For improvement, more practice-based evidence.

I know I promised everyone Part 3 of my Deconstructing the NGSS series regarding creating assessments (which is coming soon, I promise), but I was perusing my feed reader this morning and I came across a post by Larry Ferlazzo that contained a quote that really hits home with me, and I couldn’t help blogging about it.   This quote came from an article by Anthony Byrk titled Accelerating How We Learn to Improve where he coins the phrase “practice-based evidence:”

The choice of words practice-based evidence is deliberate. We aim to signal a key difference in the relationship between inquiry and improvement as compared to that typically assumed in the more commonly used expression evidence-based practice. Implicit in the latter is that evidence of efficacy exists somewhere outside of local practice and practitioners should simply implement these evidence-based practices. Improvement research, in contrast, is an ongoing, local learning activity.”

This quote conjured up a few questions in my mind after reading it:

  • How many schools and districts have been held back from real improvement simply because they won’t deviate from what’s sold to them as research/evidence-based (often coming to schools in the form of slick pre-packaged kits of materials from publishing companies that are touted to help all students achieve but are aimed so squarely at the middle that they actually help relatively few students)?
  • How many teachers have been held back from helping their students improve because they have been told to implement a research-based curriculum/intervention/strategy that isn’t targeted to their students’ learning needs at the exclusion of other less-researched strategies or curricula?
  • Why do we discourage rather than encourage teachers to gather practice-based evidence, thereby stunting their growth as learners in their own right?
  • How does this encourage schools and district to be the blueprint, not the copy? (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.) Or, does it just encourage educators to work hard in the wrong direction with the wrong tools, with little to no improvement in their practice or student learning?


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Image Credit: Alan O’Rourke via Flickr

Real improvement comes from within.  We need to encourage teachers to seek out practice-based evidence in their own classrooms in order to help students, improve their practice, and pass on that learning to others around them.  Our students can’t wait for an outside entity to deem something “classroom worthy.”

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