While at was at the high school, one of the projects I ended up in charge of was this ~1 million dollar grant proposal for an after-school program (the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant). Along with that, I was in charge of a few other programs, all of which were based on “best practices.”
The reason I put that in quotes is because it didn’t real feel like anyone, even the administrators in the school, put that much emphasis on finding rigorously researched programs. One of the reasons I left working directly in the school was because I was getting really tired of industry research, where the research I did was always to support some decision that people had already made.
I think this really makes a bad name for education research. That being said, I can understand the shortcuts that people make in this process, because I made some of them. And doing academic research now, I often feel really defensive whenever the issue of how practitioners don’t really use research in the way that academics think is right is raised.
I don’t know…I think there are a lot of issues ranging from political disjunction to technical infancy that makes these things happen. And I think a big issue (or at least one I’ve been seeing a lot) is that the information that’s out there for teachers and administrators is really not useful. I remember trying to find programs to address English literacy and being really frustrated that (a) I couldn’t find much rigorous research and (b) that the research I did find was not relevant to the answers I needed. (In particular, it was hard to find information about the populations studied to see if they were at all like the one with which I was working.)
This might not apply to a lot of people on here, but I’m sure many of you have at one point seen a new program implemented in your schools that you may not have fully agreed with. If you had been the people in charge of deciding what programs to implement and how, what information would you want to know about them?
(PS: By the way, those of us running and implementing the programs know when people don’t believe in our programs, and we sometimes don’t believe in them all that much ourselves, trust me. Sometimes there are forces outside of our control, too. But we try our best.)