Comment: There's No Easy Solution to the Problem of `Bad' Teachers ; Government Reports, Statistical Analysis and Educational Research All Have Their Uses. but They Are Not the Answer to Real Life Problems
Wragg, Ted, The Independent (London, England)
"YES, BUT what is the main point to come out of your research?" The journalist sounded exasperated. I'd just completed a two-year study of several hundred teachers who were alleged to be incompetent and written 100,000 words of deathless prose about it. She, a good reporter, wanted its quintessence of it for about 400 words: all I could say was how intractable and harrowing it had all been.
What on earth was the main conclusion? That there was no single main conclusion? It sounded wimpish, but the craggy reality of research in education is that the situations observed often defy simple explanation. Studying hundreds of teachers who were thought not to be doing their job properly - an under-researched field - was a nightmare of contradictions, tortuous complexities and differing perceptions of events.
Educational research is expected to yield certainties. What "works"? How do you deal with reluctant learners? Can parents make a difference? Does homework aid learning? In reality, research is rarely clear cut, as so much depends on context. What "works" in one classroom may flop if applied elsewhere. Of course, findings can be rigged to look as if they do offer unambiguous messages, but some investigators warp the truth to please policy makers or their project sponsors.
Politicians would love to be told that, as in Hollywood cowboy movies, the teachers in the white hats trounced the teachers in the black hats. The good guys thrashed the bad guys. "All teachers must, in future, wear white hats by law," it would then say in the 2001 Education Act. "Teachers who wear black hats will be dismissed instantly. No appeal will be permitted." Tough talk, seemingly based on research, makes a powerful combination.
Unfortunately, the next time there was a change of government a new policy would emerge. Teachers in black hats now conform to ideological fashion, while teachers in white hats are suspect. They have had their day. Before long somebody's research will be wheeled out, or dusted down, to show that white-hatted teachers ought to be sidelined, so the 2005 Education Act endorses black hats and outlaws white hats.
Anyone doubting this sequence of events should just consider the recent history of educational fashion: setting and mixed ability teaching; prescriptions of teaching methods or free choice; progressivism versus …
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Publication information: Article title: Comment: There's No Easy Solution to the Problem of `Bad' Teachers ; Government Reports, Statistical Analysis and Educational Research All Have Their Uses. but They Are Not the Answer to Real Life Problems. Contributors: Wragg, Ted - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 25, 1999. Page number: 1. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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