Wednesday, December 11, 2013


At yesterday's workshop a colleague thanked the presenter for using independent research during her investigation, prep, and delivery.  The colleague mentioned that too often marketing takes the place of research when a product is chosen.

It's been a long time since I took my research and stats courses in graduate school, but I'm aware that good research matters when it comes to choosing just-right programs, strategies, and efforts. I also know that intuition, experience, and "gut" play a role in choosing tools, programs, and strategies too. In this time of unstoppable creation, the research can't keep up with the production pace, yet we don't want to waste lots of time on methods and tools that don't help students learn with strength, engagement, and depth.

So, what are we to do?

First, if possible, I think it's a good idea to research big expenditures and programs you plan to purchase. And if there's something you want to try where there's not much research available, conduct a trial at your school--create a beginning to end time frame, goals, assessment vehicles, and implement the tool, program or process for a short time. Then get together, analyze the data both formal and informal, and come to some conclusions about future use.

Trust your "gut," but also be on the look out for the data that doesn't necessarily support your practice. For example at the workshop yesterday, the presenter cited the research related to modeling. The research shows that modeling is a terrific approach for student learning, an approach that's even better if you use student exemplars. I don't use student exemplars enough so I was delighted to hear that research and find a way to improve my practice.  I'll start to use student work daily as a way to teach, and as the presenter said, it's best to use student work that represents someone who struggled to achieve as that shows children that everyone can do it.

Also during the workshop I was tempted to veer off from what seemed like a clunky mnemonic, but again the presenter demonstrated the research that supports this mnemonic's use, hence I won't veer off, but instead find ways to make the mnemonic memorable and useful to children as they write.

As the number of cars in a parking lot often signify a good restaurant, children's engagement and excitement about a tool often points to the promise a teaching tool holds. Students are mostly good judges of what helps them learn, so that's another key to choosing good tools, processes, and programs.

What's your "choice strategy" when it comes to tools, program, and processes?  How has this strategy changed in the digital age?  How do you apply this strategy to the new common core? These are important questions as we teach children well today. I look forward to learning about resources related to these questions.