Information Age Education Blog
What's the Hurry? Show Me the Research!
It is easy to think of possible ways to improve education. Ask almost anybody, and you will get some suggestions. It is much more difficult to think of ways that can be widely implemented and that actually will work.
I recently read the following article:
Parents Across America (March 2011). Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn’t Work. Retrieved 8/19/2011 from http://parentsacrossamerica.org/performancepay/.
Parents Across America is a non-profit advocacy group. The article cited above begins with these paragraphs:
The idea of “pay for performance,” which involves supplementing teacher pay or providing bonuses based on student test scores, is one of the latest educational fads to sweep the country.
Research and experience, however, indicate that such schemes are more likely to damage our children’s education than to improve it. As one analyst notes, “test-based pay is more useful politically than it is effective educationally.”
The article then provides a summary of research literature to support the position that this approach to improving education is not successful.
Other ways to improve education also are suggested. Here is an example, quoted from the article:
In national surveys, when teachers are polled as to the best way to boost their effectiveness, their number one recommendation is to reduce class size–far above any other reform offered, including merit pay. When Finland’s leaders sought to improve their students’ academic performance, they instituted measures that included reducing class size, boosting teachers’ salaries, and eliminating standardized testing. Teaching is now a highly sought after profession in Finland, and Finnish students top the world in academic performance.
Look Before You Leap
Humans are quite good at suggesting possible solutions to problems. Consider two different types of problem situations:
- The problem is an individual problem faced by an individual person. The person can mentally consider various possible solutions, select one that he or she thinks might work, and try it. The person can observe the consequences. If the solution does not work or does not seem to be working, another possible solution can be tried.
- The problem is quite large. (Think in terms of our country’s educational system, our health care system, our national debt, poverty, homelessness, and sustainability.)
In the first type of problem situation, a person invests personal time and resources. Sometimes it is necessary to act quickly, so there is little time for careful consideration of the possible consequences of a proposed action. Other times the person may act quickly when he or she would be better served by spending more time considering alternatives and their potential results. See the IAE Newsletter, Thinking, Fast and Slow available at http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2012-89.html.
In the second type of problem situation, “leaders” invest their country’s time and resources. The type of analysis, thinking, foresight, and rapid response used in the first case is not appropriate to the second case.
We also have time, in the second case, to draw together some of the experts and best thinkers in the problem area. We have time to think about a wide range of possible solutions. We have time and the resources to do pilot studies. We can avoid the “jump on the bandwagon” approach.
If you feel you are being steamrollered by a leader or a system that wants to make major changes without having carefully explored the needed research, learn to say, "What's the hurry? Show me the research!"
What You Can Do
The next time you are in a small group setting in which people are discussing the problems of education, government, poverty, crime, the world, etc., listen to the solutions that are being proposed. I find it fun to hear these "off the top of the head" solutions to major, continuing problems.
Select a solution that seems rather "far out" or preposterous to you. Ask the speaker to clarify his or her "suggested solution." Ask specifically why the speaker believes that the proposal will solve the problem and not create still other and larger problems. Use this type of exercise to start training yourself. As a well educated person, you should understand the following quotation:
"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. " H. L. Mencken
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
A Well-intentioned and Very Bad Educational Idea. See http://i-a-e.org/myblog-admin/a-well-intentioned-and-very-bad-educational-idea.html.
Comparing U.S. and Chinese Educational Systems. See http://i-a-e.org/myblog-admin/comparing-us-and-chinese-educational-systems.html.
Each of Us Can Help Improve Education. See http://i-a-e.org/myblog-admin/each-of-us-can-help-improve-education.html.
Faddism in Education. See http://i-a-e.org/myblog-admin/faddism-in-education.html.
In Math Education and Other Disciplines: Asking the “Right” Researchable Questions. See http://i-a-e.org/myblog-admin/in-math-education-and-other-disciplines-asking-the-right-researchable-questions.html.
That’s a Researchable Question. IAE Blog. Retrieved 8/16/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/component/easyblog/entry/that-s-a-researchable-question.html?Itemid=58.
Written by davem, September 03, 2011.
Each time I read an article about how to improve our educational system, I am reminded of the following book:
Sarason, S.B. (1990). The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform: Can We Change Course Before It's Too Late? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. See http://www.worldcat.org/title/...c/22002732.
For a short summary of Sarason's ideas on school reform see http://theartfulscience.com/?p=452.
What I like best about his work is the emphasis on empowering students and their teachers. This is a bottom-up approach to improving education.