REL Midwest Videos and Documentaries

The Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest (REL Midwest), one of ten regional educational laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, serves the educational needs of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.



Explore these videos and documentaries to learn more about the topics we cover:

From Classroom to Career: Work-Based Learning for Indiana’s Students

Educators in Indiana are using innovative approaches to work-based learning to help prepare students for the careers of tomorrow. This documentary from REL Midwest and Ball State PBS spotlights three models of work-based learning in Indiana high schools—an internship, an apprenticeship, and a school-based enterprise—as well as practices the schools are using to strengthen their programs and the benefits for students. Read the related blog post, Preparing Students for the Careers of Tomorrow: New Documentary Spotlights Work-Based Learning.


Supporting Michigan Learners Toward Excellence in Reading

This documentary explores strategies to accelerate reading growth for young learners in two Michigan districts. In the program, educators and leaders from Detroit Public Schools Community District discuss how district and school leaders can support educators to provide high-quality, research-based instruction rooted in the science of reading and aligned with structured language and literacy. The program also features educators and leaders from Chippewa Hills School District, who discuss their experiences with integrating data-based individualization to intensify the use of research-based instruction for students with individualized needs.


Looking Back to Face What Is Ahead: District Strategies to Engage with English Learner Students, Students with Disabilities, and Their Families

This public television program focuses on research-based evidence related to student and family engagement and changes in learning supports through the pandemic. The program presents strategies and promising practices used by two Illinois districts to support students with disabilities and English learner students during the pandemic and into the future, and presents research on evidence-based practices related to student learning needs.


Teachers Who Aren’t Teaching: Who Are They and How Do We Get Them Back?

This video presents research on the primary reasons that many certified teachers are not teaching in public schools and the core incentives that would motivate them to return to the classroom. The program focuses on the ways state policymakers and district leaders can develop recruitment and retention strategies that could address the teacher shortage by tailoring their efforts to the needs of certified teachers who reside in Michigan but are not teaching in public schools. 


Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

This video discusses the most effective evidence-based practices for teaching decoding to early readers. Strategies discussed are based on the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. The video explains the need for systematic, direct, and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics and clearly defines what systematic, direct, and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics looks like.


Transforming the Culture of Education: Improving Teacher Working Conditions

This documentary defines teacher working conditions as school environmental factors that influence teacher job satisfaction, with a focus on three conditions: effective school leadership, teacher leadership, and professional development.


Learning for a Lifetime

In this documentary, researchers Jessy Newman and Dr. Michael Rodriguez discuss the ways that schools and districts can implement social and emotional learning (SEL) through adolescence and center SEL for older students. Along with school leaders and teachers from three Minnesota Alternative Learning Centers, they discuss the fundamental concepts of SEL and strategies related to the five core SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decisionmaking.


Literacy Instruction Strategies for Success: Multi-tier Intervention in Primary Grades

This video discusses the most effective evidence-based strategies for identifying and assisting struggling readers. These strategies are based on the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Assisting Students Struggling with Reading: Response to Intervention (RtI) and Multi-Tier Intervention in the Primary Grades.


Integrating Play Into Literacy Instruction: Strategies For Your Classroom

This REL Midwest video shows how to implement research-based literacy practices from the What Works Clearinghouse through play-based learning. In the video, preschool and kindergarten teachers use play-based learning in their classrooms to teach phonics, reading comprehension, and more. They also address common barriers to implementing play-based learning. In addition, the video includes an overview of play-based learning; a discussion of the benefits of play-based learning; and interviews with teachers, AIR Principal Researcher Sarah Caverly, and literacy expert Tim Shanahan.


Shifting Classroom Practices to a Virtual Environment

This REL Midwest and Region 9 Comprehensive Center webinar discussed strategies for effectively teaching K-12 students in a virtual setting. The webinar featured an e-learning expert who shared five research-based strategies for transitioning classroom practices to an e-learning environment. Two K-12 educators also shared the approaches they use to connect with students, build lesson plans, and manage student work in a virtual environment.


Heartbeat of the Community: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Rural Schools

Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in rural districts is a persistent struggle in the United States. This documentary includes research on teacher recruitment and retention across the country, and specifically in rural Michigan, and the actions that state and local education leaders are taking to recruit and retain teachers. The documentary features the Central Michigan University teacher education program, Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District’s Teacher Academy, Elk Rapids School District, Maple Valley Schools, Bellaire High School, and others.


High Hopes and Higher Education: Honoring Black Students’ Aspirations

Black students possess the knowledge and potential to successfully transition from high school to college, but don't always receive the support they need. This documentary from Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest and Wisconsin Public Television highlights Black students’ experiences as they prepare to enter higher education in Madison, Wisconsin. In the program, researchers Dr. Jameela Conway-Turner (REL Midwest) and Dr. Deborah Faye Carter (Claremont Graduate University) discuss practices that educators can use to support Black students on their path to postsecondary education. The documentary features the Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; students and staff from the Minority Student Achievement Network; and staff and students from the Madison Metropolitan School District.


Understanding the ESSA Tiers of Evidence

Each year, school and district leaders across the country choose programs, strategies, practices, and policies to improve students’ learning. Although districts and schools have flexibility to choose interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and states’ definitions of the ESSA standards may differ, the law encourages school and district leaders to choose evidence-based interventions shown to improve student outcomes. This video explains the four tiers of evidence, as outlined in ESSA, and how schools and districts can use them to rate an intervention’s potential effectiveness on improving student outcomes. View the related handout (PDF).


Kindergarten: Where Play and Learning Can Meet

What can kindergarteners gain from play-based learning? This documentary explores the advantages associated with a play-based approach in kindergarten and features stories of how two Illinois school districts made the transition to play-based learning. It also includes scientific findings about the cognitive and social-emotional benefits of play from experts Dr. Roberta Golinkoff (University of Delaware), Dr. Christina Weiland (University of Michigan), and Dr. Eboni Howard (AIR).


Making It: Latino Students’ Pathways to College

The Latino student population has risen from 8.8 million to 17.9 million and now makes up almost a quarter of students in U.S. schools. Educators are working to tailor Latino students' education to reflect their cultural needs and prepare them for college and career readiness. This documentary highlights the predominantly Latino Cesar Chavez Academy High School in Detroit and the College Assistance Migrant Program at Michigan State University and reveals best practices for educating Latino students and preparing students for college.


Ready for the Future: Career Preparation in Rural Communities

This documentary is about the unique opportunities and challenges facing rural communities in Minnesota as students explore and prepare for careers.


Supporting Black Students’ Excellence: Connecting Research to Practice

Teachers and administrators in the Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin are implementing several strategies to improve educational outcomes for Black students. This video connects these strategies with a REL Midwest research review of promising practices educators can use to support Black students.


Learning English: Diverse Students in American Classrooms

In partnership with WVIZ/PBS ideastream, REL Midwest created a 30-minute, documentary-style public television program that presents the research on academic supports for English learners. Stories from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's Multilingual Multicultural Education Program connect the research evidence to practice by highlighting real students, teachers, and school and district leaders. Documentary Viewing Guide (PDF) >>


Learning Upgrade: Technology in Iowa Schools

This informational video, produced with Iowa Public Television, covers research-based strategies for the successful use of education technology. The video focuses on the recommendations of the National Education Technology Plan and highlights promising practices from Iowa schools.


State of Teacher Preparation: Research and Stories from Early Years in the Classroom

In partnership with Detroit Public Television, REL Midwest created a 30-minute, documentary-style public television program on evidence-based best practices for new teacher preparation and support. The program features three novice teachers in Metro Detroit whose experiences highlight the importance of quality preparation, clinical experience, and ongoing mentorship. Also featured in the program are veteran teachers, school leaders, researchers, and leaders from teacher preparation programs and the Michigan Department of Education.