Saturday, March 21, 2009

Research-based....bah hambug

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 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 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.


Ruralmama said...

The question of research is always a sticky one. It seems to pop up in so many places, probably because so much research being done is skewed to fit a certain criteria or is being backed by questionable sources. Good for you for giving this potential teacher your honest opinion of the matter!

Online Learning said...

Yes, research is a funny thing. There are a ton of "studies" out there claiming to prove something or other, but when closely examined, the methods are unsound, and thus do not prove much of anything. Good research needs to be not only empirically sound, but peer-reviewed for study flaws. I would bet that the majority of educational research is neither. Even some medical studies, which probably have the strictest governmental and ethical guidelines, are grossly flawed.

I agree, use your common sense. If it sounds like a good teaching idea - try it out. If it works, use it again, if not - toss it and try something else. Everyone has different needs.

Thanks for posting this!