ibAn important part of being an educator is following trends in education and, more importantly, the research that supports them. This was a big focus in our program this year. One of our assigned readings was How Can You Trust the Experts? How To Tell Good Science From Bad in Education by Daniel T. Willingham. Willingham outlines a shortcut to analyzing research to determine whether it is a reliable source of data. Familiarizing ourselves with this information was extremely useful in approaching one of our largest projects of the summer.
As a way of expanding our knowledge and understanding of various research methodologies and their validity, we designed and conducted our own research projects. In order to do this, we worked in groups to identify a trending topic in education and to formulate a research question that we could actually test with limited resources and time. As our program is an accelerated one, we had only two weeks to conceptualize and conduct our research and analyze the data. Because of this constraint, our question went through an extensive evolution until we finally came upon a question that we could actually address with our given resources and time:
What do teachers perceive as the elements that make up the ideal learning space in today’s environment?
Upon reaching a measurable question, we created a Google Forms survey asking teachers to pick the five characteristics (from a given list) that they felt were most important to creating the ideal learning space. We collected data from more than 200 teachers from around the Midwest and beyond. We then analyzed the top choices in relation to several demographics including teachers from: various types of communities, types of schools, content areas and grade levels.
Although there were many limitations to our research process and the data collected, we did, in the end, conclude that, regardless of any correlation to student achievement or school performance, there is a clear trend of learning space elements that teachers find to be important.
Here you can see the planning document we used to organize and revise our process. Our bibliography (attached to our presentation) can also be reviewed for a more in depth look at what research says about learning spaces in educational settings.