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.
.There are times when you are teaching that you realise you are looking outwards when you should be looking inwards. When looking through many of the tweets I read about teaching I came across one that seemed particularly appealing and that I wanted to know more about.
The reason I found it to be so appealling is that it seemed to take something that I have used with students for years and instead of turning the spotlight on what they choose to spend their time on in class, it was putting the spotlight on what choose to spend my time on in class.
Typically I have used this idea of time to give students a sense for how much of their school year the may be wasting by some of the choices they make in regards to being slow to start and in attempting to pack up early. The idea I look at with them is quite simple. There are 40 mins in a lesson and 40 weeks in a school year. Therefore if they choose to waste 1 min every lesson then over 1 year this will equate to 1 week of schooling, Therefore it they take 5 mins to get to class and get ready to start and then try to pack up 5 mins early then that is 10 mins each lesson and 10 weeks or 1 term of schooling missed each year.
I was really excited to see that the talk was posted online (see below). The way Andrew Stadel looked at this in his talk was in ensuring that we look at ourselves and the way we choose to spend class time with the same level of scrutiny. He advocated the idea that we need to use the lack of time our advantage to really focus on those practices that are most effective, to squeeze as much learning out of that time rather than focussing on ineffective practices. I would take that one step further, but along similar lines and say that I should not be spending 1 minute on something that I am not prepared for students to spend 1 week on.
Senior Leader of Pedagogical Innovation and Mathematics Coordinator in Regional South Australia.
Opinions in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.