Every School Needs a Research Group

I’m looking forward to 12:50 this Wednesday, the time that is usually reserved for teachers and students to eat lunch. Usually my lunch routine is to sign out, walk across the street (carefully), and choose between ma la tang or ma la xiang guo from one of the stalls that cater to mostly Chinese college students. Sometimes I just go to my school cafeteria and get a salad. But this Wednesday I’m going to arrange to get my salad to go, as a group of us is meeting to discuss an article about teaching.

I’m extremely busy this week, too. In my role as design teacher, I’m in charge of getting the props made in time for the PYP production. I’ve also got a bunch of units that I would like the students to finish up neatly before Chinese New Year on Thursday. And then there’s my homework for my doctoral degree; I count 16 articles in my reading queue of similar length to the one we’re supposed to read for this 12:50 Wednesday discussion group before I head off to Thailand for the holiday. And yet I’m making the time to read this one as well.

In the past, I’ve facilitated optional book clubs that were filled with participants and rich discussion, and mandatory ones in which all the teachers did was complain. I’ve put together a research group in which teachers read peer-reviewed articles, and I’ve opened my classroom to research database trainings. I’ve experienced a range of responses from teachers about these efforts; Some think it’s normal, some think it’s a waste of time, some are always too busy to read a 6 page article. Some think it’s too inconvenient to arrange their salad to be put in a to go container.

But this is the work, guys. This is the stuff of a profession. We read and we read and we grapple with ideas. We confront our biases and well-intentioned beliefs with arguments from the evidence. We are not simply employees, we are students of learning and cognition. We are teachers and we are learners.

Now, let’s go study!