A teacher-researcher network

Research organizations like the AERA could harness existing technology to establish a teacher-to-researcher network offering unprecedented information exchange, networking, and mentoring.

This idea is proposed by Sarah Puglisi, a teacher who attended AERA’s Chicago conference and who blogs at A Day in the Life.

In a recent comment on this blog, Sarah made a number of points about the gap between teaching and research, from her perspective as a teacher.

She considers school superintendents ‘gatekeepers’ to education research and she proposes that visionary superintendents should be ‘pushed, invited, and encouraged’ to attend conferences like AERA so they could forge relationships with researchers and each other.

Journalist and panelist Alexander Russo made a similar point, saying he noticed a dearth of education reporters and policymakers at the conference, and wouldn’t it make sense to invite, even cajole, them to attend.

Sarah says that fear predominates teacher climates. “Many worry over assaults on not only our autonomy as decision makers, but assaults on our values, our frames, if you will. Teachers often tell me ‘do what they say.’ And it becomes a massive force to conform and survive. . . what you find is the teacher remarkably fixated on security, not changing.”

Sarah also sees teachers as “barred by layers” from research. But if researchers were to provide easier access to their work, perhaps as a blog, Sarah says it would allow her to connect to those working in similar areas, for example, second-language issues, or students who are tremendously disadvantaged. “I could find in a site a way to get to that [information], or find someone I might hook up with, a kind of ‘teacher/researcher talk and learn.’”

“Or I may have a research project in mind and may want someone to listen and give some insight. I can then begin relationship building. You know that line, ‘Build it, and they will come.’”

She proposes a national teacher-researcher network, designed by a system that specializes in communications facilitation. “AERA could own this,” she says. “It would be a connecting bridge. And I think technology affords the way to envision and realize this.”

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13 Responses to A teacher-researcher network

  1. I lost my breath….thank you for listening.
    I’m working on something taking all day.
    I read another journalist implying a teacher to research connect. Well I was counting all the research, grouping it, looking at it, and you know what I find?
    Most..85% more come from work in classrooms, projects, what I’m learning is this AREA sharing is the sharing of classroom connections.
    This is mightily important. And certainly mis-represented in this journal.
    So I’m going to finish my grouping and talk about how in so many ways this is research on actual teaching, within contexts that is not…a bean counting.
    It’s breathing to me.
    Fascinating.
    Now if I could just take the thirty or more speaking to me, as I look at titles…and connect to those pieces, people…wow.

    Yes I think if you build it, it will be phenomenal.
    I’ll never miss another of these meetings. I am bringing my partner teacher next year.
    It’s just very important work I see.
    So far not one item has hit me as something so unimportant or just…out there as the reporter implied. I think teachers should get their peers to this.

    Sarah

  2. Rather than “harness existing technology” to establish another network, I suggest helping classroom teachers gain the political freedom and the financial support to implement the theory and research explored by organizations such as AERA.

  3. I think actually that teachers real “plights” and the issues they face in increasingly difficult political situations, as I do blog about almost daily to the best of my ability, might be carried forward to researchers and community via this technological bridge. I, myself as a teacher, see so many pieces of research in the AERA lists from the conference where I would so love to write to that study, or researcher to share. The first thing I notice, as I said above poorly is how much research comes from studying the classroom. Not dictating or bean counting.
    Not “to be implemented” but work to understand what goes on. So for me, teaching in CA, I see so much potentiality in access to each other.Discussion.

    I just said in a blog that the political football metaphor for school has been so deadly to science based work….the supposed “paradigm” that is desired… and I think AERA can say a great deal to us about what research based might be really like, and then I’m delighted to see it is a rich look at thousands of local settings in a myriad of ways…and that tells us something profoundly unlike the ball game we hear about.
    S

  4. Doug Noon says:

    It isn’t news that policy making in the US is being driven from outside the education community, which makes AERA seem kind of (forgive the expression) “academic” to reporters, and teachers – to some extent. Research that isn’t relevant to the standards-based discourse which has come to dominate school staff meetings is of little interest to people with few options in practice. So I agree with Philip Kovacs comment about helping teachers gain political freedom to implement research from a range of theoretical perspectives.

    I ran into this in my MEd program, and it was a surreal Catch-22 situation where we had to get clearance to do things in our classroom that were completely normal, but because we called it “research” the review board thought “experiment” and hesitated, attaching weird conditions that gave parents permission to opt out – as if this was some kind of subversive activity. It was absurd, because all we really wanted was to try out a new idea, like Literature Circles for example, and report back on how it went. Teachers do need a certain amount of political freedom to do even simple things in places where the scripting has gone over the edge, and that could be a problem – unless the teachers want to research THAT ( the scripting), which is what I would do in that situation, research the “research.”

    I do see a great deal of value in a teacher-researcher network, however. I believe that a network of this nature could provide the political leverage to re-open lines of inquiry that are being closed off by the narrowed curricular focus resulting from high-stakes tests. Presently, there are no mechanisms, other than the tests themselves, in place to monitor current policy. A teacher-researcher network, even in an environment that is constrained by inflexible curricular mandates, could allow teachers the opportunity to “research back” and provide alternatives to the one-dimensional results we get from testing.

    So, a national teacher-researcher network sounds good to me. The technology angle would suggest a wiki open to teacher researchers and Education academics.

  5. yes…let’s build a wiki…a beautiful idea. Paul?

  6. paul says:

    Take a look at EduWikipedia
    http://eduwikipedia.pbwiki.com/
    and think about whether that’s a model to follow, or to diverge from.
    Their focus is new technology.
    I notice that it has been some months since anyone posted there.
    One thing we’ve begun recently where I work is a page called “What’s the Research on. . . . ?” which attempts to catalog all the web feature stories we have posted over the past 10 years, and make it searchable in a number of ways.
    http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/articleindex/index.php
    Paul

  7. After a brief exchange with Sarah off of this list, I need to clarify my brief remark.

    YES to more interaction, but a more important (in my opinion) YES! to teachers and researchers working together to put political pressure on legislators so that we might have the freedom and support to pursue all of these amazing ideas.

    Sarah, please understand that I am frustrated by the lack of solidarity between teachers and scholars, and I truly hope that both will work closer together…and I say this as a former high school teacher and a current “scholar.”

    In response to Paul, I vehemently disagree that there are “no” mechanisms other than tests to measure student development and growth.

    Portfolios (for students and teachers), could be used to point out areas of strength and weaknesses, but right now there is a large political movement calling for standards and “objective” measurement.

    There is a group of individuals who do not trust or believe in teachers, and they have convniced both politicians and publics that the only way to be sure that children are “learning” is through tests.

    I disagree. Many teachers disagree. But who is listening to us disagree and what are we doing in order that our experiences and research are validated and acknolwedged when debating school reform?

  8. paul says:

    I think it was Doug who suggested there are no mechanisms, other than the tests themselves, in place, to monitor current *policy.*

  9. Doug Noon says:

    Seems like WikEd, hosted by the University of Illinois Dept of Ed Psych, is a project that would serve as a good model. It runs on MediaWiki, like Wikipedia.

  10. I am going to admit that all of you are very ..intimidatingly intelligent…but I am going to, Paul, check out the Wiki stuff you listed. I am needing to get reading and up to speed and will spend today with this and post something…I am doing something kind of revalatory for me, I posted about it on my blog. I’m counting and categorizing all the research. I want a feel for it.
    Overall I find it arising from classrooms, extremely heartening…well…lots to say after I finish. It’s a simple thing to do, takes time, but I see things in a better way from it.

    As a teacher I surely get a few things now.

    So MUCH of this research is embedded in classrooms studying them. It’s incredible the direct connection that allows for such rich work.

    Phillip Kovacs and Doug Noon I respect beyond saying. Doug’s model is one I know…
    Well I’m saying. I know they have much to say…and I’m kind …hoping that this kind of wiki is built, or maybe i see trails to what is there to then think about this.
    Sarah

  11. […] for Education Research. Sarah suggested setting up a national teacher-researcher network, and Paul wrote about that on his blog. According to Paul, Sarah said that “Research organizations like the AERA could […]

  12. I think Paul, Doug’s post is very interesting.

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