Sources of Tested Content:
Inquiries on Teaching and
The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far
more important than the findings of science.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, p. 22
It is probably clear by now that we strongly favor creating the content of staff development from the available research on curriculum and instruction. In this chapter we will deal with some sources of content in which we have considerable confidence. We will treat the topic as an inquiry, concluding with some lingering questions and areas needing investigation.
Abraham Kaplan (1964) began his treatise on the conduct of inquiry in the social sciences by recounting the old story of a man who, returning home one night, found a somewhat inebriated neighbor crawling around under a street lamp. When asked what he was looking for, the neighbor responded, “For my house key. I dropped it.” After some minutes of crawling around with his acquaintance without finding the key, our Good Samaritan thought to ask, “Where did you drop it?”
The neighbor replied, pointing down a dark alley, “Down there.”
“Then why are we looking here?”
“Because there's light here, that's why.”
Kaplan used his anecdote to characterize behavioral and social science research, maintaining gently that we need to look where we know how to look—in areas where we have a little light. The eventual critical questions may lie down the way in the avenues that are still dark to us. Still, we have to look where we can, lighting the candles in the dark.
Kaplan's analogy surely applies to research on teaching. For thousands of years philosophers, social scientists, and nearly all parents and teachers have conducted inquiries under their own lampposts,