There is so little time spare for busy teachers that the thought of reflecting upon our practice and learning by reading evidence feels like a distinct luxury. No doubt, we need to be better supported and treated as academic professionals who need time to reflect, think and engage with what the best evidence can tell us, but sometimes we have to get on and do what we can. Given our unchanging poverty of time, we need to cut away the chaff and get straight to the wheat.
With this in mind, we can put our subscriptions to research journals on hold, we can avoid troubling the librarian, and instead we can find on the web the best research evidence for teachers. Here is my attempt at a quick fire selection of my top 5 must-read research evidence summaries freely available for busy teachers and school leaders:
- ‘What Makes Great teaching?‘, by Rob Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major, really is a superb synthesis of the best research on teaching and learning. This should sit atop the reading lists of ITE courses and it should prove an important touchstone for teachers.
- ‘Principles of Instruction’, by Barak Rosenshine is truly a seminal piece of educational research. . I have never read a more cogent guide to the business of teaching and learning in the classroom than this. The seeming simplicity of the principles belies their true complexity and it is a reminder than teaching and learning has core fundamentals that we should focus on. There are no shiny new things here – only time-honoured wisdom for teachers.
- ‘The Science of Learning’, by the Deans for Impact group in America is a recent, and very welcome addition to the educational research canon. It a concise, clear and damn fine distillation of the research from cognitive science that can really help teachers in the classroom. It is a short, accessible must-read, with great references for those of us who like to get lost on the internet in a fit of productive procrastination!
- ‘Top 20 Principles from Psychology for Teaching and Learning’, by the American Psychological Association, is a highly readable summary of the psychological principles that drive learning – what it says on the tin really. The ‘relevance for teachers’ sections are handy and usable.
‘Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology’, by Dunlovsky et al., may have a lengthy title and prove a slightly trickier read given it is a proper research paper, but this study really gets you evaluating some of the core practice that we undertake in our classroom. Drop your highlighter, stop re-reading your notes and pick this up and give it 30 minutes of your precious time. (A shorter article version of the paper can be found here).
Maybe you will wait to the weekend, or the Easter holiday, but find some time, read one or two of the studies and reflect on your teaching. It can provide a refreshing distance from endless data inputting and marking and provide you with some reflection to cool the white heat of the daily goings on in our classrooms.