Evidence. Based. Teaching.
If you’ve been in education for any time at all, you know these three words have dominated the field for the better part of two decades.
Evidence-based teaching involves the promotion and use of strategies that have been empirically validated through controlled laboratory studies.
To validate such strategies, an intervention is applied to a group of (hopefully) randomly assigned students, and the results are evaluated against a non-intervention control group.
If the intervention group demonstrates superior performance (however that might be defined), that intervention is henceforth deemed to be an ‘evidence-based’ teaching strategy.
Moreover, to stack the evidence for any given intervention, groups of studies are often pooled together to create a 'meta-analysis'. That, for instance, is what John Hattie did with his popular Visible Learning book.
Now, this all may sound like a powerful way to determine which teaching strategies hold the most promise for increasing student achievement … and in many respects it is.
But unfortunately, it is not the infallible panacea that many would have us believe.
Evidence-based teaching suffers from some significant problems, including an over-reliance on standardized tests, a large research-funding bias, and a narrow definition of what student success even means.
Perhaps the biggest problem with leaning too heavily on such models, however, is that teachers are insidiously disempowered as the control over classroom instruction gradually shifts to educational researchers -- many of whom have never spent even a single day in a live classroom.
In other words, when teachers are not only told what to teach but how to teach it, they slowly lose agency and autonomy over their craft as they become cogs in a blunt system that lacks any trace of nuance or appreciation for the individual student.
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit grim … but it’s very cold and overcast outside as I write these words, so please excuse me if I’m being hyper-dramatic ;)
Anyway, in this From Theory to Practice video, I explore a piece of research that can help us develop a deeper appreciation for this issue in a sort of roundabout way:
Is It Live or Is It Internet? Experimental Estimates of the Effects of Online Instruction (David Figlio, Mark Rush, Lu Yin)
Here are some of the questions I tackle in this installment: