If you are not using evidence, what are you using?

2 October 2018

The most important resource in a school is the teaching staff. It is obvious that, as teachers, we have the potential to add enormous value to the students in our care. We are very good at adopting “good practice”, but sometimes ‘we need to stop doing so many good things’ that add to our workload (Dylan Wiliam, 2016). But how do we ensure that the effort we expend on teaching is giving us the best return?

First and foremost it is important to say that what we do on a day to day basis, the elements of our practice that we know work, is evidence-informed. We are continually honing our craft. What I would argue is that, as a profession, we have been over influenced by the commercialisation of pedagogy, the legacy of our mentors and our inherent bias towards what fits into our own schemas for good or, dare I say it outstanding teaching. How often have you had the next big thing in education arrive in your inbox? How many of us still persist with teaching strategies that were handed down to us by our mentors, some of which we have no understanding of what underpins them? And yet we persist in these comfortable shoes that we can’t bring ourselves to discard. And, whether we like it or not, we are all prone to bias. We filter for confirmation of what we are comfortable with.

Is what we are doing good? Yes. Could it be better? Yes. Is it easy? No. But you have a network of people ready to help.

How are you using evidence in your classroom, school or trust? The Research Schools Network is here to help you develop your engagement with the most up to date research. Wherever you are on the spectrum, from curious to critically engaged, it is our job to support the planning, implementation and sustainment of evidence-informed practice. ‘We want to create a climate in which we work hard on improvement, not because we are not good enough, but because we can be better.’ (Dylan Wiliam, 2016)

I am not here to tell you that research has all the answers. It is inherently problematic. However, what it can do is help us place the “best bet” on what will work. This requires us, as a teaching profession, to bring to bear, our professional expertise, our understanding of the pedagogy that has the greatest impact in our subjects and, most importantly, the fortitude to test what works best though disciplined inquiry.

Dylan Wiliam (2016), Leadership for Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed.

Posted on 2 October 2018
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