Education Research and
I arrived at this point to discuss education research and theory of value to educators at home and in every school level, from several perspectives. I am a teacher interested in child learning, then language, and, finally, literacy. I’ve had my own language arts and reading series and co-written and rewritten others and parts of other series. This has taken several decades of work and study and teaching and testing and observation and rework and more study and better teaching and so on. You’d have more precise information if I told you I was a theoretical psycholinguist whose specialty is cognition and visual spatiality.
I most certainly did not start out that way. If fact, I haven’t met anyone who has.
Mostly, we tend to have reached this complex state of affairs from one of two directions. We begin teaching and asking more questions than anyone can answer about why some things we do work better than others. Or, we’re launched by watching and interacting with our own children from their youngest years. In either case, we are consumed with the learning mechanism each of us is. We ache to understand. We can’t sleep for wondering. We read the latest papers. We read the classic studies. We design our own. We improve our success rate as classroom guides.
The literature – what we call all the books and papers and studies on a subject – offers thousands of studies on early language acquisition that proves each of us little learning mechanisms uses contextual clues from earliest age to make appropriate choices to supply our needs. Other bodies of literature deal with communications, behavior, birth order, motivation, linguistics, myriad psychologies, literacies, memory, imaging, information processing, reading, learning styles, etc.
When I started teaching and although the literature was growing, it hadn’t made many inroads into pedagogical culture. Once in the pedagogical culture, there was even less knowledge of or interest in that growing body of research in education and the insights that could impact on my work in the classroom. Too many workshops, even summer courses, concentrated on little theoretical delivery but rather on gimmickry in handouts and sheetwork that were rarely open-ended or part of a progressive unit that bettered my results or even my understanding of those results.
Of course, deep into the pursuit of nuggets from education research that impact on teaching, I sometimes tripped over theorists who couldn’t apply their own theories to any Real World learning. Having worked the front lines in teaching, however, I could immediately grasp what power I had when I understood a particular theory and how understanding that theory helped me focus on which theoretical bits, when applied, might accelerate my students’ learning.
Although education research and related theories do not give us solutions, they direct our attention to details that are vital to understanding and to finding solutions.
This is a killer combo – understanding a theory and having the ability to apply its best insights into Real World learning. This obviates wasting time. It not only gives the teacher more powerful tools but also frees up more time for her to do her stuff. This in turn gives the students more power because materials are presented to them in more informed ways with deeper insight, facilitating their learning and freeing up their time to do more with sharper tools.
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