A common conception of research and practice is that they reside at opposite ends of a spectrum. Either one researches impractical theories, or one practices unexamined methods. However, the reality is that education research and evidence-based practice form the foundation upon which all good pedagogy is built.
Research: Primary vs. Secondary
Often, bachelor’s degree programs in education focus on applying sound teaching principles to classrooms. Students learn the major players in pedagogical theory and learn to apply those theories in their classrooms. In other words, bachelor’s degree students in education tend to rely on secondary research. In many master’s degree in education programs, however, students conduct education research themselves, learning primary research methods to contribute to the field. Master’s degree candidates are able to apply research in their own research to their own classrooms.
Applying Research in the Classroom
Glenn Whitman, director of The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, points to the irony in many education programs today: “the organ of learning is the brain but few educators have ever had any training in how the brain works, learns, and most importantly for students, changes.” That is, many teachers spend their entire careers without understanding the ways that current education research can affect their pedagogy. Neuroscience and cognitive psychology have made major strides in the past decade alone, and teachers would be wise to learn these advances.
Evidence-based practice is a common concept in medicine that applies equally as well to education. Tamara Marder and Dawn Fraser of Johns Hopkins School of Education define it as “an instructional strategy, intervention, or teaching program that has resulted in consistent positive results when experimentally tested.” In short, evidence-based practice rejects some forms of information while adopting others. For example, anecdotal evidence and non-peer-reviewed publications are rejected by evidence-based practice. For educators, this means not only applying these practices in their education research but also first learning the methods by which knowledge grows.
Not all instruction is created equal. Choosing the right education master’s program requires reliance on tried-and-true research methodologies. Students pursuing a master’s degree in education should study the practices and principles of sound education research so that they may contribute to both their classrooms and to the field beyond.
Learn more about the Arkansas State online MSE in Curriculum & Instruction program.