What is evidence based teaching? What does evidence based teaching involve? Why should you embrace it?
I answer such questions below.
You must be willing to challenge and sometimes change your beliefs about teaching. Your beliefs are powerful because they underpin the way that you go about your work. Yet, we do not always base our beliefs on objective facts. To a degree, teachers base their beliefs on popular educational theories and fads. Some of these have little if any grounding in evidence at all. We also base our beliefs on our personal experiences. Yet, we tend to notice only those things that reinforce our existing beliefs. For example, if you believe that children are unsettled on windy days, you will notice those students who are unsettled on windy days. I am not suggesting that all your beliefs are wrong. Rather, I am inviting you to consider the fact that some of them might be. It is dangerous to flippantly disregard evidence that challenges your beliefs.
You must want to improve some aspect of your students’ learning, and you must search for ways to help you do that. The only legitimate reason to adopt new teaching practices is to achieve something over and above what you are already achieving. Adopting new approaches without the intention to improve some aspect of your students’ learning is just silly, and it often leads to a senseless increase in teachers’ workload. When you embrace evidence based teaching, you only change the way you teach for good reasons.
You must start by using strategies with the highest chance of success. Research shows that nearly everything teachers do works. At least, to some degree. However, some approaches to teaching have more impact than others. Put another way, some approaches to teaching are more likely to work than others. Researchers have not found “one particular approach to teaching” that works for all students, in all contexts. Yet, evidence based teaching involves you starting by adopting those strategies with the highest chance of success.
You must monitor your students’ progress in the particular aspect of learning that you are trying to improve. And you must do it before it is too late. The reason is not to assign grades, or even to let students know where they are at (although this can be valuable in its own right). Rather, it is to let you know whether your efforts are having the desired effect. It is why experts such as John Hattie see assessment as feedback to teachers and why he encourages teachers to know thy impact. If you want to truly embrace evidence based teaching, you must become a student of your own impact.
You must adjust your approaches to teaching as needed. Monitoring your students’ progress is important. Not for its own sake, but because it enables you to take corrective action when needed. While you may have adopted approaches to teaching that are likely to work, that doesn’t mean they will always do so. When what you are doing is not working, you need to try something else. There is no particular approach that will always work. Embracing evidence based teaching involves acknowledging this. Yet, it also involves adopting a problem-solving approach (as opposed to assigning blame or offering excuses) when things don’t go to plan.
In Short Embracing Evidence Based Teaching Involves