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Are Teachers Stalling on Implementing Education Research Because Papers Are "Hard to Read?”

Are Teachers Stalling on implementing Education Research Because Papers are ‘Hard to Read?'

'The biggest problem with using evidence with teachers is how badly written the papers are. I don't mean they leave out content that practitioners want. I mean the academic English researchers write in is completely unnecessary and makes it really hard for everybody – including academics – to read. And, of course, it makes it especially hard for teachers.’ says education researcher Stephen Gorard in a new a post on the Education in Chemistry Blog.

The post, Why don't teachers use education research in teaching?, is a transcript of Paul MacLellan’s recent talk for researchED that details why it’s hard for teachers to implement education research despite the potential benefits of doing so.

Ideally, education research should help teachers use methods that are proven to have positive benefits for student benefit.

An experiment from a team of researchers from Durham University, including Gorard, serves as evidence that teachers are, however, struggling to apply education research.

The researchers asked teachers in nine schools to read a research publication that had proven that enhanced feedback has overwhelmingly positive effects on student achievement.

After training the teachers and giving them time to implement the new method, the researchers then went back to the schools to follow-up.

They found that “...attainment didn't improve. A quote from the study: 'Overall, the data indicate that there is no convincing evidence of a beneficial impact on pupil outcomes from this intervention.' This is quite surprising given that this technique has been shown to be effective over several previous studies,” MacLellan says.

The researchers speculated that the main reason why teachers struggled is because the education research is written in way that is inaccessible to them.

Complicated wording and a lack of examples for how teachers can effectively apply the tested method are mostly to blame, the researchers said.

Further, when MacLellan talked to specific teachers about implementing education research, many said they simply don’t have time to keep up.

'I think for my colleagues teaching full-time in school, with the associated pressures of marking, assessment and planning, there's very little time to engage with any educational research. There are some formal mechanisms in some schools for disseminating research – my school, for example, has a learning development group that meets every half term. But that's only one hour each half term,” said chemistry teacher Kristy Turner to MacLellan.

All in all, the researchers conclude that education research papers aren’t written for teachers, but rather for other education researchers, providing a missed opportunity for teachers to actually implement the findings.

While incentivizing education researchers to make their work more accessible to teachers will be a long process, the researchers agree that a quick fix of using a translator to bridge the gap between researcher and teacher is a worthy investment.

"Wishful thinking aside, Stephen Gorard feels there's a gap that needs to be filled: the role of translator. 'We need something that converts research evidence into something practitioners can use.’"

Read MacLellan’s full post here.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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