Research based teaching

I’d like to be a research based teacher.  This means, if research comes out which is compelling and reliable and which suggests that an alternate approach to what I do will work better, then I’ll experiment and try that out.  If research tells us that people learn in a certain way, then I’ll need to look at my practices and adjust them correspondingly.

Here’s an example of one change I’ve made recently because of research I read.  The research is a meta-study of the relationship between the time between a learner makes a mistake and when they receive feedback on their mistake.  If there is more than a very small amount of time between making a mistake and getting feedback on that mistake, interference between the mistake and the feedback is likely to occur and the feedback may not be what is remembered, instead the mistake may be remembered.  "Teachers who want their quizzes to help students learn should try to arrange conditions so that students receive feedback as quickly as possible after they answer quiz questions." Kulik & Kulik, 1988

I don’t assign homework anymore of a quiz or exercise nature which doesn’t provide immediate feedback.  So this entire year, I haven’t assigned a single exercise from the textbook.  I still provide a textbook in case the students want to study, or practice with their tutor or parents, but we only use it during class-time.  During class I can roam the classroom and provide feedback when students are making mistakes, and I can make sure students are checking their answers with the back of the book on a regular basis. If I want students to practice assignments at home, they get an online self-correcting quiz.  Fortunately for me, all of my students have internet access at home.

One problem with this approach is that so much good educational research is locked up in the vaults of proprietary publishers and difficult to access. I am lucky and can access much of this material through my university, but I can imagine that this could be a major stumbling block for most teachers, and of course schools can’t afford to pay for the expensive subscriptions to all of the educational journals out there.  Just having access to the database to search through the journals is difficult.

We need to, as a profession, come up with a solution to this.  Either money has to be spent ensuring that teachers have access to the best educational research out there, or teachers need to become better researchers themselves.

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