Best Practices for Researchers – Be(a)ware of Yourself!

The readings for this week seem designed to initiate us to the reflexive, multi-faceted look at educational practice that our program aims to inculcate in us.  I strongly agree with this approach. I applied to this program so that I can be a better teacher – more reflexive, more culturally sensitive, and better educated about best practices and how to design and assess innovations.  In Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education by Garcia and Ortiz (2013), they write “…educational questions beg to be conceptualized and analyzed through more than one axis” and “…categories of difference are dynamic and produced by the interaction of individual and institutional factors.”   To help students be successful will take acknowledgement of various intersecting aspects of their culture and abilities.  Designing a curriculum and/or a program to help students will take consideration of multiple factors such as race, generational cohort, familiarity with college environment, language acquisition, and institutional assumptions.  That suggests to me that a cookie-cutter approach to designing a program or teaching a class will not suffice.  That is why I don’t want to simply copy a program or syllabus from another college or teacher; I want to learn more about the intricacies and intersection of factors that can lead to student success.

In addition, I will need to continue developing awareness about how my language, instructional practices, grading practices, and casual interactions with my diverse community college students might influence them.  In Culturally Relevant Pedagogy by Howard (2001), I read that “reflection is never-ending” and “teaching is not a neutral act.”  Howard’s proposal that pre-service teachers need to engage in on-going reflection is consistent with training for counselors.  As a graduate student in counseling, my training included written and guided reflection with a supervisor after each encounter with a client in my counseling practicum.  Years later when I was supervising interns in clinical practice, I continued the process of written and verbal reflection with my interns.  In order to come up with a thoughtful treatment plan for each client, interns examined what they knew about a client, we uncovered and challenged assumptions, and examined possible approaches and potential outcomes for dealing with each individual.  Like education, therapy is not a neutral act and calls for continual reflection.  Because culture continues to evolve, so does theory and best practices.

As evidenced by the chapter from Gould’s 1981 publication of the Mismeasure of Man, as scientific observation/tools become more sophisticated, ideas will evolve and there will be missteps as scientists attempt to provide reasonable theories to support new evidence.  However, there is the danger that the questions asked and the data examined will unconsciously support the prejudices of the one asking and looking which is how Gould explains the seemingly scientific data gathered by Morton that supported a theory of racial hierarchy based on skull size.  Gould writes that he re-examined Morton’s data and describes the seemingly unconscious mistakes Morton made.  I believe contemporary practitioners have the same danger of seeing data through the lens of our biases which is why I am devoted to the practice of on-going reflection, being as transparent as I can, and discussing with others in hopes of minimizing my unconscious biases.

Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates by Shulman et al (2006) presented a history of doctorates in education of which I was unaware.  I read about the Carnegie Initiative when I was exploring doctoral programs and the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College commitment to action research for practitioners was part of the draw to this program for me.

Finally, I have questions about Value-Added Measures from the The random assignment of students into elementary classrooms by Paufler and Amrein-Beardsley (2013) article.  I look forward to Dr. Beardsley’s visit to our class this week so that I can gain a better understanding of her work.


Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013).  Intersectionality as a framework for transformative research in special education.  Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32-47.

Gould, S.J. (1981).  The mismeasure of man.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Howard, T.C. (2003).  Culturally Relevant pedagogy:  Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, 42(3), 195-202.

Paufler, N.A. & Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013). The random assignment of students into elementary classrooms: Implications for value-added analyses and interpretations.  American Education Research Journal, 51(2), 328-362.

Shulman, L.S., Golde, C.M., Conklin Bueschel, A., & Kristen, J. (2006).  Reclaiming education’s doctorates:  A Critique and a proposal.  Educational Researcher, 35(25), 25-32.