Sunday, November 16, 2014

What Happens When the Metrics are Wrong?

Last night, an online colleague notified me that Hattie's research has been challenged with the fact that his measurements are incorrect. I was struck as I've been using Hattie's research heavily as a teaching/learning guide in past few years and I had just created a new initiative to deepen my teaching with his words. What's a teacher to do?

I thought about it, and while his measurements, in some or many cases, are not correct, I still hold there is merit to his findings as many of the findings have been written about in other books too. For example when I read Willingham's book, Why Don't Students Like School?, where I found some similar recommendations about teaching well.

As a generalist, I don't have the time to dig deep enough so that I'm analyzing everyone's work to the specific details. Therefore, I use the following process with any research, advice, or ideas I read, view, or hear about.

First, I consider the information, and think, "Does this make sense?"  I've been teaching for 29 years. I've been a mom, daughter, and sibling during those years. I have lots and lots of cousins and heard many education stories. I've attended many conferences and taken multiple courses. I read the newspaper every day. In other words, I have a lot of experience, and can quickly determine if research makes sense or doesn't make sense in the broad view.

Next, I consider the source. If the source of the information is a person or event that has good merit, I will consider the information with care. For example, a couple of years ago, an expert came to our system. At first glance, her work didn't make sense to me, but many of my talented colleagues followed her lead. I listened more and watched closely, and I integrated the research too. I found that the research did indeed make sense and helped my students learn more with confidence. So even if it doesn't make sense to me at first, if well respected colleagues, mentors, or leaders support the information, I'll look deeply and try it out.

After that, I watch how my students react. Do they all resist the learning or do they gravitate towards the new initiative? How does the new information affect their classroom efforts, assessments, engagement and empowerment. This matters to me?

And, does the information match information and need in other disciplines?  For example, sometimes education research is slow to keep up with other areas of thought and work, and if information seems to match "where the world is going," I'll often look more deeply at that information and try it out.

As a teacher, I'm a synthesizer. I synthesize old and new, individual and collaborative, research-based and intuitive, multiple disciplines, and many ideas. I'm sorry to hear about Hattie's measurements' news, and I'll be more mindful about quoting his book and work. I'm not sorry, however, about the many ways his book and research have moved my teaching forward. My students are more engaged, empowered, and happy--their learning is good. There's always room for more growth however so I'll keep an eye out as to how others rethink his work and research, and I'll continue to look to experts in my school learning community (families, students, educators, citizens), professional learning network, and in the world of education to guide my growth. Let me know if you have thoughts about further thoughts about this as I'm sure that issues like this will arise often as the education landscape continues to develop and change.