Classrooms are just too complicated for research ever to tell teachers what to do. Teachers need to know about research, to be sure, so that they can make smarter decisions about where to invest their time, but teachers, and school leaders need to become critical consumers of research – using research evidence where it is available and relevant, but also recognising that there are many things teachers need to make decisions about where there is no research evidence, and also realising that sometimes the research that is available may not be applicable in a particular context.
What this means, I think, that those who call for “evidence-based education” are missing the point. Evidence is important, of course, but what is more important is that we need to build teacher expertise and professionalism so that teachers can make better judgments about when, and how, to use research.
Dylan William argues that education has too many variables to be directed by research. Although it may serve a purpose, it only does when it supports teacher with improving their individual practice:
If we accept that every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better, professional development becomes welcome – it is just the way we become better.
I am however reminder here of Jon Andrews adage, “I’m interested in development, not improvement.”