The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why don't we use research?

There's an insightful editorial in this month's Teacher Magazine (link here) by Ronald Wolk, who founded Education Week - Teacher Magazine's sister publication - 25 years ago. I hope I'm not out of line in also describing it as a bit poignant, given the frustration and sadness that comes through in Mr. Wolk's words.

Wolk founded Education Week to solve a huge problem in education: the lack of information-sharing in the education community, particularly the sharing of research findings. If people had access to this kind of information, it stands to reason, they would have a powerful tool in improving they way they teach, and education would be better as a result. Unfortunately, he argues, the value of research has never materialized in the education community for several reasons. It's a pretty damning list - I would refer you to the original article since I couldn't do it justice without a massive copy/paste job, which hardly seems right :-)

He ends with the following:

Plenty of good, impressive research findings are available to those who make the
decisions about public education. Indeed, if we wisely apply the knowledge we
already have, we could develop the education system that our kids need and
deserve. Unfortunately, we don’t.

One of my dream projects has always been to develop a clearinghouse of research, which has been reviewed, translated into plain English, and appended with practical instructions for implementation. Mr. Wolk's commentary, however, not only makes me question whether such a clearinghouse would be used, but at a larger level, what hope our education system has if it cannot take advantage of research and best practices.

Flaws aside, NCLB has shifted the conversation to accountability, and it would stand to reason that once someone is accountable they'll look for proven ways to improve their performance - no sense taking a shot in the dark, or going with your gut, when your bonus (or your job!) is on the line. I hope that we'll ultimately prove Mr. Wolk wrong - but I think he's been right up until now, and he's got a fair shot at being right into the future unless we can force change.


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