kitchen table math, the sequel: Cheryl vT on action research

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cheryl vT on action research

"Do ed schools give good training, at all, in how to do action research??"

This probably depends on the ed school, but in my experience, the training on action research was abundant -- ridiculously abundant. Here's a good pdf that explains action research:

This paper explains the birth of action research back in the '70s:

"Education practitioners questioned the applicability of scientific research designs and methodologies as a means to solve education issues. The results of many of these federally funded projects were seen as theoretical, not grounded in practice" (page 14).

To me, this is the red flag... Examining your own practice in a thoughtful, meaningful way is great -- and hopefully all teachers conduct this reflective research as a matter of course.

But educators shouldn't simultaneously dismiss the (admittedly scarce) solid quantitative research out there because it's "too theoretical." In my view, that's educational malpractice...and sadly very common in ed school.

Generally speaking, I'm not inclined to spend a lot of time bashing the 1970s just because....because I'm not. No particular reason.

But there's no question the decade produced a number of very bad ideas, Exhibit A being constructivism. It wasn't until recently that I understood what constructivism is in the broad sense of the term. Constructivism is what progressive education became after it encountered postructuralism.

Traditional progressive ed (now there's a neologism for you!) probably wouldn't have been to my taste, but I would take it any day over constructivism.

1 comment:

vantilburgindo said...

Hi Catherine!

Totally agree on traditional progressive ed...wonder if there are ed schools that still go down that road?

When I signed up for my masters program, I picked the school closest to my house with the most flexible schedule (I was a working mom with young kids). It's embarrassing to admit that I didn't even know there was an option between approaches. I just knew I wanted to teach. I ended up at a hugely constructivist school -- which I didn't even realize until well into the program. (A case of "you don't know what you don't know.")

Anyway, this is off topic, but did you see the NYTimes article, "When Trust in an Expert is Unwise"? Here's the link (hope it pastes properly -- I don't know how to embed links in comments):

Here's the money quote:

"...[W]hen a situation is too complex for an amateur to grasp — and when it involves shades of gray — you probably shouldn’t expect to get a purely objective diagnosis from someone who has a financial incentive to give you something else."

Alexander Russo links this idea to education as a way to explain why parents distrust teachers so much. It was a lightbulb moment for me.

I'm not teaching at the moment -- just a parent with one great student and one dyslexic student. I don't trust their teachers 100 percent(even though I am a teacher). I'm sure it's partly because I understand the constructivist indoctrination they probably underwent in ed school. But the "expert service theory" crystalized for me another reason for that distrust.

Anyway, sorry about the long, rambling comment. I just thought of you immediately when I read this article and thought you'd be interested.

Thanks for doing this blog -- it's great. I've been reading it for about 2 years now, and it's the one I always click first on my blog reader. Take care!

Cheryl in Singapore