Monday, August 3, 2009

Topic: Research-based Practices

10-second review: Research-based “scientific evidence” requires teacher intervention to modify or even abandon techniques depending on the needs of the learners and based on the teachers’ knowledge of theory and research, teaching experience and continuing assessment of their practices.

Title: “The Complex Relationship Between Reading Research and Classroom Practice.” C. Dudley-Marling. Research in the Teaching of English (August 2005), 127-130. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “Implicit in the demand for evidence-based reading instruction is the assumption that teachers do not currently attend to research in their teaching; or, at least, that they interpret educational research from the perspective of their own beliefs (Kennedy, 1997). Critics of education frequently point to teachers’ susceptibility to presumed pedagogical ‘fads’ such as whole language as a root cause for the putative crisis in reading in our nation’s schools.” p. 128. [Whoa, Nellie! Most of those fads, including whole language, have been foisted on unwilling and critical teachers by the administration. RayS.]

Quote: “I want to be clear in my own conviction that theory and research must inform teaching, but should not determine it.” p. 128.

Quote: “Given the complex and uncertain relationship between educational research and classroom practice, teachers’ professional discretion becomes the critical factor in effective classroom instruction.” p. 129.

Quote: “ ‘Proven’ programs work in the hands of expert teachers who modify or alter them (or abandon them altogether) based on careful, ongoing assessment of the needs of individual learners (Allington, 2002).” p. 129.

Quote: “Teachers matter, not only in terms of student achievement in their individual classrooms, but also as potential contributors to the knowledge base on effective teaching. Narrow conceptions of research that silence the voices of teachers diminish the entire teaching-learning enterprise.” p. 130.

Comment: I think the author’s conclusion that teachers must intercede in research-supported activities according to the needs of the students is extremely important. One cannot take a technique and simply apply it without considering the needs of a particular group of students or of individuals. Anyone who has tried to apply a technique from the pages of a professional journal without considering the nature, background and motivation of the students is almost surely going to be disappointed.

Educational research is simply not that firm. Most findings I read use the terms “suggest” or its synonyms when claiming success for a technique. Many call for “further research.” Good research, in addition, alerts the reader to the limitations of the research.

Teachers teach. Research is an important part, but only part of the teacher’s professional knowledge and experience. RayS.

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