Research-Based? Evidenced-Based? Who Cares?

Oh I know. Plenty of people care. I don’t.

Surprise, surprise. I am out of sync again.

Unknown-5In education there is an unhealthy and imbalanced emphasis on only doing research-based and evidence-based strategies in schools. We have some completely unreasonable belief that if we standardize enough, if we only apply research-based interventions, kids will learn more, better, faster. If we quit wasting time piddling around with any old teaching strategies and only do what the research says is effective, then we will surely do better in all the areas we so desperately want to do better in.
In an images-10ideal world, when baking a delicate cake, that is the most effective me do it. Follow the research. Use a specific recipe. Maybe my oven is wonky or does not maintain the correct temperature on certain days. I know this about my oven, I have some guesses as to why it is wonky and I apply some interventions. Some work, so my cake comes out as close to the promised results as possible.  I learn when and how to make adjustments to get my cake to turn out. But even with that, slight variations and adjustments must be made and applied when I use my wonky oven. Am I glad there is all that evidence and research? Sure. It gets me closer to the cake I want. But it is not the only way to bake that delicate cake and without those adjustments to my wonky oven, the cake won’t turn out. I know there is evidence and research-based information about making that delicate cake perfectly. But what if my adjustments make it even better?

images-11I wonder, why this preoccupations with standardizing everything in education? We insist kids all use the bathroom the same way. We insist that lunch is quiet and orderly so kids don’t get to socialize enough. We insist all kids use the playground equipment in the same way which means they have little chance to explore with their bodies in space and problem solve, develop resilience.

And why are we racing to the top? The top of what? A standardized test score? Does the research and evidence tell us that if we score at the toimages-8p on that test we are good people, strong problem solvers, compassionate citizens, smart, analytic thinkers, advocates, activists, makers of a better world?

When I provided direct service, my classroom was full of trial and error, unconventional interventions and learning strategies. My students were happy, they learned, they became resilient and compassionate, they developed a stronger sense of self and became more willing to take learning risks. We problem-solved together.

images-5If I had restricted myself to using only research-based strategies and interventions, none of us would have grown in positive ways. My vision and thinking would have shrunk my beliefs about how and what my students should learn. If I had restricted myself to using only prescribed and narrowly accepted beliefs about behavior management, my entire days would have been trying to control kids to the exclusion of any learning.

I invite and encourage all of us to use the research and evidence-based methods mindfully but not exclusively. Use them only when it makes sense for YOUR students. images-7

You see, our students are little human beings and as such the variables are so diverse and many that whatever research has been done, cannot possibly be effective with all students.

images-11

My race to the top? It’s to the top of the compassion and critical thinking mountain. If my students can think critically and walk life as compassionate citizens, they will surely learn all they need to as they need to.

Go ahead. Follow your instincts.

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