Framing the Agenda

As a first step in framing a research and development agenda, the committee considered what would be required for insights from research to be integrated into classroom practice. The influence of research on educational practice has been weak for a variety of reasons. Educators generally do not look to research for guidance. The concern of researchers for the validity and robustness of their work, as well as their focus on underlying constructs that explain learning, often differ from the focus of educators on the applicability of those constructs in real classroom settings with many students, restricted time, and a variety of demands. Even the language used by researchers is very different from that familiar to teachers. And the full schedules of many teachers leaves them with little time to identify and read relevant research. These factors contribute to the feeling voiced by many teachers that research has largely been irrelevant to their work (Fleming, 1988).

Despite these formidable barriers, past research has at times managed to influence practice, albeit slowly and for the most part indirectly. The paths of influence, as the committee sees them, are illustrated in Figure 1.1. To a limited extent, research directly influences classroom practice when teachers and researchers collaborate in design experiments, or when interested teachers incorporate ideas from research into their classroom practice. This appears as the only line directly linking research and practice in Figure 1.1. More typically, ideas from research are filtered through the development of education materials, through pre-service and in-service teacher and administrator education programs, through public policies at the national, state, and school district level, and through the public's beliefs about learning and teaching, often gleaned from the popular media and from their own experiences in school. These are the four arenas that mediate the link between research and practice in Figure 1.1. The public includes teachers, whose beliefs may be influenced by popular presentations of research, and parents, whose beliefs about learning and teaching affect classroom practice as well.

Teachers are the key to change in this model; they are the classroom practitioners. Many excellent teachers already incorporate the principles in How People Learn into their practice, either by design or by intuition. But for those principles to be used systematically, all teachers will need opportunities to understand the principles, be persuaded of their usefulness, and be able to enact them in their classrooms. The principals who evaluate the teachers and who provide leadership in defining the schools' goals will need to be persuaded of their value as well. To achieve that goal, teacher educa-



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