Today’s educators are bombarded with information from all sides about the latest and greatest research-based instructional techniques in teaching. With all these crazes about instructional methods and the confusion about which one really works and which one is a dud, no wonder our teachers are so exhausted! As charming and inspirational as all these latest claims and success stories seem to be, educators need to be careful when choosing and implementing a new or old “miracle” instruction method. There are things a teacher needs to do before making any big changes to their curriculum and instruction.
First things first, what supporting evidence is there? Educators need to use their resources wisely and take all initial information with skepticism. Before actually outright backing the “amazing” new research supporting a particular method, whether it be Indirect Instruction, Cooperative learning, etc…, educators must do their research. Talk to colleagues, look the strategy up online, check out education magazines and journals, and any other resource material available. Find out what evidence there is out there to support the research-based strategy. Furthermore, make sure the sources you are calling upon for information are reliable. Reliable sources offer reliable evidence, so seek out unbiased, professional resources. Weigh pros and cons, consistencies and inconsistencies, before making a decision on the strategy at hand.
After thorough research has been done, the next important question is: “How should the research-based program be implemented?” And “What methods does the research show to be most advantageous?” These questions’ answers would most probably appear in your research since it was suppose to be incredibly thorough. If not, you’ll want to look it up. Many teachers forget this step, and as Grassen states in the article “What Does It Mean To Be a Research-Based Profession” teachers simply aren’t properly implementing research-based strategies are thus losing out on potential benefits of the programs. “Cooperative learning was designed to complement teacher-directed instruction by providing further opportunity for students to work together using what they have learned. In most schools today, cooperative learning is used to replace teacher-directed instruction and students are expected to construct their own knowledge working in groups.” (N.d). Clearly, teachers need to put a great deal of thought into this step as improper implementation of the program can have catastrophic consequences on learners.
Read up on each research-based method, decide what sorts of lessons would benefit from their use, and which wouldn’t. Talk to colleagues about what methods they use in the classroom, why, and how they implement them. Most of all, be aware of comparisons being drawn between different research-based strategies. Look for comparative studies as opposed to non-comparative studies. Comparative studies are more likely to give you accuracy in research. Educators need to look at the whole picture. How is class A using strategy A performing compared to class B using strategy B? How do these same classes perform after trading strategies? How is school A using strategy A performing compared to school B using strategy B? And so on…
Lastly, before implementing any research-based strategy, an educator should ask themselves “Am I biased?” Be sure to be honest with yourself. Try to go into deliberation with an open and unbiased mind. Take into account all reliable sources whether they are in-line with your initial beliefs or opinions on the strategy or not. Remain unbiased until the end. Your openness and willingness to learn can determine the accuracy of your research.
There are a great many research-based programs out there and being implemented everyday. Many of them just don’t have the proper supporting research for an educator, especially a new and inexperienced one, to simply throw their weight behind. Don’t ask your students to do homework without doing your own. Research your methods before putting them into practice. Find out what’s behind them, what’s supporting them, and how they should be used to the biggest advantage in the classroom. Without such information your newest instructional plan could be a huge failure. Don’t follow fads and trends, look for rock solid evidence and implementation methods before making that big leap of bringing it into your classroom.
Grossen, B. (n.d). What Does It Mean To Be a Research-Based Profession? Retrieved March 8, 2007, from University of Oregon, Eugene Website: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu
Northwest Regional Education Laboratory. (2005). Research-Based Strategies. Retrieved March 5, 2007 from, Focus on Effectiveness Web site: http://www.netc.org/focus/strategies/