Here's what we know: teachers don't like educational research.
@dandersod @mpershan @gwaddellnvhs I think most ed research is bogus. #thereisaidit
— Amy Hogan (@alittlestats) December 16, 2014
@mpershan The research *feels* so fluid. Individual conclusions (seem) to change by the paper/researcher/decade. Know what I mean?
— Dan Anderson (@dandersod) December 16, 2014
@bennettscience @mpershan After taking an hr to discover the flaws in a study, its no wonder busy tchrs wait to see whats working next door.
— Lane Walker (@LaneWalker2) December 16, 2014
Another thing we know: there is a lot of educational research about feedback.
Look: if you're reading this then you're probably a math teacher. And we've already established that math teachers don't really care for educational research. You might have a faint interest in what the research says, but in all likelihood you don't find that research compelling in any way.
Q: What does compel a teacher, then?
This is exactly why we need more physical activity in schools... it's good for the brain! #edchat #unionrxi pic.twitter.com/0aIxJ9SIiVWhere is the middle ground here? Social media doesn't offer much argument, but academic research is toxic for teachers. Is there any intellectually respectable way to talk about teaching that teachers will care about?
— Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte) December 12, 2014
Like I said, to me it's really an open question. I don't know how to do it. I'm struggling here.
My recent writing about feedback is an attempt to find a place to land. Here are the (loose) guidelines I had for this series of posts on feedback:
- Talk about a kid, not "the kids." Whenever possible, I tried to focus in on a specific student. That helped me give enough context about the kid's specific needs (social, cognitive, motivation, etc.) that you could understand my situation better.
- Talk about decisions instead of what happened. I tried to avoid the "Here's what I used to do...here's what I did instead...it worked!" cliche of teacher-writing. It's hard to know what's really happening in someone else's classroom. I can't help you see that my feedback is working, and you shouldn't just take my word that it is. Instead, I tried to argue for the way that I was thinking about teaching.
- "Enough Context" = The math goals + kid's thinking + kid's social status. It was important to me that I give you enough detail so that you could be capable of skepticism. I found that three things often felt important to offer: what I was trying to do, what the kid thinks about the math, and how he/she interacts with math and her peers.
Here's what we know: teachers don't like reading research, but we have no good substitute for it. In a world like ours, the only sensible thing to do seems to be to read research but write from experience. But experience is famously unreliable. We need to find some way to raise the bar on writing from experience.
But I feel very unsure about this whole thing, so here are some questions.
- The nutty thing is that sometimes teachers -- even the very teachers who poopoo research! -- cite or rely heavily on the research world. "Research shows that white boards work," or "Science shows that timed tests are bad for kids." I mean, what's the deal here? (See Schenider, to start?)
- Is blogging the solution?
- Forget research for a second. What do you like/hate about non-academic writing about teaching?
- The test for teachers often seems to be usability. "It has lots of practical, simple suggestions that I can use in class the next day." Is this what's missing from writing about teaching? Maybe a mix of instantly usable ideas with longer-form arguments could help?