Beware of Edu-Research.

Teachers before even thinking about approaching any research, we must be humble enough to interrogate our 

  1. Ontology and epistemology. 
  2. Personal experiences.

What is this Pran? Why are you always using terminology that makes us want to fall asleep?

In simple terms, ontology is the stance we take on how we accept knowledge. Epistemology is the method at which we recognise that knowledge.

Teachers before even thinking about approaching any research, we must be humble enough to interrogate our Ontology and epistemology. Personal experiences. Click To Tweet

Examples of Epistemological and Ontology.

Positivistic – This is where we accept knowledge has a definite answer. This object is this big; it weighs this much, etc. 

Relativistic/Post Positivistic – There is no ultimate truth; the truth depends on the different viewpoints and interpretations of the observers.

‘This [Positivistic] approach assumes that reality is objective, transcending an individual perspective, and that it is expressed in the statistical regularities of behaviour.’ (Wildemuth 1993) The positivistic view described is challenged by the relativistic view of research, where relativist approaches ‘assumes that reality is subjective and is socially constructed’. 

As a physics graduate, the above resonates. As an educator, I had to accept that we cannot take a solely positivistic stance. Human beings are not objects with fixed attributes. I have accepted that as a result:

‘Evidence in research is always imperfect and fallible’. (Phillips and Burbles 2000 pp 29-34 in Real World Research, Robson p22).

It may be correct to state ‘correlation is not causation’; however, we must have the awareness to back that up with a critical analysis. When working with humans, no correlation signifies causation. We have to create boundaries in what we willingly accept. I’ll write about Karl Popper’s scientific method at some point.

Without acknowledging these boundaries, how do we negate the impact of cognitive biases? Anchoring, group-think, etc. (Great blog on these biases from Ross McGill here)

Personal Experiences

What we accept as knowledge is dynamic. What we perceive is commonly tainted by our previous experiences. The way learner’s evaluates lessons is often through their legacy of teaching they have had. Let me say that again the legacy of a learner’s journey impacts the evaluation of teaching and learning.

Learners have preconceived ideas around delivery from their own experiences ‘Such a mismatch may lead to lack of motivation, adoption of surface learning approaches, resistance to certain teaching activities that do not align with their beliefs, and learning ineffectiveness or discontinuation of study.’ (Brown 2009)

If you have a set of beliefs that around lesson delivery this may impact your engagement as a learner. For example,

‘Students with memorisation-for-reproduction beliefs tend to have negative learning experiences in higher education and are uncomfortable with teaching approaches that do not correspond with their beliefs (Kember 2001).

This has a huge impact on learning and outcomes, this is more important than the curriculum taught and content design.

Looking at the impact of these beliefs on learners is impressive; the misalignment of beliefs, the impact of such can have a more significant impact on learning approaches than the course design. (Campbell et al. 2001).

Teachers, leaders, and learners have a predetermined perception around what good teaching looks like; this means that you may prefer education styles from the ones you received. You may teach in the same fashion and this may end up being at ends with your workplace.

This is the same when we use evidence-informed research. Which research are you accepting as part of the canon?

This is echoed by this EEF rreport,

“This briefing provides a useful indication of current levels of teacher research engagement across English schools. It suggests that academic research still has only a small to moderate influence on teachers’ decision-making relative to other sources and indicates that there is still work to do to maximise the benefits of research in school practices. Results show that there is a willingness among teachers to engage with research evidence and also that many schools have climates which are supportive of evidence use, so it appears that there is a promising base upon which to build. Currently, however, teachers are most likely to draw on their own expertise, or that of their colleagues, when making decisions about teaching and learning or whole-school change. 

How do we disrupt our thinking? 

An interrogation of:

  • Teacher’s own experiences. What have you been subjected to?
  • Their ontology and epistemology. How do accept some research as knowledge and discard other as not knowledge worth knowing?

To appreciate the real value of research – teachers and leaders would ameliorate personal resistance to change – through the above factors in both the journey of the pupils and the journey of the teachers.

Further Reading

Xiangdong Li (2018) Teaching beliefs and learning beliefs in translator and interpreter education: an exploratory case study, The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 12:2, 132-151, DOI: 10.1080/1750399X.2017.1359764

Click to access Teachers_engagement_with_research_Research_Brief_JK.pdf

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