Sunday, October 9, 2011

Educators Love Research!

One of the major buzzwords in education is "research-based" (okay, buzzphrases); you can't swing a dead cat without smashing it into a promotional flyer for a school system touting research-based practices. Here's the thing: although research has its place in education, certainly, it doesn't always hit the mark (i.e., research that says larger class sizes don't matter. That researcher has never been in a 45-student biology lab.). Much of the recent research has been focused on "what works" or "best practices," but turns out that not all of this research is actually practical.


"Undoubtedly, “what works” efforts deserve much applause and appreciation, but, unfortunately, they hold only limited value for educators, for two reasons. First, while researchers are pursuing what works in general, what matters to practitioners is what works in their particular setting. Educators know that a program deemed effective by researchers will not necessarily work or may have a rather different impact in their own schools...Knowing that an intervention works (or not) only tells us that the overall average effect of the intervention in all schools where it is implemented is expected to be positive (or zero). It does not tell educators in a school district whether the intervention will work (or not) or how well it will work in their schools or classrooms."

So research is done on a grand scale but doesn't really give a good answer about whether or not it will translate into a classroom or a district,


"The second problem of the “what works” research is that it says little about how an intervention should be implemented once it is found to be effective."

The second is probably the most frustrating to teachers; an administrator decides that something looks good and mandates that All Schools Shall Implement The New Program. Problem is, training is absent or inadequate, some programs are pointless from the beginning and educators know it, thus not buying in and dooming the program to fail and most initiatives are inadequately funded.

Both of these problems are generally glossed over and "research-based" practices are implemented daily in schools. This is not to condemn all research in education but rather to caution parents and schools to look more closely before adopting wholesale something that is "research-based." Sometimes something works because it does; the same thing may not work for the next group of students, and good teachers adapt. They don't need a mandate!

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