Thinking About Research, Innovation, Test-Scores, and Creativity

Just trying to work my way through some thoughts here…This post is more focused on writing to learn, not writing to share my learning.  

There has been a lot of pushback on the topic of innovation and how it fits into the idea of research in education.  Personally, I think that education needs to find the variance of having schools and educators use evidence-based practice (with the ability to iterate, but I will get to that in a bit) and innovative methods.  Knowing your stuff inside out is often what leads to the ability to innovate in the first place.

From “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough.

The “one or the other” mentality in education is doing more harm than good in my opinion, and it is often having educators more focused on the adults than it is the students.  We should continuously ask questions on how we can best serve our students now and in the future, while still trying to figure out how to work within the constraints of a school system.

So as I have been thinking about the importance of research in education (which is very important to helping schools move forward), I have been thinking about some questions.

  1. What is the context of the evidence? People always point to Finland as this education powerhouse, and it definitely has done some great things in their system that people from around the world that educators need to learn from.  An educator that I have known for years that went to Finland said to me that the most significant difference in education in Finland might come from the outside factor of how different Finland was as a country than where he lived.  Joe Sanfelippo said something to me that stuck out (paraphrasing);”You can’t carbon copy culture. You have to find things that work for your context and make them your own.”I have worked in schools and communities that were literally within 30 miles of each other and what would work at one school, might not work at another.  Learn from others, but more importantly, learn from yourself.

    I believe the following:

  2. What is the bias of the research? I read an article recently, and it talked about “unbiased experts” and it stopped me in my tracks.  Is there such thing as an “unbiased expert?”  Is it truly possible to be totally unbiased? Seriously, I am asking.Just like Internet searches, we should dig deeper into where the research is coming from and perhaps why it is shaped the way it is.  This leads into the next one.
  3. What is your bias? Confirmation bubbles are easy to fall into our world today with the Internet tailoring what you see to what you have clicked on before, or even, what some sites want you to see.  We know that this is a growing problem with the Internet, but it does start with us.If someone’s research doesn’t line up with what we want to see, do we disregard it?  I have had someone argue to me that all practices in education should be based on “evidence,” yet when I challenged them with the idea of homework in education, they stated that there was no evidence to support it was bad for students.  They hadn’t seen any evidence that it was good, but to confirm their bias toward homework, they disregarded the importance of  “evidence” in this case.I have gone out of my way to read articles that go against what I believe, and openly share them on Twitter.  One of the reasons is that I am genuinely interested in what I am interested in, but I once heard someone say that any effective debater knows that they can make their opponent’s argument for them.  If we do not have a 360 degree understanding of something, do we understand it at all?
  4. Does the measure of the research support a new context?  Many people cite Hattie’s research and how thorough it is on “Student Achievement,” and I think it is important information to pay attention to the term “Student Achievement” (from the Visible Learning website).  Is this all about how well students do on a test? Does it measure their happiness and living a life of purpose after school?Here is something that I think about often…if we want to see the impact of K-12 education on the life of a student, wouldn’t that be something that we would have to measure after they leave school?Katie Martin also shared the idea that although we need to look at the evidence of the past, we must understand that if the context of the future changes, that those numbers could become irrelevant.  How our students do in school might not measure how well they do after.  Every person knows someone who is successful at their job that was terrible in school, and vice-versa.

    But here is a quote that gave me “real pause” recently.

    “It bothers me that the intelligence of animals is measured by how willing they are to obey the commands of a human.  Same goes for students at schools.”


    I am not sure if the above statement is entirely true, but it did jolt me, and it made me think of this…


    Just some things I’ve been thinking about…

I am not asking you (or anyone) to disregard research. It is so crucial to the work that we do in education.  I am asking that we think about the things that we see in education, as we are applying it to humans.  The thing that we all have in common is that we are all different.  No two people are exactly alike.  Outside factors make a difference in every one of our student’s lives and although we need always to be open to learning from wherever we can to serve them, learning about your students is where all research should start.

One thing I am still adamant about…know the people you serve and move backward from there.  That is always your best bet.

Source: George Couros