Evidence of Evidence-Based Teaching


Evidence-based teaching seems like the new buzzword in higher education. The phrase appears to mean that we’ve identified and should be using those instructional practices shown empirically to enhance learning. Sounds pretty straightforward, but there are lots of questions that haven’t yet been addressed, such as: How much evidence does there need to be to justify a particular strategy, action, or approach? Is one study enough? What about when the evidence is mixed—in some studies the results of a practice are positive and in others they aren’t? In research conducted in classrooms, instructional strategies aren’t used in isolation; they are done in combination with other things. Does that grouping influence how individual strategies function?

This post from The Teaching Professor Blog discusses a classroom observation tool (PORTAAL – Practical Observation Rubric to Asses Active Learning) that attempts to translate research-based practices into explicit and measurable teaching practices.

Below are a few of the 21 actions that are in the PORTAAL instrument:

  • Frequent practice: Observe the number of minutes students have the opportunity to talk about content during class
  • Distributed practice: Observe how often the instructor reminds students to use prior knowledge
  • Immediate feedback: Observe how often the instructor hears student logic (reasons for a particular answer) and responds
  • Time to think before discussing answers: Observe how often students are given time to think before having to talk in groups or in front of the class
  • Student confirmation: Observe how often the instructor delivers explicit positive feedback and/or encouragement
  • Error framing: Observe how often the instructor reminds students that errors are part of learning and not something to be feared

See the full post for more information about the PORTAAL instrument and research-based instructional practices to assess active learning.

Source: Evidence of Evidence-Based Teaching

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