GUEST POST: Disconnect in the Classroom
By Blake Harvard
Blake Harvard is a high school AP Psychology teacher at James Clemens High School in Madison, AL. He earned his B. S. and M. Ed. from the University of Montevallo. Blake has a particular passion for cognitive psychology and its application in his classroom. You can find him on Twitter @effortfuleduktr. Blake previously contributed a guest post on problem solving, another guest post on biases, and recently started his own blog, The Effortful Educator.
Our very first blog post was about the communication breakdown between research and practice in education. Over the past year and a half, we feel that we have learned a great deal about science communication, though of course we have a lot more to learn. Today, we thought we would feature a guest post from a teacher giving his perspective on the same issues we raised in the original post.
The other day on Twitter, I found myself reading through a somewhat comical conversation among a few edu-twitterers/teachers/researchers concerning the compilation 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 researchers’ 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):
Most researchers don't know the teachers, but know the buzzword terms...— Stuart Kime (@StuartKime) June 4, 2017
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?
#ScotEdChat covered this very subject a few weeks ago. Please click on this link, which will take you to tweets under the #ScotEdChat hashtag on the date of the relevant chat, and read back over the chat…it includes 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:
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 determine what should be applied to his or her classroom and students.
Finding the Research
For me, this is the most frustrating issue. 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 by publishers. 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 (university students and professors typically have access through their library, which buy expensive subscriptions to academic journals – a distribution model that has previously been questioned on this blog). I have written to and tweeted to ResearchGate 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.
Distinguishing 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 even more practice 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 the most to me.
So, how do we overcome these barriers?
One way, I believe, is through blogs and website 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:
- The 3 Star Learning Experience run by Paul A. Kirschner and Mirjam Neelen. See in particular their list of seminal papers in educational psychology.
- Huntington School Website, which includes a wealth of research-related information – for example, this set of resources will help you get started on a long reading journey.
This blog itself is another resource that has been of utmost importance to me as a teacher who focuses on evidence-based instruction.
A last resource I’ll mention concerns workshops for those teachers who want to learn about the latest research. The organization researchED (@researchED1 and @researchEDUS) provides 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 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.
An earlier version of this post appeared on the Effortful Educator blog.