Virtual School Meanderings

August 9, 2016

EDTECH537 – Guest Blog Entry: Is The Tried And True “Read and Discuss” Assignment Still Relevant For Teachers?

As I mentioned in the Week 7 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, students are asked to post two entries of their choice this week. To conclude my model blogging, I wanted to post another sample of a guest blog entry.

This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry.

As I embark on another semester of teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses (and my teaching load is entirely online), I am facing a bit of a crisis in the area of reading assignments. As an early career faculty member, I still keep my experiences of my time in the trenches as a guiding force for instructional decisions, as I taught for 13 years and completed my doctorate while working.

Obviously, I plowed through a ton of the academic literature, but my K-12 colleagues didn’t spend much time searching the university databases.  Further, many of them did not belong to any professional organizations, state or national.  This concerns me.  First, why do we spend time as instructors having students read the literature?  Much of it is poorly written and provides little in terms of brass tacks that can be applied directly to a K-12 teacher’s day-to-day existence.  In addition, outside of the academic program and some capstone project, they will more than likely never read another academic journal article.

So why do we do it?  Why do graduate classes assign something like the discussion prompt below:

After reading Author (20XX), post your thoughts to the discussion board.  Be sure to comment on the posts of at least two of your classmates.

As much as we hate to acknowledge it, perhaps it’s because we teach the way we were taught….

OR…are we creating a supply for our own publications, making it a requirement and necessity to facilitate reading of journals?  Or is there something inherently self satisfying about assigning our own work to ensure that maybe, just maybe, more than a few people will see our work?

Those things aside, the main problem still remains why are we assigning things that basically serve little to no purpose?  Before my inbox fills up with anecdotes of how meaningful this practice is, ask teachers who are NOT your students and/or do not know who you are to discuss what they felt about journal reading experiences, or even their grad school experience in general.  If they remain in K-12, did they suddenly go out of their way to find scholarly articles to read, or, like most teacher, rely on “journals” like Edutopia and the like to inform their practice?  

This brings me to the second issue.  Research is important, and fields advance from theory to practice because of it.  So, do we need to reimagine the way in which it gets pushed to the front lines?  I think so, but where’s the incentive?  I do not earn much credit toward promotion and tenure by publishing in practitioner journals.  I earn even less for blogging, Tweeting, and other interactions on social media.  On the flip side, educators are incredibly busy during the school year, so distillation is important.  However, distillation can miss nuance, which can lead to one-size-fits-all thinking.  Finally, states like mine are requiring less and less graduate work from teachers in order to maintain and advance their certification.

Given that this course is on blogging and social media, I’d like to throw out a few questions for discussion.  

  1. What are your thoughts on improving the process of reading academic work for a graduate class?
  2. What do you do to stay current on research, or what do you plan to do to stay current after matriculating through your degree program?
  3. How can researchers and practitioners better connect with one another to meet each other’s needs?

This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry. As is the pattern here at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry posted today.

7 Comments »

  1. Thank you for this thought provoking post. I would agree that as I first year grad student, the academic literature that I am assigned does not always fit the practical needs of my classroom. Resources like Edutopia and Education Week are more likely to cover topics that I am currently grappling with in my day to day life as a teacher. That being said, I do find value in reading peer reviewed, academic articles. Research is important and those embarking on an educational journey, should not base all their study on weblogs and social media. As I am far from completing my current grad program, I imagine there are many more academic journal articles in my future.

    Comment by Joanna Lieberman — August 10, 2016 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

    • Joanna, this is an interesting response, as it does kind of align with what I wrote about in 7 Day Groove Challenge – How To Entry: Practitioners Guide To Reading Research

      Comment by Michael Barbour — August 10, 2016 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

      • Agreed! I liked the way you explained the most important areas to focus on in academic articles.

        Comment by Joanna Lieberman — August 10, 2016 @ 6:48 pm

      • I guess my concern continues to be the fact that most practitioners discount academic research or its value, largely in favour of practitioner literature that is often bias or slanted or not based on research.

        Comment by Michael Barbour — August 10, 2016 @ 6:54 pm

      • I see that on some of the website articles that I read. There is often an obvious bias towards the author’s point of view. That is why I think academic research should be coupled with weblogs and the like.

        Comment by Joanna Lieberman — August 10, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

      • That assumes that teachers are willing to read research. Most aren’t.

        Comment by Michael Barbour — August 10, 2016 @ 7:38 pm

  2. […] Guest Blog Entry: Is The Tried And True “Read and Discuss” Assignment Still Relevant For Teacher… […]

    Pingback by EDTECH537 – End Of Course | Virtual School Meanderings — August 15, 2016 @ 10:02 am | Reply


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