I plea for collaboration between researchers and teachers, but often it’s complicated to say the least. Daniel Willingham wrote this draft of a bill of research rights for educators. It’s still a draft, and Willingham is open to suggestions, so what do you think? And what he wrote seems also applicable for policy makers.
It is a list of rights for educators who are asked to change what they are doing in the name of research, whether it’s a mandate handed down from administrator to teacher or from lawmaker to administrator.
- The right to know what is supposed to improve. What problem is being solved? For example, when I’ve been to schools or districts implementing a one-to-one tablet/laptop policy, I’ve always asked what it’s meant to do. The modal response is a blank look followed by the phrase “we don’t want our kids left behind.” Behind in what? In what way are kids elsewhere with devices zooming ahead?
- The right to know the means by which improvement will be measured. How will we know things are getting better? If you’re trying to improve students’ understanding of math, for example, are you confident that you have a metric that captures that construct? Are you sure scores on that metric will be comparable in the future to those you’re looking at now? How big an increase will be deemed a success?
- The right to know the approximate time by which this improvement is expected. A commitment to an intervention shouldn’t be open-ended. At some point we must evaluate how it’s going.
- The right to know what will be done if the goal is or is not met. Naturally, conditions may change, but let’s have a plan. If we don’t meet our target, will we quit? Keep trying for a while? Tweak it?
- The right to know what evidence exists that the intervention will work as expected. Is the evidence from actual classrooms or is it laboratory science (plus some guesswork)? If classrooms, were they like ours? In how many classrooms was it tried?
- The right to have your experience and expertise acknowledged. If the intervention sounds to you and your colleagues like it cannot work, this issue should be addressed in detail, not waved away with the phrase “all the research supports it.” The fact that it sounds fishy to experienced people doesn’t mean it can’t work, but whoever is pitching it should have a deep enough understanding of the mechanisms behind the intervention to be able to say why it sounds fishy, and why that’s not a problem.