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Berliner receives prestigious Sylvia Scribner Award


December 01, 2008

Arizona State University Regents’ Professor David C. Berliner has been honored with the 2008 Sylvia Scribner Award by Division C of the American Educational Research Association for his significant contribution to the fields of learning and instruction.

Berliner, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, has contributed to significant advancements in education that reflect the work of the late Professor Sylvia Scribner, whose work reflects a wide range of concerns within the field of cognition, particularly learning and instruction. The Scribner award comes with a cash prize and an invitation to deliver the Scribner award speech in 2009.

Berliner's esteemed research career has focused on three major themes: teacher expertise, use of educational research to combat falsehoods about education, and use of instructional time.

“Professor David Berliner joined ASU in 1988, bringing with him a national reputation, a host of awards, and volumes of published research to his credit. He has defended public schools and challenged the logic and evidence cited by outspoken critics of education, including the media,” said George W. Hynd, senior vice provost for education and innovation and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education.

"His ascent to research prominence began in the 1970s with his innovative studies on factors which impact student achievement," Hynd said. "His brilliant work completed during his tenure at ASU, including his landmark book 'The Manufactured Crisis,' has propelled him to international prominence. It is an honor to count David Berliner among the faculty within the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and at ASU.”

Berliner has analyzed the characteristics of expert teachers and the effects they have on their students. He tied his findings on teacher expertise to general research in cognitive psychology regarding expertise in other fields.

“Experts in all fields organize information and act upon it in ways that novices cannot,” he explained. “Expert teachers see the whole world differently. Research demonstrates it takes three to five years for a teacher to become competent and up to seven years for that teacher to maximize student performance on achievement tests.”

Berliner said his research in education policy and leadership also revealed that many statements made about education by politicians and the public were “undeniably false.”

“American schools have problems, but they are not uniformly bad. In international performance, many of our states and millions of our students are highly competitive,” he asserted. “The tragedy for America is that schools serving poor kids—often brown and black kids—are not performing well on the international tests. The real issue is that some of our schools are not good. It’s not all of our schools.”

Berliner’s studies also found huge discrepancies in how teachers use instructional time in school. He said this research is relevant in today’s education debates as policymakers consider extending the time students spend in school. “Adding more time to the school day will not have much effect, but there are dramatic results from making sure students are involved in their tasks,” he said. “The goal is getting kids to be attentive and involved, not merely having more time in school.”

Berliner has edited, authored and co-authored several publications including “The Manufactured Crisis,” with B.J. Biddle, and “The Handbook of Educational Psychology,” with R.C. Calfee. In his 2007 book “Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools,” written with his former post-doctoral student, Sharon Nichols, Berliner refers to Campbell’s law, a well-known social-science adage about the potential for distortion and corruption when too much value is placed on indicators used for social decision-making. Published by Harvard Education Press, "Collateral Damage" has received praise from scholars and educators and is being studied by education policymakers at local and national levels.