Research can sometimes be stupid and not really worthwhile because………



People love research. Educators love research even more. Some people would make love to research if they could. The problem with research is that despite enjoying stats here and there, most of it is bull***t. It is overrated.

Let me explain.

I was reading Malcolm Gladwell book David and Goliath. In the book he discusses the notion that research shows that the ideal class size is 25. I won’t go into all the details as you can read the book yourself, but he examines the case of the wealthy and elite pushing for small classes of less than 12 and he examines the opposite of class sizes that are huge.  Neither are ideal. Common sense would tell you the reasons why, but I trust that if you are reading this book(excerpt from my book), then you have a lick of common sense and understand basic logistics. In case you are confused about the reasons, a class with too few students lacks diversity and you cannot gain a variety of thought and ideas to debate. Everyone is the same. They form a clique like approach and there is nowhere to go to find yourself. You get stuck in a groove and cannot develop new groups and mindsets. In classes too big teachers cannot get around to all the students to provide enough one to one instruction. It becomes more about management than teaching. At the early ages of learning and I would say even at middle level students need that constant daily connection with teachers. Good enough? Good, we are moving on.

As a teacher in the classroom for 9 years in both regular classrooms and gifted I can tell you that a class of 15 can be just as much of a pain in the ass as a class of 34. A class of 15 can be just as wonderful as a class of 34 as well.

What the research does not take into the account is the hugely unpredictable factor in this equation called children. It all depends on the kids that make up your room. If you have a few idiots lurking around the desks(because they don’t actually ever sit in their desks), then a whole class can easily be ruined. Maybe it won’t be ruined instantly, but given the amount of time spent on management and babysitting, the class can lose a few minutes each day which builds up each week which builds up to many class periods lost when the year ends.

On the flip side a class with minimal distractions can really move ahead and gain momentum to go places that other classes cannot reach. The problem once again becomes trying to deal and manage six classes a day and not letting them get too far ahead or behind because we better make sure all kids and classes are near identical. Common tests, common assessments, and common calendars. YAHOO!

I operate robotics camp. I can have a camp of 50 kids and be in heaven. The reason is that the kids are motivated and excited to be there. The real issues for schools is to figure out how to build up that motivation and that is not a new idea by any means. BUT, some essential learning is not fun and must be done. As much as I love fun and exciting things to teach and help motivate students to learn I also understand that some of the basics must be mastered to get to the good stuff. This is no different than coaching sports. There are drills that must be done with precision to be able to operate at a level of excellence come game time.

This leads me to my next idea of using the driver license example to teach students……..


**This is small excerpt of a chapter I am writing for my book**

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.

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2 thoughts on “Research can sometimes be stupid and not really worthwhile because………

  1. Your post rings true to me, particularly the spotlight you shine on the missing variable in these research studies: the actual students. I want to comment on the end of your post, though.

    Specifically, I feel your last paragraph leads to one of the great challenges of teaching: how can teachers help kids, who often have no choice but to attend a class (particularly in middle school), to develop the same intrinsic motivation that helps athletes/musicians/robot warriors choose to go through the not-always-fun daily grind and practice which leads to excellence? And there is no easy answer because one of the greatest determinants in motivation, autonomy, has been removed at the start when kids are dropped into a class.

    I think Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’ provides practical ways to help students develop intrinsic motivation by focusing on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I believe that if we teachers keep honing our craft to help our classrooms maximize these attributes that student engagement (and therefore achievement) will improve.

    Now, about that Driver’s License theory of teaching… I’m curious, and I wonder if it relates to how students will read every last word of the most dreadfully dry material (road and driving rules) with gusto.


  2. I do like your take on that a class of 15 can be great ant not so great.. As with 34. It’s the type of kids u have in the class. Not having the same type of kids in one class is very important! Group think will start kicking in. Problem solving and new ideas rise about in groups of different backgrounds. Discussion must happen freely and with purpose. I noticed you saying something about the kids that don’t sit. Are they mixing the pot when u don’t want it mixed? R they up asking questions or just causing problems.. These kids even though they seem like a pain need to b there in certain situations. They get you to think about what you r doing as a teacher. How come your not reaching them? Are they motivating the other students to work harder.. Making them focus with a distraction? The could be also reinforcing the good in the students who r working because they see these kids just wondering and getting into trouble. I remember something in one of my business classes. I can’t explain it correctly but there has to be that lower level. In a group or business not everyone can b at the top. U can’t always get read of that person on the bottom. It shows the rest what is needed to be done to keep from the bottom ranking and motivates others .. Okok I hope this makes sense.. I better stop here before I start talking in circles