Virtual School Meanderings

June 30, 2011

EDTECH597 – Discussion Entry: Do Practitioners Care About Research?

On Monday, in my EDTECH597 – Week 4 entry, I indicated that today I would post a discussion entry to model for my Boise State students. I described a discussion entry as an entry that is ” exactly as it sounds, entries designed to generate discussion. Typically they are self-contained and have a short introduction to give the reader some context and then attempt to pose an open-ended question. Some bloggers will base their discussion question on something they have read or a current event. The main thing to remember about a discussion question entry is that it is designed to generate conversation among the readers of your blog.”

The topic I wanted to ask about today is whether K-12 online learning practitioners care about research or if they are simply looking for things that they can implement?  I ask this question with all sincerity.

A while back I remember seeing someone post a link to a rubric for a high quality online course in one of the iNACOL forums or their LinkedIn Group or Twitter or somewhere.  The tool was met with positive reaction, even though I can find no research to support its construction or research supporting its validation.  Similarly, I have criticized the iNACOL national standards on many occasions for the exact same research – a total lack of research to support the “standards” and no research to validate the “standards.”

At almost every Virtual School Symposium I have attended, I have witnesses the iNACOL leadership misuse the research (often indicating that the research says one thing, when it in fact says the exact opposite) – usually to cheers from the crowd in attendance.

As the vast majority of the readers of this blog are practitioners, I ask in all sincerity…

Does research into K-12 online learning matter in your practice or are you just interested in tools and strategies regardless of its validity?


  1. Wow, what a great question! From a K-12 standpoint I am very interested in research, but short on time to dig for findings. The most frequent use of research I find in K-12 settings is when a vendor is trying to sell me something. They will use a few pieces of data that support the use of their gadget. I also find it challenging in edtech because everyone wants to keep up the Joneses. There is a significant amount of pressure on administrators and tech coordinators to sign off on tech purchases that aren’t fully researched. I am embarrassed to admit that the mentality seems to be buy now, and research the effectiveness later. When it doesn’t have the intended outcomes we throw it out the window for the next latest and greatest system, curriculum, device, etc.

    K-12 online learning research is critical because of the shift in education to more and more online courses being offered. I am extremely interested in what research says, but how do researchers get the information out to practitioners in a practical way? Workers in K-12 settings don’t have a significant amount of extra time to read multiple research-based articles on a regular basis. If researchers could package or market their research the way vendors do it would be very helpful!

    Comment by lmeinert — July 4, 2011 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  2. Luke, first of all thanks for the comment. Always nice when my students begin to engage with me in this space, as you are my most direct link to practitioners that I have.

    This is something that I’ve been frustrated with a lot lately, as I see the leadership of the main professional organization for practitioners of K-12 online learning misusing research and spouting things that are written, but not research based. Most of the people that I’ve interacted with – both practitioners within K-12 online learning and regular teachers – are more inclined to accept what they think they see, as opposed to what we know. The best example of this that I can think of is this mistaken believe that technology improves learning or improves student motivation. Research shows us that technology has nothing to do with it, it is only a tool. Increases in student performance and student motivation come from how the technology, or that tool, is used.

    The other difficulty in my field is the vast amount of for profit corporations that are players in the field and have their own paid, dependent research that they tout.

    Comment by mkbnl — July 4, 2011 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  3. You hit the nail on the head with corporations and their research. It is very difficult to decipher what is good research. K-12 districts are inundated with sales calls touting the latest and greatest product, and often times have some data that shows their product does what it says it does. From a researcher’s standpoint what advice would you give to practitioners on how to use research?

    Comment by lmeinert — July 6, 2011 @ 10:03 am | Reply

  4. Luke, the first thing I’d look for was who did the research. More specifically was it the company themselves, a research center, or a university-based faculty member. I’d suggest that anything produced by the company should automatically be called into question. If it was a research center, I’d still question the results as most have a specific political slant or agenda, and that affects where their funding comes from. If it is a university-based researcher, the results are a little more reliable, but still worth a second look.

    Second I’d take a quick look at the methodology. First is there enough detail that you could replicate the study? If not, than I’d be a little concerned. Second, are the any red flags about perconceived outcomes. For example, are there problems with the sample? Are there issues with the instruments? Is the data member checked and triangulated?

    Those are two areas that I always look for. Any of my colleagues have additional suggestions?

    Comment by mkbnl — July 6, 2011 @ 10:18 am | Reply

  5. […] Discussion Entry: Do Practitioners Care About Research? […]

    Pingback by EDTECH597 – End Of The Course « Virtual School Meanderings — July 31, 2011 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

  6. […] my entry of this nature last year, I asked “Do Practitioners Care About Research?” – and even though I have thousands of practitioner readers each month, along with 8 or […]

    Pingback by EDTECH597 – Discussion Entry: Do We Care If Research Is Flawed? « Virtual School Meanderings — June 28, 2012 @ 8:01 am | Reply

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