Seasoned teachers know a lot about how to do their jobs, and can generally execute the default instruction that we’re all familiar with pretty well. Practical knowledge of this kind is sometimes referred to as craft knowledge or wisdom of practice, and it forms the basis of some national teaching assessments (Leinhardt, 2007). While craft knowledge includes all of that hard-earned skill that teachers acquire through years of on-the-job experience and practice with students in seats, it also includes “fragmentary, superstitious, and often inaccurate opinions” (Leinhardt, 2007, p. 18). It could be argued that relying solely on one’s own craft knowledge to the exclusion of other ways of knowing, such as theory, research evidence, authority, and collaborative learning, cannot possibly lead to great teaching; It’s necessary but not sufficient.
Why should we care about theory and research in education? Because without it we’re not a profession. The six essential characteristics of a profession (Finn, 1952) #edchat #ResearchMatters pic.twitter.com/5JFeziCKE6
— Zach Groshell (@MrZachG) May 1, 2019
Indeed, craft knowledge or wisdom of practice through experience is but one facet of what makes a good teacher, and, like Finn advanced in his “Six Essential Characteristics of a Profession” (1953), there are other characteristics required for us to call teaching a profession. We practitioners – teachers and administrators both – need to ground decisions in theory and actively seek research evidence to support or refute what we do.
I recently had the opportunity to speak about this very topic on What’s the Big Idea, a well-produced podcast made by Dan Kearney. In our discussion, I spoke about where I am in my research journey so far, and what I suggest we do to try to bridge the gap between research and practice. I also talked about where you can find K-12 education research (for free), and where I would start if I was just beginning to get into research for the first time. Check this episode out, The Research Question, by clicking on the link or picture below:
Unfortunately, not everyone I meet in education is as determined to bringing education research into schools as I am. Most folks that seem to have traces of interest in it say they don’t have the time or the know-how to search it out, download it, read it and use it in any sort of way in their practice. Much more depressing is the amount of teachers I’ve met that openly scoff at the idea that research could be useful at all to teachers. In fact, evidence that teachers are highly skeptical about the value of educational research has already been established in, you know, the research literature, such as in Vanderlinde and van Braak’s qualitative study, “The gap between educational research and practice: Views of teachers, school leaders, intermediaries and researchers” (2010).
While I appreciate an argument on the issues like anyone else, I didn’t think when I chose teaching as a career that this was the sort of environment I would be entering into. There’s a difference between a philosophical debate over whether absolute truth is ever attainable in education, and me having to jump into the ring to defend the merits of science. As I mention in the podcast, us practitioners should really start taking the intellectual pursuit of knowledge more seriously. Schools should put peer-reviewed articles at the center of teacher workshops and staff meetings, as well as offer training in research skills to their teachers and administrators. Schools should pay for access to a research database, and train and expect teachers to use it. Schools should also put someone in charge of leading research-informed discussions in their schools, including teacher book clubs and evidence-based professional learning communities; I volunteer! Let’s move beyond the “fragmentary, superstitious, and often inaccurate opinions” that are inherent in practice solely based on craft knowledge and let’s work to professionalize what we do.
Thank you for reading! We’re always happy to have you at educationrickshaw.com. Be sure to check out the podcast this post was based on, The Research Question, along with my last guest feature on a podcast (and wow, have I changed since then!), Turning the Tables on The Ed Podcast.
– Zach Groshell (Twitter @MrZachG)
D. Finn, J. (1953). Professionalizing the Audio-Visual Field. Educational Technology Research and Development (Vol. 1). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02713166
Evans, C., Waring, M., & Christodoulou, A. (2017). Building teachers’ research literacy: integrating practice and research. Research Papers in Education, 32(4), 403–423. https://doi.org/10.1080/02671522.2017.1322357
Leinhardt, G. (2007). Capturing Craft Knowledge in Teaching. Educational Researcher, 19(2), 18–25. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189×019002018
Vanderlinde, R., & van Braak, J. (2010). The gap between educational research and practice: Views of teachers, school leaders, intermediaries and researchers. British Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 299–316. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920902919257