My ivory tower view of research dissemination has toppled...

May 31, 2014

Yesterday, I was compelled for the first time to start a blog. This is my first attempt, so be gentle. As an academician, I have to admit that I used to make fun of blogs. I mean, how were the people reading them to have any idea whether they were reading something consistent with best practice, endorsed by the field? That’s the purpose the peer-review process serves!

 

Now, I still don't think that blog posts should "count" as publications in higher education. But Eric Sheninger delivered some compelling reasons yesterday at the Corwin Press Author Consultant Retreat #acretreat14 that convinced me I need to have one. I tweeted that “My ivory tower view of research dissemination was just toppled.” So…here is my first VERY modest attempt at starting dialogue around some of the big ideas in improvements needed for students with disabilities and others who are not yet on grade level.

 

WARNING: My views do represent my own research, that of others, but have also been stretched and remolded by my experiences as a former early childhood special education teacher and parent of a child who has an IEP. Here it goes…

 

One area where we are really ready to grow in special education is in improving our use of high quality assessment to really drive our intervention. Right now, we see the same pattern over and over again. We conduct traditional standardized assessments, we determine whether the student is eligible for special education services, and we write an IEP that meets every legal requirement.

 

But often, there is so much pressure to make sure the IEP is legally defensible, that the IEP itself becomes the end, rather than a true means to support learning through high quality assessment and intervention. The IEP often lives in a drawer and comes out when it is time to take data for progress notes. Yes, too frequently, data collection is a stressful “event,” rather than an embedded natural part of everyday teaching.

10 years ago my role as a researcher and my role as a parent collided when my child was diagnosed as being gifted with a learning disability. As a special educator, I was taught that grades were not all that important for students with disabilities. It was about progress on individualized goals that we really needed to emphasize.

 

But as a mom I received report cards and even progress notes that told me little about my child's progress in language arts. And my experience is not unique! My own research and research of others tells confirms this as the norm. Most teachers have not been prepared to measure and report progress for those who experience developmental delays.

My passion is to push us beyond meeting the letter of the IDEA law and truly meet the spirit of the law. We need to develop IEPs and IFSPs that are meaningful for children and families and truly fuel participation and learning in everyday routine and activities of the general curriculum. And we need to report progress and grades in a way that everyone on the team, including families and children can understand. 

 

Those of us who are researchers must bring our own research and the broader body of research to practitioners in a way that is consumable and immediately useful in the everyday classroom. Writing for other researchers in peer-reviewed journals isn’t enough. Our practice must be grounded in solid research AND our research must be relevant to and scalable within real-world practice. I get so excited about working in this space where research meets the everyday inquiry of real teachers working to make a difference. 

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