The recent article by Torgny Roxå, Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Lund University in Sweden, titled “Making Use of Educational Research in Higher Education,” speaks so directly to the purpose of this blog—encouraging serious engagement with the scholarship on teaching and learning—that I had to sit down with him for a transatlantic video chat. We discussed how teachers often neglect research on teaching—why might that be so and how can we change it?
Among the key takeaways for me from both the article and the conversation—other than that I intend to read more of Roxå’s work going forward—are that teachers are influenced to use or not use research on teaching and learning based on whether we find it meaningful, that we find it meaningful or not based on whether our colleagues do (i.e. our “mircoculture”), and that we learn and absorb our microculture’s values through conversations with our fellow teachers. Therefore, those collegial conversations are the most likely site for change.
Our full conversation appears in the video below. Meanwhile, here are a few key quotations from the article:
“When I am ill and seek medical advice, I expect that the doctor is up to date with the research in the relevant field. I want to be treated according to the latest evidence. When I am being taught, however, this is not something I can expect” (67).
“Why then do teachers fail to use educational research to continuously enhance teaching and student learning?” (67).
“To make these results [from research on teaching and learning] a living and debated part of university teachers’ everyday conversations and thinking would most likely be a good thing” (68).
“Learning is commonly seen, not as a process of transmission but as a process where the learner constructs knowledge inﬂuenced by what he or she finds meaningful. So, it is likely that if academic teachers will ever use more results from educational research, they will do so only if the material appears as meaningful to them” (78).
“Scholars have argued that academic teachers are inﬂuenced by culturally formed local teaching and learning regimes and that these collegially—constructed and maintained regimes hugely affect what teachers find meaningful to consider in their everyday teaching practices” (77),
The tension between generally accepted often time-honored practice and the insights that can be gained and applied from field-specific research is on-going, not just in education. The comments about expecting a medical practitioner to know and use the best evidence-based treatments is highly relevant. I have studied the extent of use of evidence-based practices in the behavioral health field, and unfortunately the use of EB methods is far less extensive than we would. I think this article and the point it makes is important, if it moves the needle a bit in education, we will all be better. But the tyranny of the urgent tends to prevail in teaching and interacting with students, and i find myself using educational research too sparingly and then only to fix a specific course-wide problem.