Applying Research to Instructional Practice

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As teachers, one of our jobs is to stay on top of current research in our fields. The purpose of this lesson is to help you think about how you can apply educational research to your daily instructional practice.

The Importance of Research

Though Ms. Henderson has been teaching for fifteen years, she is starting to feel like there is something she is missing. Her kindergarten students are happy, and she has good relationships with families. She also knows that academics and social emotional learning run fairly smoothly in her classroom.

As more and more new teachers join her school, though, Ms. Henderson becomes aware that trends in education have changed and she is not necessarily aware of what is going on. She decides that she has to do a better job keeping up with current research, or new findings and scholarship within education. She can do this by:

  • Choosing one or two professional journals to subscribe to, and when they come, challenging herself to read at least three articles in each.
  • Attending one to two professional conferences a year.

Moreover, Ms. Henderson realizes that she has to think through some specific ways she will apply, or make concrete use of, research in her own instructional practice. Let's check out how she does this.

Developing a Community

In order for Ms. Henderson to hold herself accountable to incorporating the research she is learning about into her daily practice, she knows she will need a community, or a group of committed colleagues to work with.

At a staff meeting, Ms. Henderson announces that she would like to start a working group of teachers who will read and discuss research articles together. She and her colleagues meet once a month. They spend half of their time discussing the ideas behind the article they have chosen, and the other half talking about how they might apply these ideas in their practice.

Ms. Henderson knows that not all teachers are lucky enough to work alongside colleagues like hers. She thinks it might also be possible to find intellectual teaching community at the town or district level, or even online using digital forums.

Incorporation and Practice

The most important part of reading research, in Ms. Henderson's view, is figuring out ways to incorporate it into practice. After reading an article, Ms. Henderson tries to follow this protocol:

  • She asks herself, 'What is the main idea, the major takeaway, from this scholarship'?
  • She forms a hypothesis as to whether the scholarship will hold up in the specific context where she teaches.
  • She looks at her next month's worth of units and lessons and finds at least one place where she can try a different strategy related to what the work suggests.
  • She holds herself accountable for giving it a try, writing a note into her plan book and spending some time thinking about exactly how she will conduct this trial.

For example, Ms. Henderson reads an article about letting students have more choice in independent reading. She takes away the big idea that choice will improve students' motivation to read.

Ms. Henderson thinks her students might love making choices, but they might struggle at first with making a lot of choices. She looks at her next unit about reading nonfiction and decides to work with the librarian to add more books to her classroom and provide students with bins of books they can choose from.

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