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What Helps Students Learn?. Winston-Salem State University Edwin D. Bell. Introduction. Wang, Haertel, and Wahlberg, (1993/94) conducted an analysis of 50 years of research on the factors that influence student learning.

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What helps students learn

What Helps Students Learn?

Winston-Salem State University

Edwin D. Bell


  • Wang, Haertel, and Wahlberg, (1993/94) conducted an analysis of 50 years of research on the factors that influence student learning.

  • The research was supported by the Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education and by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement U.S. DOE.

Introduction continued
Introduction (continued)

  • They utilized the ratings of 61 experts and the content analysis of 179 book chapters and narrative reviews, as well as 91 meta-analyses (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993)

Introduction continued1
Introduction (continued)

  • Their analysis created 28 conceptual categories, which they categorized into six broad influences: student aptitude, classroom instruction and climate, context, program design, school organization, state and district characteristics.

State and district characteristics
State and District Characteristics

Wang, et al.,1993/1994, pp. 76-77

What did they find out
What did they find out?

  • Student aptitude had the most influence on student learning and within that broad area of influence the student’s metacognitive process, i.e., the capacity to plan and monitor their work, had the most impact on student learning (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).

  • Classroom climate and instruction had as nearly as much impact on student learning as student aptitude (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).


  • The most influential category is this broad area was classroom management. This category includes “group alerting, learner accountability, and teacher ‘withitness’. Effective classroom management increases student engagement, decreases disruptive behaviors, and makes good use of instructional time” (Wang, et al. 193/1994, p. 76)

Findings continued
Findings (continued)

  • Their analysis indicated that classroom implementation and support, which deals with instructional services, staff development and the adequate training of teachers was the least influential in the classroom climate and instruction category (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).

  • They argued that this weak relationship was probably due to the poor implementation of the variables involved, e.g., lack of time, resources, or support to implement new ideas and strategies (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).


  • The four out-of school influences influenced student learning almost as much as student aptitude and classroom instruction and climate. The most powerful was home environment/parental involvement (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).

Program design1
Program Design

  • The three program design categories had a moderate influence on student learning (Wang, et al., 1993/1994).

School organization1
School Organization

  • “On average school organization yielded moderate influence. Of its five categories schoolculture was the most influential” (Wang, et al., 1993/1994, p. 78)

State and district characteristics1
State and District Characteristics

  • This area was the least influential on improving student learning (Wang, et al., 1993/1994)

Findings continued1
Findings (continued)

  • Wang, et al. (1993/1994) summarized the average influence of their six areas this way.

(p. 79)

Conclusion and recommendation
Conclusion and Recommendation

  • “ Generally, proximal variables (e.g., psychological, instructional, and home environment) exert more influence than distal variables (e.g., demographic, policy, and organizational).” (Wang, et al., 1993, p. 249

  • “Overall our findings support renewed emphasis on psychological, instructional, and contextual influences” (Wang, et al. 1993/1994, p. 79)

Conclusions and recommendations
Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Please read Irving and Martin (1982) for a more detailed discussion of “withitness”


  • Irving, O. & Martin, J. (1982). Withitness: The confusing variable. American Educational Research Journal 19 (2), 313-319.

  • Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Wahlberg, H. J. (1993/94). What helps students learn? Educational Leadership, 51(4), 74-79.


  • Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Wahlberg, H. J. (1993). Toward a knowledge base for school learning Review of Education Research, 63(3), 249-294.