One of the problems with educational research is that most of it takes place in universities rather than in schools where it might produce useful results. I suppose that this is due to the nature of schools and universities – universities are places of research and schools are places where the theory is put into practice. I would argue that some serious rapprochement between these two groups needs to take place.
Sometimes the fact that research only produces theoretical results limits its interest for people who do the practical work of actually teaching. This again is the nature of university research. It is mostly theoretically rather than practically orientated.
Another problem is that, often, teachers don’t have access to the journals that publish the latest research. Access to many of these journals is restricted to universities, where researchers need to refer to them, due to the cost, making it difficult for the average teacher to keep up with the latest research.
Often there is some distance between the theoreticians who do the research and the practitioners who need the information to inform their work. This distance is sometimes caused by differences in perception, practitioners sometimes wonder whether the theoreticians are really living in the same world as themselves, but is more likely to be due to the way the researchers report their findings.
Academics have often been criticised for their forms of expression and jargon, and it is true that often theoretical papers are difficult for the reader to understand even if s/he is working in the same field.
On the other hand, teachers tend to build up a body of knowledge and experience that never reaches the researcher in the university.
This, I would maintain, is only partly because most teachers make little effort to share their experience. It is often the case that there is no communication at all between the practitioner and the theoretician: From my experience, much of this lack is due to the theoretician not properly recognising the value of the information the practitioner could impart.
This may be due to the difficulty in converting practical experience into theoretical knowledge and it sometimes being difficult to use the result as the basis for research. It may also be the result of many academics feeling that they are above mundane matters such as finding a practical use for their research results.
There is no reason why teachers can’t contribute to the knowledge base. They too could write learned journal papers, although, time may not be available for learning this new skill and developing the ability to write up to a sufficient theoretical standard. However, that does not stop a teacher writing up lessons learnt in the classroom and sharing them on sites such as EducationHQ and Australian Teacher Magazine.
The interested teacher can use these facilities to spread useful information on classroom experiences and methods that have proven worthwhile, as well as using them to keep him/herself up to date on what other teachers are thinking.
In these ways the average teacher can share her/his knowledge with others. Sharing such knowledge can be of benefit to everyone and more importantly it can help to stimulate discussion of important ideas and knowledge. Thus, any and all teachers can contribute to making schooling and teaching better.
It would be much better for everyone if schools and universities worked together to solve the problems of delivering the best education to our children. A combination of theory and practice would make the best value of both. We need researchers to impart their results in ways that teachers can use them, and teachers to share their experience with researchers to help them properly design their research.