Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bridging the Gulf

Detail from Franklin's print shop.
As I continue try to balance my high school teaching duties with my doctoral studies, I came across "Rethinking Ed Tech Research," by Punya Mishra that encapsulates a central dynamic that I've learned about the relationship of research/theory and practice.  More specifically, how researchers and pracitioners view each other.  And remarkably, how little contact there is between the world of academic research and the day to day practice of teaching.

When I conduct workshops for my colleagues in schools, I sometimes have participants read a research study. Invariable someone takes offense, sometimes because it challenges our own expertise, the belief (in most cases correct) that "no one knows my students better than I do."  Additionally practitioners often discount research because it's distant (both in the sense that the language isn't the most reader-friendly, but also distant in the sense that it seems so far removed from anything we teachers experience on a day to day basis).

Similarly it didn't take me long in my graduate studies to realize that a lot of the action research teachers conduct in our classrooms is rarely valued by researchers.  Sometimes the professorial attitude seems a bit condescending, but other times this opinion is warranted. Speaking for myself, much of my own research and writing makes sense to me in my own situation, but it's not always generalizable. So I have to be honest with my teacher-researcher self and ask, "what good is it to the educational community if it's only relevant to me?"

One solution is to bring these worlds together in schools that maybe don't exist right now. If John Dewey were here, I'm guessing he'd create some kind of virtual or hybrid laboratory school where researchers would bounce their ideas off practitioners in process, and practitioners could apply these emerging research findings to their practice. Continuing the learning loop, researchers might benefit from practical applications of their ideas, and that it turn would make their research ideas more dynamic. Teaching loads might be reconfigured as well. Professors could teach children some of the time, and working teachers might lead a few graduate student seminars.

I read a lot about how K-12 schooling and higher education in their current forms are becoming less relevant for today's learners. One way to make formal education more relevant would be to locate more intersections to these two mostly parallel universes.