Day 105 (of 187) the call for peer reviewed research in education and problems within this…

Day 105 (of 187) the call for peer reviewed research in education and problems within this…

Research takes time. It takes time in which other studies are coming out with potentially contradictory information….but who gets published first and retweeted the most…wins?

Being an educator who believes in inclusion, Project based learning (including geniushour and SOLEs) self regulation, eportfolio using formative descriptive feedback loops – I sometimes get questions about “what the research says”. Partly because studies on things like standardized high stakes tests did get a fair bit of research when/as one-type-of-testing was more the norm….despite the many students who weren’t good at this type of “demonstrations of learning” often being excluded from some classes or even from schools (especially after funding counts were confirmed).

And by no means am I against research – I just want to point out that all of us ,pick and choose the research we like. Otherwise the Black Box article would’ve fundamentally changed how ALL classes work all the time using Formative Assessment more often and confirming some key classroom practices:

1. Clear learning intentions. Verbal is minimal, written on board (few friends an I used a dart board) as a reminder. 

2. Provide examples of a range of work (great that we have BC Performance Standards that include a range of exemplars for many subjects [not project based exemplars but…] for K-10 at

3. Questions. Good deep questions – both to AND FROM learners. (This has led me towards elements and strategies like Geniushour and Self Organized Learning Environments)

4. Timely descriptive feedback (this is what led me towards what we now see as eportfolios)

5. Peer and self feedback (I found great value using document cameras and later iPads to show & share authentic student work to provide immediate feedback for areas for improvement and things to celebrate) <— this has been a key driver around how to communicate learning around competencies.

6. Practice and reflection. (Practice needs to be meaningful – more than just a compliance activity – and taking time to reflect on what has been done has inspires my ongoing “days-of-learning blog”

But some don’t want to do it all – or have explored “parts of this” because it is different/hard to do consistently. But this research did confirm practices that many educators found effective, not because research told them so, but because it worked – the research confirmed its effectiveness.

And there is bias when things are “peer reviewed”. But lately I’ve been hearing more and more podcasts and social media connections looking for the research (around the work of Carol Dweck, Jo Boaler, Sugata Mitra, Sir Ken Robinson) on how “different impacts students”. Yet it takes time to do research. When working on my Masters, articles cited were based on information from a few years previous – so sometimes there isn’t the “right” information to base practice on and we have to make assumptions. Especially as different publications will want to “encourage” articles that support their philosophy – there is a need by some educators to “publish or perish” and there are many different ways to do this….

My fear: the best research is longitudinal – which looks at things over time. But learners aren’t widgets. What was a hit for one group of students was a miss for others. The well researched Friends for Life Program was recently discontinued in Bc but programs with mixed research results such as DARE co it use to be encouraged because they feel good whatever the evidence says….

My bias: research is like a cookbook. Good recipes to start from. Maybe like a musical composition. Lots of good information to take in and explore….but there is also a value to fusion…and jazz….taking something and working on it inside out. We need to try some things out based on guesses and hunches –> that don’t come out of thin air…that are based on prior and current readings….podcasts….conversations…and built upon a relationships and trust.

The worst statement I recently read about the value (and mixed research on) of memorization (and I do believe that memory is a good thing, I just don’t like the value we put on short term memory retrieval for spelling tests and chapter quizzes rather than deep memorization which is based on understanding the why and the how) – where the author states “to be a good poet, have kids memorize more poetry – because poets memorize their works” which as someone who has written poetry for publication….offends me tremendously. It’s like reading the thesaurus will make kids better writers because they’re being exposed to more words. It is so much more complicated than that! (And yes, I’m trying to refind the link to that article but I do like this one which has some similarities )

I’m not saying educators shouldn’t be using key research in daily practice! Indeed we should! I have used the work of others to influence how my “passion project time” as geniushour; group work shifted because of Sugata Mitras “classroom in the cloud” and work on Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs); I pushed more Project based math learning after reading Jo Boalers work confirming some of my thinking and pushing in other areas; more music in the class due to an article commenting on how the best forms of music for math & learning based on bpm (beats per minute) were Baroque and Disco….still looking for this article for someone….I need to better tag some favourite articles!

I am suggesting that educators not be afraid to try something different. In theory learners are learners, but in practice over 20+ years I have not had two classes that were the same…which is what encouraged me to be okay with trying different to meet the needs both for different groups of students….but also knowing each individual has different needs/wants for their own best learning – and pushing for more personalized learning journeys….it sounds new, but really resembles the original classroom set up by Socrates with a focus on good questions being asked both by teacher and student.

In other words, don’t always wait for others to tell you what will work. Be a poet…a jazz musician… a fusion chef – create your own mini-research inquiry project… Google and explore twitter to see if others are already doing the same or similar….peer reviewed research is a very good thing…but not the only thing!

More to come!

About technolandy

Principaling on the Pacific in Powell River BC Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback to personalize learning!
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