Friday, February 25, 2011

Research Based this....Data Driven that...

I hear phrases such as 'research based', 'data driven', and 'data informed' used quite a bit in discussions about how we need to change our educational practice to improve student achievement. 

Those are pretty powerful statements, and it is hard to argue with them.  I mean, who would argue against using data to be more effective at what we do?  Ditto the research-based statement.  Everyone knows that it is sound reasoning to base our actions on what previous research has taught us, correct?

The problem is, as I see it, is that things are not quite as simple as they might seem on the surface.  If someone is talking about using data to improve instruction, what data are they referring to?  How was it collected, what is the purpose of using it?  What does it really tell us about student behavior and/or teacher behavior?  When it comes to research, what is research?  Research is not using Google to find articles, it is more than that.  Pure research involves the scientific method, focused purpose and problem, and critical analysis of the results. 

I stand by my original position, presented above, that it is hard to argue with statements such as I shared, but with a caveat.  We need to truly understand what those statements mean before we agree to use them to make changes in our practice.  We need to have common agreement on definitions, and about assumptions, before we start making changes.  We need to focus our actions, and be precise and intentional based on shared understandings and shared vision.  As instructional leaders, we need to ensure staff understand the urgency behind what we are doing as educators!  The relationships we build with each other and the culture we build in our schools is essential to supporting that clarity of vision and the development of shared understandings.

There, I said it again.  Relationships, vision, and focus are keys to student success!  Bet you never saw that coming....

Now, having said all that, where do our teachers collect their research and what do we do with it?  Google doesn't necessarily cut it.  Google Scholar is better though.  And how many teachers in my district are working on graduate degrees?  Are we sharing articles with each other?  Are we engaging in conversations about research on practice, how students learn, etc.? 

I think we need to take advantage of the things we already have going on, tap into our networks, and focus our conversations on those topics.  It is not about doing is about changing what we are already doing.  Focused and precise.  Those are my buzzwords of the weekend.

Before we do anything...let's understand why we want to do it, and identify what we want it to achieve.  We MUST develop deep common understanding about what we want to do, what it means, and why we want to do it....


No comments: