I received an email inquiry from a bright-eyed new teacher which somehow triggered this response from me....
Inquiry: I am trying to find out if SpellingCity.com is research-based. I am an undergraduate student. I am not working on research so much as finding the best resources to help a student that I am working with. I need the resources that I use to be research-based. As a prospective teacher, I am keeping track of good resources to use in my classroom someday.
My rant of an answer:
Here's my two cents on research-based. It is very expensive to get something properly researched. Consequently, the reseach-based concept is badly undermined. For instance, I might go through the effort refining and documenting SpellingCity.com as research-based. Frankly, I'm considering it. I could then promote it as research-based. People would look at the article on research-based and be comforted and be able to use it.
Research-based might actually mean that I hire a professor to write a report citing references that support this approach. And, perhaps, we take three groups of 3rd grade students, teach with SpellingCity versus some other approach, and document that their spelling improved.
So, how does that tell a tutor of a student, in a one-on-one situation, perhaps a child with APD or ADD or gifted or mainstream, whether this is a good list to use or not for that particular student's needs?
How does that guide a teacher who already has a superior approach to teaching spelling?
What about 1st graders? Fifth graders?
In short, I've generally seen research-based labels used to promote all sorts of things in all sorts of places when in fact, the research had next to nothing to do with the questions being asked.
Here's an intereting point: By restricting spending government money on research-proven initiatives, teachers risk losing confidence in their own judgement and common sense. And students in public schools are inevitably denied use of any new services or anything from a company that does not have extravagent funding. This is probably why charter schools, private schools, and homeschoolers have much better educational experiences than those students in public schools.
Keep thinking on your own to evaluate what's useful and what's not.