Over the past few years I have heard one phrase a lot It is a phrase that although not unexpected, it causes me concern. This phrase is:
"Teacher's don't read research"
The obvious question then becomes "If they are not reading research, what are they reading?". For most teachers I have come across it is books of resources, articles about their content or maybe blogs such as this one that might describe activities that a teacher has done. They tend to read stuff that they can pick up and take into their class the very next day and use it.
So why is reading research important?
My simple answer to this is that reading resource books changes might change a lesson, reading research can change your outlook on education in general and can transform your classroom over a much longer period of time. Educational research is not about finding a great lesson on area of a square, it is about the big questions in education
This is only a small fraction of the questions that researchers are attempting to answer. They spend years investigating even investigating a small part of one of these questions with the aim of shedding some further light on the rest of the story. The answers they come up with are important, they describe how the outcomes changed not just for a few, but for hundreds or thousands of kids. The answers are important as they force us to examine what is currently happening in our schools, and in our classroom. They get us to judge our own day to day practice against the research piece we are looking at and look for commonalities or differences. It forces us to fundamentally examine what we believe about our profession and the way we approach it. It has the potential to change every part of our day to day practice. This same level of scrutiny is not put on individual lessons.
Research is also incredibly important as there are a lot of practices that are prevalent in many schools that have been disproven strongly by research. This means that there are a number of practices occuring in schools around the world that have been shown to have a negative impact on student outcomes. Some examples of this that I hear a lot when talking to teachers are:
Why don't teachers read research?
I think there are a number of reasons don't read research, I think some of the reason are based on the teachers and some are based on the researchers.
- What hand you write with might influence how good you are at maths
- Maths ability is 75% genetic
I am not disputing the results of their research, I haven't read it. I haven't read it because as a teacher this research doesn't help me. If I start making instruction decisions in my class based on their genetics and what hand they write with then I feel I would have to answer some pretty serious questions. The findings might be statistically valid but they don't help me to be a better teacher it is not within my realm of influence. I think it is dangerous to start making judgements and instructional decisions based on what hand someone writes with.
In conclusion if we are going to continue to grow as a teacher as we expect our students to continue to grow then looking for lessons just won't do it, we need to really pay close attention to the research so that evidence-informed practices can better influence our teaching. I see it as my role as an instructional coach and a faculty leader to digest this research for and with teacher so that it may better inform our practice.
Mathematics Coach and Coordinator in Regional South Australia. Current driving the Empowering Local Learners project as a numeracy strategy from pre-school to senior secondary.
Opinions in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.