Over on the Huffington Post blog, in a fine remembrance of the founder of the American Federation of Teachers, Bob Slavin reminded readers that Al Shanker championed both professionalism and evidence.
Back in the day, I knew Al Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers. No one has ever been more of an advocate for teachers’ rights – or for their professionalism. At the same time, no one was more of an advocate for evidence as a basis for teaching. He saw no conflict between evidence-based teaching and professionalism. In fact, he saw them as complementary.
Professor Slavin continues his remembrance with sage argument about the importance of teachers embracing evidence-based practices. Ultimately he cited the value of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards.
I applaud Professor Slavin’s argument and amplify it with an additional call for educators not only to embrace evidence-based practices, but to do even more. As professionals, we educators have a duty to
- Identify evidence-based practices that have the strongest effects. Some evidence-based practices are more effective than others (in fact, Professor Slavin has been among the leaders in helping refine research methods to compare instructional practices). Professionals need to know how to find those practices.
- Implement evidence-based practices with fidelity (see Cook & Odom, 2013). Having a great recipe for a soufflé is no guarantee that one will serve a gourmet dish; one has to use the right ingredients and execute the steps in preparing it, as well. That’s a big part of professionalism.
- Monitor the effects of programs on individual students and groups of students so that, when needed, adjustments can be made. It is inevitable that evidence-based practices will move too slowly or rapidly for some learners. Professionals need to adjust instruction for them. These adjustments should, of course, employ evidence-based practices. See this post for an illustration.
There may be other important relationships between professionalism in education and evidence-based practices. Readers are welcome to suggest them in comments.
Cook, B. G., & Odom, S. L. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. doi: 10.1177/001440291307900201