What We Learned from Education Research in 2023

Researchers with gifts This has been a great year for education research. I thought it could be fun to review some of what has come across my own limited radar over the course of 2023.

The method I used to create this wrap-up was to go back through my Twitter timeline starting in January, and pull all research related tweets into a doc. I then began sorting those by theme and ended up with several high-level buckets, with further sub-themes within and across those buckets. Note that I didn’t also go through my Mastodon nor Bluesky feeds, as this was time-consuming enough!

The rough big ticket research items I ended up with were:

Multilinguals and multilingualism

Unsurprisingly, this was the largest bucket of research I came across since this is the area of my professional focus.

The first study I want to uplift regarding multilingual learners is a critically important one, because right now we are experiencing a large influx of immigration to the U.S. to schools that may not be accustomed to serving this population. Some parents worry that their own kids will experience diminished learning if they have immigrant children in their classrooms.

Such worry can be put to empirical rest with this Florida-based study, which found “the presence of immigrant students has a positive effect on the academic achievement of U.S.-born students, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds… & does not negatively affect the performance of affluent U.S.-born students. . . . Moving from the 10th to the 90th percentile in the distribution of cumulative exposure increases the score in mathematics & reading by 2.8% & 1.7% of a standard deviation, respectively. The effect is double in size for disadvantaged students”” (OG tweet HT Ethan Mollick, Link to study)

The next theme was related to assessment and multilingual learners. Converging evidence is quite clear that assessing students in both their home languages and in English are important for fully understanding their unique profiles.

The next theme related to multilinguals further highlights the heterogeneity of profiles within a group that we most often conceive monolithically as “English language learners”:

Another small but important theme, which can be found in many more studies, is that learning multiple languages, including sign language, does not hinder learning. This needs to be clearly stated because the misconception that learning multiple languages confuses kids is still prevalent out there.

There was some research that pointed to how we can leverage cross-linguistic opportunities for learning:

Furthermore, there was research that provides a basis for understanding how language develops, including how signed languages can inform how we understand language at large:

Research on reading

Now let’s turn to some reading specific research.


There’s a clear and growing converging set of evidence that stresses the importance of morphological awareness to reading. Just a few from this year:

The influence of physical or cultural environment

Learning and development are highly influenced by the contexts that such learning and development occur in.

The content of teaching and learning

There were some very important studies this year relating to the impact of curriculum and the content or approach that is taught in the classroom.

The precedence of academic skills over soft skills

An ongoing debate in the edusphere has been whether motivation or skills comes first – in other words, are some kids super motivated to read, so then they read more and become more skilled readers? Or do more skilled readers have more motivation because they feel more successful while reading? A converging body of evidence suggests that gaining academic skills precedes motivation and other soft skills.

Brain research and Artificial Neural Networks

There was a variety of other research I bucketed basically as relating to brain research – but there was one especially related to artificial neural networks that I got really excited about that I want to re-up!


There’s way more, but this already took me too long to compile. It was a useful exercise–at least, for me–to review some of the cool research from over this year. Sometimes we rush through to the next new thing, while missing the convergence and accumulation of studies that demonstrate emerging knowledge.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year, and looking forward to another year of learning on language and literacy.

#research #literacy #reading #multilingualism #assessment #brain #cognition #academics #curriculum #wrapup