Virtual School Meanderings

August 7, 2016

7 Day Groove Challenge – How To Entry: Practitioners Guide To Reading Research

As I mentioned on Monday, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has issued a 7 Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back challenge.  I told my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom students that I would do my best to participate in this challenge fully – as a way to model different things you can do to ensure that you have a consistent stream of original blog entries.

So Darren has posted the fifth challenge for this week – Create a How To Post.   As a how to entry is not one of the ones I have had my EDTECH537 students create, I figure that I should mention that Darren describes a “How To Entry” as “a piece of content that is how to in nature, a how to whatever it is that you write about.”  Now I’ll be honest and say that I don’t believe I’ve ever written an entry quite like this before, and I’m a day late in posting this because I was traveling yesterday, but here goes…

One of the most common things I often hear from practitioners is that research isn’t written for them.  Now maybe as an academic and someone who writes a lot of this, but I don’t hold teachers in such low regard that they don’t have the ability to read and understand published research.  I think it is quite pejorative to suggest that a teacher couldn’t reach a 25-30 research article and understand it.  The funny – or ironic – thing is, is that I often here these kinds of statements from teachers (and moreso administrators) than I do from folks outside of education.  This notion that researchers should produce bullet point implications for teachers so that they can understand these ivory tower eggheads.

What I think may be the real issue is time.  It isn’t that teachers can’t understand the research, but I do believe that teachers often don’t have time (and to a lesser extent access) to read research.  As I regularly teach a course in reviewing educational literature, I work with teachers that need to consume a lot of research in a short period of time to be about to produce a 20-25 page critique of that literature.  Here are some of the tips – or the “how to” – that I provide them.

1. Begin by reading the abstract.

A well written abstract should provide the reader with what the study is about, why it was needed or why it was conducted, what was found, and why it is important.  All of this in generally less than 150 words.

2. Move to the Conclusions or Conclusions and Implications section.

A well written Conclusions section or Conclusions and Implications section should do three things.

  1. Provide a summary of the article, the study, and what was found.
  2. Offer implications for practitioners in the field (i.e., as a teacher, this is what you should do).
  3. Suggest avenues for future research (i.e., based on what I learn, here is the next study or studies I’d conduct).

3. Move to the Results or Finding section.

If there was something in the “summary of the article, the study, and what was found” that particularly interested you, go to the Results section or Findings section and read a more detailed description of what it was that had interested you.  If there was nothing that specifically interested you, then skip this step.

4. Skim through the Methodology section.

As a practitioner, the main thing to be looking through here is does the researcher provide enough detail for the reader to be able to replicate the study in their own similar context (i.e., conduct this same study where they work, assuming they work in a similar environment).  As a researcher (and as practitioners consume more research), I tend to examine the methodology more closely to examine its reliability and validity.

5. Review the References and Literature Review section.

As a researcher (and as practitioners consume more research), I always look through the References – as well as skim through the Literature Review section.  In terms of the References, I am looking to ensure that the researcher has included the relevant literature in the field.  In terms of the Literature Review section, I’m looking to ensure that the researcher has used the literature in accurate ways – as within my field, researchers often misuse or selectively use the literature.

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With my own students I tell them that if they are doing steps 1, 2, and 4 – then they should be able to do that in about 5-8 minutes (10 minutes at the most).  In some cases they may need to do step 3, which will add another 3-5 minutes to their review.  The more research that they read, the more they’ll be able to do step 5 – but that won’t come into play until they’re read quite a bit of literature.


  1. Since my memory is like a sieve, I’ve started mind-mapping articles and subjects I’m studying. Useful tips here. Thanks.

    Comment by J.B. Whitmore — August 7, 2016 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

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