Evidenced-based practice: the theory and practice divide
The term ‘evidenced-based practice’ is something that I’ve been coming across more and more recently. Of course, I’m aware of Geoff Petty’s work in this area, although I can’t admit to have read his whole book. I reflected on the opening speech last year, where the guest speaker talked about Hattie’s research (this was the first time I became aware of this research) The IFL have also drawn on Hattie’s research and encourage the application of evidence based learning. My organisation has subscribed to the how2teach resources, classroom ideas based on evidence-based practice. At the last LSIS residential, one thing that (the amazing) Frank Coffield said the value of the programme was about giving tutors the opportunity to move beyond the ‘evidence of one’. Chatting with the ‘very quoteable’ @iltman last week, he said ‘many anecdotes don’t equate to evidence’ (or something much more quotable!!)
And now my Twitter feed is full of discussions around the Ben Goldacre article on randomised trials, where he draws a parallel with medicine and teaching.
As a teacher who has been fortunate to have had several small research grants to undertake practitioner-research, and is really interested in engaging with and supporting other teachers to engage in research, it feels a bit surprising to me that I struggle with this term so much. Is it because the term is not ‘owned’ by the teachers? What do teachers think is meant by this term and what do they think it should mean?
Pulling this argument back from the academics – what do teachers count as ‘evidence’ in their own classroom? I was thinking of an example from the current CELTA. In a level 1 class, a trainee was leading feedback from a true/false task on a listening. There was a focus on one question around whether the answer was 13 or 30. I thought she handled this very well, and when we discussed this in feedback she talked about how a similar issue had come up in a different class and so when she saw the question in the text book, she anticipated it may cause problems and so had considered how she would address this in feedback.
I think what is interesting about this example is that the trainee, after having only taught 5 times totally 3 hours, is that they are already showing that they are drawing on, and reflecting on, their experience. Is this evidence based practice? Would they need to find the report/article/journal where someone (an academic??) had undertaken either a qualitative or quantitative study to ‘prove’ what they were doing in practice was the ‘right thing’? Or have I missed the point completely?
To what extent will/does teachers becoming involved in research relate to the notion of professionalism – and in turn how does this relate to notions of CPD? If we can take ownership of these activities, is there a possibility of change?