Transforming Classroom Practices for Learners with Disabilities

5th March 2020

Jeffrey P. Bakken, Associate Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Bradley University, explores how researchers in the field of education can help not only their field, but classroom teachers and students as well through their publication choices in the academy. Dr Bakken is also editor of book series Advances in Special Education. 

The sharing of intervention research results should be a fundamental part of the research cycle. When the actual study is completed and the results are obtained, researchers should publish their results and disseminate their findings to the larger education field.  It is typical that researchers will publish a research-based article highlighting the study, what was done, the results, and possible future directions.  This is important for the field and the discipline. I will argue, however, that there is more that needs to be done.

Having taught classroom special education teachers for years, I know a research article can be very informative, however, it can also be difficult for them to take information from the research article and apply it to their classroom environment. I argue that researchers should not only publish research articles on their intervention research, but also create an article for classroom teachers.  I call these “How to do” articles. Instead of the research-based discussion, the article should break down the intervention that was evaluated and create a step-by-step list of components and features of the intervention so the classroom teacher can implement it in their own classroom.

The problem is these “How to do” journals are not seen as significant research publications (which they are not) and thus they are not important since they do not “count” for many in the field when working towards promotion and/or tenure. Another problem is that if these articles aren’t written then classroom teachers will not have the information needed to implement new strategies to their students in their classrooms. I argue that any researcher that is conducting intervention research write two articles: one that addresses the research base and effectiveness and validity of the intervention and another for classroom teachers so that they can implement the intervention in their own classroom to their own students.

For example, I published a research article titled “Reading Comprehension of Expository Science Material and Students with Learning Disabilities: A Comparison of Strategies”.  In this study there were three comparison groups:

  1. A text structure-based strategy group
  2. A paragraph restatement group, and
  3. A control group.

Results indicated that students in the text structure condition outperformed students in the other two groups. Although the text structure strategies (main idea, list, and order) were briefly described, the emphasis of the article was on the research that proved the text structure strategy was effective and superior to the other strategies. Giving this to a teacher would probably not have an impact on their teaching.  What I did was to contact special education teachers and work with them and teach them the components of the strategy so they could implement them in their classrooms. I then went to their classrooms and did some teaching and interacting with the teachers and students. What I found was that text structure strategies could be successful in a classroom environment, but it took much longer to implement in a classroom setting.  This was an important finding. Taking this information I then published a “how to” article titled “Teaching Text Structure to Improve Reading Comprehension” specifically geared towards teachers so they could implement the strategy in their classrooms with their students. This approach to publishing scientific research in research based journals and how to do articles in teacher education journals is important for the field of study as well as current teachers in the field.

Most teacher/scholars went into the education field to make a difference.  Most actually do, but it is apparent that research-based articles are more important and are seen as having a higher value than “How to do” articles. I am pleading with those that do intervention research to write to different articles. One that has a research focus and the other that has a classroom teacher focus. Not only do you then have the opportunity for two different publications, but you can also impact the scholarly community as well as the classroom teacher application community.  In my opinion, it is a win-win scenario where you can impact two distinct areas and influence what happens in classrooms with actual students.

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