Within education there are two broadly competing educational philosophies—traditional and progressive (Snider, 2006). Traditional education emphasises the need for students to progress through the curriculum in specific steps for each curriculum area, by achieving mastery of each preceding step, before progression on to the next; whilst, in contrast, progressive education promotes methods that are intended to foster children’s innate interest in learning; although this latter type of education relies on children progressing only as rapidly as they would learn on their own without any direct intervention (Fredrick, Deltz, Bryceland, & Hummel, 2002).
In order to develop and provide effective educational practices it is essential that education follow evidenced-based practice and practice-based evidence approaches. The former refers to the use of well-controlled scientific research in determining what has been shown to work. The latter refers to methods of monitoring practice that clearly demonstrates that practice is having the desired effects that were expected from the research evidence (i.e., in the case of education, is effective educational practice). Viewed from this context it is clear that educational provision and approaches are too often based on current trends, rather than scientific evidence and these educational ‘fads’ cycle according to the prevailing approach to learning that may be currently in favour (Kozloff, 2005; Slavin, 2008). In many cases the approaches have not been adequately researched before they are rapidly adopted in educational settings throughout the country (Slavin, 1989).
There have been effective teaching tools available for quite some time with accomplished research-proven track records (Bijou, 1970; Heward, 2005; Maloney, 1998; Moran & Malott, 2004), yet there appears to be a “knowledge to practice gap” (Heward, 2005, p. 317) that prevents their complete and wholesale adoption into mainstream educational practices (Lindsley, 1992). This failure to adopt proven practices is analogous, for instance, to the delay in time between understanding the benefits of citrus fruits in the prevention and treatment of scurvy (1601), and its eventual implementation as a treatment, leading to it being finally eradicated in the mercantile marine—after a delay of 264 years (Barbash, 2011; Lamb, 2001; Mosteller, 1981; Skinner, 1984). Heward (2005) believes that there is a “more pressing (and possibly larger) gap we must close . . . between what research has discovered about effective instruction and what is practiced in the majority of classrooms.” (p. 317).
In her book, Snider describes how educational practices should follow the example from medicine in its timely transition toward becoming a mature science (Snider, 2006; Snider & Roehl, 2007). A view supported by Carnine (2000; Hargreaves, 1997) as he considers how education is at a similar juncture of development toward scientific status, as medicine was in the early part of the twentieth century before it rose to the challenge of becoming a mature profession. There are a number of issues that need to be considered if you desire to raise the educational performance of young children. These issues revolve around remediation of existing failure, prevention of future failure, and (perhaps within the context of finite resources) the pursuit of excellence for all children. The first issue is how can we stop or reverse the failure that many children in our primary education system are experiencing. The second is how can we monitor learning effectively so that we can prevent significant failure before it occurs. And last, how can we implement effective educational practices that can produce excellent learning for all children. Evidence-based Practice & Practice-based evidence by Dr Mike Beverley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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