Package The Product
The night was growing late as I turned the page of one of the hundreds of research articles I read each year as part of my studies as a doctoral student. There, before my tired, bloodshot eyes were the following words: ``Unfortunately, the sentiment concerning the resistance of teachers and their unwillingness to use research is shared by many researchers and scholars. Researchers and change agents often express frustration that teachers do not willingly or quickly accept and implement their suggestions.''
This was not the first time I had read such a statement. In fact, up until this point, I had sympathized with researchers. Aware of the time and effort involved in publishing a valid and reliable study, I could understand their frustration knowing their work sits idly in periodical sections of college or university libraries waiting to be referenced by a graduate student fulfilling a course requirement or a college professor rushing an article for publica- tion to ensure promotion or tenure.
But this evening, as I looked across the room at the stack of high school math tests I still had to correct, the bag of money I had to count from the concession stand hosted by the class I sponsor, and the unwashed uniform my daughter needed cleaned for tomorrow's game, my perspective changed. I wondered if researchers ever asked themselves why teachers do not "willingly or quickly accept and implement their suggestions,'' or if they just attribute it to "the fact'' that teachers are resistant to change?
Thousands of research articles have been published on the roles teachers perform each day: teacher as lesson planner, classroom manager, curriculum developer and updater, creativity agent, evaluator, counselor, presenter, audiovisual expert, etc. The list seems endless. But do any of these articles address the scant time teachers have to spend searching databases for specific topics, scanning through journals for articles that meet their specific needs, and reading 20 to 40 pages worth of statistical jargon that was written more to impress other researchers than to promote change in educational behavior?
Teaching is not the only profession in which keeping current on research findings is important. Consider, for example, the medical field. Doctors, nurses, and medical technicians must remain abreast of all of the latest findings. Do they have time to read through stacks of research articles? No. Various professional development programs are designed to keep them up to date. These programs include demonstrations, lectures, and video presentations that summarize and concisely address specific topics; visits from sales representatives who provide information and research findings relevant to particular products; and flexible scheduling that allows practitioners to share information and methodology.
Why are these professionals able to "quickly accept and implement'' research findings? Because of the way they are presented. If educational researchers would consider their audiences and package their product in a form that meets the needs of their consumers, more of their work would be supported by actual classroom practice. This is not to imply that educational research needs to be watered down to be understood by educators. It simply needs to be presented in a form that teachers can view together during preparation periods or inservice programs.
Researchers should ask themselves why Madeline Hunter's methods are
so well-known to teachers across the country. It's because of her
presentation. Even if Hunter's model "adds up to little more than an
inventory of what most teachers already do,'' as some observers
suggested in a recent Teacher Magazine article, at least it's ending up
in the hands and minds of the people for whom it was intended.
The author, a doctoral student at West Virginia University, teaches mathematics and computer programming at Jefferson-Morgan High School in Jefferson, Pa.