Comments 7

Treasures Old and New

Sharing the treasures of educational research 

As teachers, we owe it to our students to employ methods that have the evidence to back them up. When we utilise ineffective practices, we are robbing children of their potential. I am continually faced with the results: students who arrive at secondary school unable to read, solely because of the quality of the instruction that they have received. Ineffective practices such as Brain Gym® have prospered because of the naivety of parts of the teaching profession.

It has been encouraging to see the growth of a movement such as Research Ed recently. It shows that there are teachers who want to know more about what really works. While, at last year’s conference in London, we were rightly cautioned against putting too much faith in educational research, there is in fact excellent, replicated, generalisable research that can be applied in practical ways to the classroom. I know this because it is what I have done in my work, and I have seen the impact on students. I am happy to claim excellent results, not on the basis that I am special, but that the research that the programme is built on is of excellent quality.

 Treasure chest (Pixabay)

Twitter has proven to be a lifeline in connecting with like-minded people in education. Sharing the treasures we have discovered, debating questions, and clarifying language are all part of the healthy dialogue that should be part of a true profession – and for so long these kinds of debates have been missing from schools (at least, the ones I have worked in).

Putting together this library of Professional Reading pages began as an attempt to archive papers that had been deeply buried in my memory, and to allow easy retrieval when the occasion arose. Twitter conversations called for others to be able to benefit from the work of ground-breaking researchers. The first version was launched on the website nine months ago while I continued to search out and add to the collection. Just in time for the New Year, an expanded and re-organised version is now up on the site. The aim is to allow teachers to encounter research-based practices that have the power to transform lives, and to learn more about how to evaluate research so they are not at the mercy of those who solemnly intone, “The research says . . .”

 Book of hours cover

I know that many people have found it useful so far. I hope that many more will benefit in the coming year. To get you started, check out the link to Pamela Snow’s excellent blog post on evaluating research – it should be standard content in teacher preparation courses.

Best wishes for 2015!

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  1. It’s great that you are compiling papers and evidence to support teacher decision-making, and there is a wealth of material available through your links. Thank you.

    Of course, it is the quality of the research and its relevance to classroom practice which is the key to its usefulness. I take an interest in the phonics debate. In the case of phonics it is important to look at the way control groups are used, the sample sizes, the interests of researchers etc. and the way research has been translated into practice. Present practices promoted in schools may not be indicated by the research even where it comes out in favour of the use of phonics.

    You mention the usefulness of Twitter as a forum for discussion with ‘like-minded’ people and for publicising links to research. I assume that ‘like minded’ people are those who are intellectually curious about the research and ready to engage in discussion. I have to say with regret that I have found on Twitter a tendency for positions to be entrenched and a lack of interest in the full spectrum of points of view. As someone who is unhappy with the present level of emphasis on synthetic phonics I have found myself blocked by several tweeters who disagree with me. Similarly I have found myself blocked from certain forums where I have raised points. So I’m afraid I have a rather jaundiced view of the value of Twitter for stimulating fruitful discussion.


    • Thanks for your thoughtful reflections. Twitter can be a difficult medium in which to debate complex issues – that is why I started blogging. There are some bright spots, though. For example, this post by @JamesTheo argues for thoughtful shifting of our views based on the accumulation of evidence. It’s also something that @LearningSpy has written about here. I am learning that it is important to be sensitive to others but to also have a thick skin!


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