I attended the conference of the National Conference of University Professors recently. One of the speakers at the event, which was titled Research Excellence and Publishing Seminar, was Professor Marilyn Leask.
She asked: "Where is the research on lesson planning?"
We may do things without knowing if there is any research about that approach, or what the research says. Perhaps we may even justify that by taking the view that if we get it wrong, ie it turns out that what we're doing is ineffective or worse, at least nobody is going to die.
No, said Professor Leask. But if schooling is poor, pupils could go on to lead impoverished lives.
All very well, and all very true, but as Professor Leask said, teachers don't want to read academic research papers that boast 20 pages of methodology. They want practical solutions. As I always ask when I am evaluating a talk at a conference for teachers: how will this help me with class 3B next Friday afternoon?
Her solution has been to take a leaf out of the medical establishment, where they have an approach known as 'translation research'. Basically, the findings are set out in very simple terms, but doctors can drill down very quickly to obtain more detail -- ideal when you need to provide a diagnosis and a possible solution for a patient who's sitting in front of you!
To create an education equivalent, a network of universities, professional associations and individual researchers set up Mesh Guides, and formed the Education Futures Collaboration charity to take it forward. See www.meshguides.org. The co-chairs of the charity are Dr Sarah Younie and Professor Marilyn Leask.
Here are a couple of screenshots from the one on Neuroscience, to give you a better idea of how they work:
Click on a box in order to get more detail:
Go there now and have a look at the Mesh guides, and maybe even get involved yourself. In the meantime, you may wish to consider this question before you implement a new approach: is there any research that says this actually works?
If the answer is 'no', or you're not sure, perhaps you could set up a small classroom-based research project yourself. If so, there is plenty of information about practice-based research on the Mirandanet website.