topic experts, the What Works? team comprehensively collates, critically appraises and synthesises existing research evidence about the efficacy and/or effectiveness of concepts, methods and models in language education and distributes meaningful conclusions by publishing materials in formats adapted to the target groups' education policy and practice, as well as (science) journalism.

Evidence-based approach

The What Works team follows current evidence-based practice (cf. Dawes et al. 2005); by applying different methods of knowledge synthesis (cf. Dicks et al. 2017), the researchers create a heterogenous evidence base to provide the best available knowledge on language education. In addition, research gaps that have been uncovered serve to initiate research projects.

Basic knowledge language education, Fact-checks, Expertises

By publishing materials in three formats, the Mercator Institute makes it easier for educational actors to access current topics, concepts and research results. In the first format Basic knowledge of language education, central terms and concepts of language education are presented in a concise and comprehensible way. Fact-checks provide answers to frequently asked questions on controversial topics and thus clarify myths, prejudices and inaccuracies on the basis of empirical evidence. Finally, the Expertise format is used to draw evidence-based conclusions and recommendations for action for educational scenarios that can contribute to improving the practice of language education.

Team

At a glance: Basic knowledge of language education

Target groups

education policy (administration), teaching (student teachers, elementary school teachers), civil society, journalists

Objectives

Facilitating access to a topic, giving an introduction to a topic

Key questions

What is...?; How does...work?

At a glance: Fact-check

Target groups

education policy (administration), journalists

Objectives

Providing reliable information; debunking myths, prejudices and inaccuracies

Key questions

Is it true that...? Are there any concrete examples/information on...?

At a glance: Expertise

Target groups

education policy (administration), teacher trainers, scientific community

Objectives

Providing reliable information; debunking myths, prejudices and inaccuracies

Key questions

Is it true that...? Are there any concrete examples/information on...?

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