Disconnect in the Classroom

Today, on twitter, I found myself reading through a somewhat comical conversation among a few edu-twitterers/teachers/researchers concerning the compiling of education research:


 Tom Sherrington (@teacherhead) made a comment that these compilations must help because most teachers would not be able to search for this information via researcher’s names.  I agreed and commented that most teachers know the education buzzwords, but few know the researcher(s) behind the buzzword.  Following my comment was an absolute peach from Stuart Kime (@StuartKime):

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So simple.  So profound.  Dr. Kime’s words have continued to ring through my head all day, and they speak of an important question that occasionally rears its head on edu-twitter:

How do we connect the classroom teacher with the research?  

This weeks #ScotEdChat covered just this subject.  Please search this hashtag and read back over the chat…some really great questions posed and a wonderful conversation.

Getting back to the above question; how do we connect the teacher and the latest research?  What are the barriers?  Here are some of the barriers I see:

Time – For most, this is probably the biggest barrier.  Teachers are continually asked to do more with less.  They have duties that are barely connected to the classroom but have to be completed.  They must compile lesson plans, host study sessions, tutor those who have fallen behind, lead that committee, coach that team, et cetera.  That leaves the teacher with very little time to find research, read research, summarize research, and distinguish what should be applied to his or her classroom and students.

Finding the Research – For me, this is the most frustrating.  I actually like hunting down the latest studies.  I like reading through what can be very technical writing and contemplating how it could be helpful in my classroom…But most of the time I am denied access to journals and their articles.  Why?  Because I’m not a student at university or professor at a university…in other words, because I am only a high school teacher, I am not allowed access.  I have written to and tweeted to Research Gate many times asking why this is so, but I have never received a reply.  It just makes good sense to me to allow classroom teachers access to the latest research.  Again, this is quite frustrating to me…I’m frustrated now just writing this.

Disseminating What’s What  – As I mentioned above, sometimes these journal articles can be quite technical.  It really takes a lot of practice to understand the flow of articles and a keen eye to translate what is being written into more manageable vernacular.  But, getting back to my previous point, it’s hard to practice reading the research when you don’t have access to it.

Certainly there are more barriers than this, but these three stand out most to me.  So, how do we overcome these barriers?

One way, I believe, is through blogs and websites that compile the research.  These one-stop-shops for teachers can help to remove a lot of the above mentioned barriers.  Two of the best compilation sites I’ve seen are:

Seminal Papers in Educational Psychology


Another great resource that has been of utmost importance to me as a teacher who focuses on evidence-based instruction is The Learning Scientists (www.learningscientists.org) (@AceThatTest).  This group of researchers/teachers tirelessly work to bring new research to the teacher and student.  They sometimes even conduct the research themselves and then write blog articles that translate the findings into much more easily readable text.

A last resource I’ll mention concerns workshops for those teachers who want to learn about the latest research.  This can be found through researchEd (researched.org.uk) (@researchEd1) (workingoutwhatworks.com).  They provide workshops around the globe with the explicit goal of discussing the latest in evidence based research.

As a high school teacher, I feel it is partly my duty to find the most applicable evidence-based practices for my students.  I cannot rely on a yearly faculty book study or through hearsay.  Often times, once information has trickled down that way, it’s outdated.  Teachers and students deserve access to this research and time to read through and discuss ways to apply it in the classroom.  This is where it has to be done to be most effective and have the greatest impact across cultures around the world.


7 thoughts on “Disconnect in the Classroom

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  1. The question you’re asking is a truly fantastic one. It’s one I wonder a lot about myself. Where I’m at right now is that we — meaning, we who care about spreading the insights of research — need to think differently about scientific communication.

    As it stands right now, we — that same we — tend to think of the problem as one of dissemination, or of circulation of ideas. But I think the issue is slightly different. Just because a teacher is aware of a research result doesn’t mean that it meaningfully changes the way they see learning or teaching, and so it won’t necessarily stick or help their teaching.

    So the problem is deeper, but more familiar: how do we change the way people think about learning and teaching? Deeper because it’s harder, but more familiar, because this is PRECISELY THE PROBLEM OF TEACHING.

    If I wanted to change how my students think about math, it wouldn’t suffice to help circulate articles and texts with the truth or to let them know where the current mathematical consensus stands. Teaching is more than that. And yet, we expect to help teachers learn about the lessons of research in a similar way, without actually teaching them.

    (Some people think that teachers ought to be able to teach themselves about research, but whether we ought to or not, such an approach clearly isn’t working.)

    So, that’s my totally non-helpful thought about connecting teachers to research. We should teach teachers about the lessons of research, and about how to connect them to their classrooms.

    If this thought has implications, it’s that we need to focus a bit less on ‘communicating’ research ideas, and focus more on helping teachers learn these ideas with the support of an instructor.

    Phew! That was a long rant. Thanks for asking such a great question in the post.

  2. Great article! I agree that time is the factor that is the strain on finding and reading the most current research. I, too, have tried to research studies and find most of them blocked…very frustrating!

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