FSO EMDT & APA | The Problem with Educational Research

A quixotic neophyte tilts at a sacred windmill














Images: WAYBAC Machine | Unknown | Bizarro | (I think that’s in’s HQ)

This was written in 2010, in the third month of my master’s program when I knew next to nothing about the subject.

An attempt to introduce an amicable accord to that final acronym.

In Chapter 10 of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, Armstrong writes:

The kinds of changes in instructional practice described in the previous nine chapters require an equivalent adjustment in the manner of assessment used to evaluate learning progress. It would certainly be the height of hypocrisy to ask students to participate in a wide range of multispectrum experiences in all eight intelligences and then require them to show what they’ve learned through standardized tests that focus narrowly on linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligences. Educators would clearly be sending a double message to students and to the wider community: “Learning in eight ways is fun, but when it comes to our bottom line—evaluating students’ learning progress—we’ve got to get serious again and test the way we’ve always tested.”

I’m no scholar but I have a hard time seeing how the APA Style Literature Review isn’t just another form of standardized test, focusing narrowly, as Armstrong has written, on linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligences.

But my real problem lies in the peer-reviewed papers I’ve read so far. Where is the teacher’s influence and the culture of the classroom factored in? Where is the resultant synergy—by its very nature, an unpredictable and unknowable factor—in the equation? Observing students in a controlled environment is an absurd notion even if one proposes that Teacher Droid 117 delivered the instructions in a predictable, uniform, systematic manner. Students don’t fit in neat rows and columns even if desks do. Every group of kids contains its own variables. There are simply too many variations in teaching styles, personalities, classroom culture, history, potential, expectations, and especially the inevitable synergistic factors for me to suspend disbelief long enough to even start to believe I’m reading anything other than yesterday’s semi-flawed theories.

One thing I should clarify: My problem with the literature review revolves around the formal APA response directive. I want to read, reflect, compare, contrast, analyze, synthesize, scrutinize, and most importantly, apply what I learn from the literature in an imaginative, practical manner. I am not interested in joining the formally published academic crowd. I already have an audience, in my classroom and around the world via my blog. I want to show what I know, not mask it in arcane edu-speak.

Another problem lies in the fact that I believe objectivity to be an illusion. We are subjective beings. The APA response asks me to leave opinion behind. I’m sorry but I’m too invested in teaching to lie like that. I have very strong opinions about what I perceive to be a fatal flaw in many of these research papers and I’m reluctant to go through the motions and/or play APA games in order to satisfy this requirement. I believe having an informed opinion is an essential part of the process. The last thing I want to do is be forced to construct a cold, sterile, stilted report that I don’t believe in.

Education is about energy and engagement. Engage me. Challenge me. Let me use my own multiple intelligences to formulate a meaningful literature review response. Is the APA style the only method you’ll accept? Why? Because that’s how rigor is measured? Why? And why should that be true today? Sir Ken Robinson states it rather clearly:

It means that everything is changing far faster and far more profoundly than most people really get, I think. And there are both great opportunities and great challenges and some risks in all of this. And our education systems were never designed to meet these challenges. And my argument today is that we can’t really just improve [education systems] we have to radically transform them.

…[A teacher’s] job is to create the conditions under which people will grow. And those conditions include understanding the nature of talent and motivation. The need to feed people’s spirits and their energies. And instead of that we’ve got this very competitive system of mass education. And it’s failing.

The primary reason I’m pursuing a Masters degree is so my own family can benefit from the step in pay. Working as a classroom teacher is the first job I’ve ever had where excellence counts for nothing other than a pat on the head. If I have to play education games and spit out empty words to acquire the degree, I will, but when choosing Full Sail I was hoping for much more. Full Sail looked to offer practical, hands-on, project-based learning. By enrolling at FSO, I had hoped to directly and immediately apply relevant lessons in my own classroom. This offered the ideal solution—what I call feeding two birds with one seed—helping my family and my students.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m getting what I wanted at FSO. Among other things, month one opened my eyes to Machinima as an optional method of documenting research, month two to the focus of my CBR: ZIM! the Zone of Intrinsic Motivation, and month three has begun with the creation of an online survey my students will take on Monday. I’m certain I’ll be developing and implementing many more essential skills and strategies over the next ten months.

I began teaching in 2002. Last year I was invited to become an Adobe Education Leader. I’ve been named my school’s Teacher of the Year, ROP’s outstanding teacher, and an Education Innovator in our school district. Don Henderson, Apple’s Senior Manager, Creative Expression, and a member of Full Sail’s Advisory Board was a mentor of mine when he worked as a teacher and as District Technology Director here. Ask him if he thinks I’m up to the challenge of satisfying the literature review in my own unique way. And if that’s not enough, ask these people (scroll toward the bottom to see comments from educators). There’s a reason my students produce work like this.

Today, more than ever, educators must take risks to push back the walls of what is and what’s expected to reach what might be if we’re to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Submitting this missive is probably a huge risk. I imagine it will alienate more than one of my FSO profs. No offense intended, but I’m not here for you. I’m here for my family and my students. I’m here for educators who want to change the status quo. I’m here because I want to look myself in the eye and know I tried to make a difference.

Thank you for considering this request.

My request was, of course, rejected. Five years later I’m still kinda proud of that naïve fool and agree with virtually everything he wrote. And yeah, he eventually wrote the blasted paper and got his master’s

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