A Total Ed Case Top 5: 2016 Review (plus some resolutions for 2017)

Happy new year, Ed Cases! I hope your 2016 was good (all things considered).

I’m feeling awfully thankful in my corner of the ed world, as 2016 was crammed with new experiences, new learning, and new connections. Taken together, though, the best way I may have to describe 2016 is that is was a year filled with exciting beginnings. Memorable as so many events were, thinking of them now fills me less with satisfaction and more with excitement/inspiration. Some very positive and long-overdue developments are gaining momentum in education, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they play out — and, of course, figuring out how I can assist to keep them rolling over all the bullshit.

Below is a quick top-five list of things I feel either proud to have been a part of or lucky to have learned from in 2016, as well as a brief list of to-dos for 2017 (and beyond). Cheers to you for reading and for being in touch. No matter what the year is, I wouldn’t trade the connections I’ve made to all you brilliant, warm, and driven people so doggedly seeking to improve education for anything. Onward, y’all.

  1. researchED – Surprise! If you’ve seen this blog before, you know I think quite a lot of Tom Bennett‘s practical-improvement movement. I was thrilled to take my relationship with researchED to the next level in 2016, volunteering to co-organize a conference in Washington, DC. Some of the world’s best ed thinkers (including Dylan Wiliam, Ruth Neild, Robert Pondiscio, Kate Walsh, Sarah Thomas, Ben Riley, Pedro de Bruyckere, etc., etc. — seriously, see the program) were on hand as speakers, and even more were in attendance to get their first up-close look at what all the international excitement is all about. It made for a very tiring few months, but it was all very worth it: I got to hang with a lot of really awesome ed-folk, and I’m confident, based on the reaction we’ve received, that you’ll be seeing a lot more of the org in North America in coming years.
  2. Education Writing, Book Category – In 2015 I resolved to spend less time reading education titles. I’d just come off the research for Education Is Upside-Down and felt it’d probably be healthy to pull myself outside the rabbit hole a bit. My 2016 jump back into more ed reading was richly rewarding, both with 2016’s new titles and things I’d had back-logged. Particularly notable titles — and that I’d really recommend you check out if you have not — from the past year include E.D. Hirsch’s Why Knowledge Matters, Greg Ashman’s Ouroboros, Jeanne Chall’s The Academic Achievement Challenge, Barry Garelick’s Letters From John Dewey/Letters From Huck Finn, and the Michaela School staff’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers (which I’ll blog a fuller review of in the next few days).
  3. Independent Opportunities – I was fortunate to write about framing effects for the Learning Scientists’ site, about practice-level reform in a series for Rick Hess’s ‘Straight Up’ blog at Education Week (three pieces: here, here, and here), about independent research’s role in practice-improvement for TES USA and Education Post, etc. Also, I’ve contracted with a few schools to do consulting/PD around ideas from my book, been invited to speak to staffs and conferences, and all that jazz. Proud as I might be of all the writing and consulting work, though, I’m more excited for what seems to be a growing appetite for these kinds of messages in the ed-improvement conversation. As stated above, another exciting beginning.
  4. Education Writing, Periodical/Journal/Online Media Category – Was it just me, or did I see more measured, honest, and evidence-based takes appearing in education media this past year? Though I’m nowhere near ready to say ed media’s onto all the right moves (there’s still too much attention to ‘cool practices’, for instance, and its tendency toward covering policy debates still woefully misses education’s trees for its forest), I was more hopeful that the right practical messages were getting out there this past year than I have been in many others. Sometimes it meant an independent group (like the Knowledge Matters Campaign, that is, with briefs like this one) had to grab the reins themselves, but, in a land where reform groups start news [sic] outlets to continue to push their agenda, I’ll take what I can get on these fronts. Some other favorite reads from the year: policy guy extraordinaire Rick Hess’s very practice-relevant series on memory and expertise (first series piece here), Max Eden’s straight talk on suspensions, NPR’s Anya Kamenetz on recent (and not rosy, for a change) evidence of ed tech’s actual effectivenessMind/Shift publishing a Paul Tough book excerpt with him correcting a bit on claims from his 2012 How Children Succeed, and Huffpo Education actually running an anti-experiential learning screed by Malkin Dare.  For a fuller list of stuff I found share-worthy, check my Twitter or Facebook pages and scroll away. There, you’ll also see all the bloggers I’ve been inspired by and learned from in the past year. (Omitted here only because I was keeping it to professional media sources. Sorry, all…not a slight, and y’all know who you are!)
  5. Work with Search Institute – Over the summer I joined Search Institute, a long-established applied research firm based in the Twin Cities, to work with schools hoping to more systematically and explicitly build students’ academic motivation. As I’m a big believer that students’ motivation is (1) of incredible importance and (2) the thing our enterprise gets the most wrong in far too many ways, I was thrilled for the opportunity. We still have a ways to go, but I feel hopeful about where our research is heading and proud of the org’s commitment to creating operations that make sense for schools. It’s a cool gig, for sure.

Not an exhaustive list, I know, but still exhausting I’m sure. (And I keep thinking of more to include!) If I don’t stop here, though, I won’t leave enough time to get groceries (and growlers) for tonight’s NYE stay-in bash with my family. Feel free to click around on some of the links in there, you’ll get the idea.

Looking ahead with all these new beginnings, I definitely want to keep adding to what I sense is a growing snowball. Here are a few resolutions/goals in particular:

  • More writing, for sure: This blog, various guest pieces and chapters (stay tuned on those), and a proposal for book #2. I plan to be sketching that this year, so if you know any good publishers or agents I should consider, please feel free to connect us. 🙂
  • More researchED: Attending/speaking when I can, co-organizing a North American event (or more), exploring partnerships based on the foundation being built, etc., etc. Most of all, though, staying connected to all the great folks I’ve met through the rED and continuing to tell everyone I can over here about it.
  • Slowing down enough to really enjoy my family. I’m officially in the backstretch of having two daughters full-time under my roof (my oldest graduates high school this spring), so I will be making a point to live that fully up. Much as I’m excited about all the new beginnings mentioned above, I’m most excited for my little one’s big new beginning this summer. (If I don’t get back to you quickly or go silent for a few weeks, then? It’s probably that. Thanks for understanding.)

Happy new year, Ed Cases. I look forward to building more with you in 2017.


aggravatED: The education consultant-management education consulting firm

Dear Assistant Superintendent MacGuffin:

Thank you for your interest in partnering with aggravatED, the education consultant-management education consulting firm, and for so thoughtfully completing our preliminary readiness screening tool, the Partner, Initiative, & Stakeholder Survey (PISS™).

Our consultant-management consultants looked with great interest at your PISS™, and they concluded definitively that your district would benefit from our innovative, strategic, and accountability-focused guidance.

As you may remember from our informational materials, our initial PISS™ analyses categorize participating schools/districts into four categories describing overall focus and consistency: Laser, Inconsistent, Diffuse, and Without Tangible Focus (WTF).

According to this scale, our initial analysis — which included a study of historic district performance and engagement data — identified your district’s PISS™ as just at the division between ‘Diffuse’ and ‘WTF’. Below are a few noteworthy — and seemingly competing — initiatives/partners that helped us reach these conclusions:

  • Partnership with disruptED, ed-tech firm facilitating district’s 1:1 digital device initiative (in effect since 2013, no observable gain in student performance)
  • Partnership with comprehendED, literacy intervention software providers/PD coaches (in effect as intervention for struggling readers district-wide since 2009, no observable, sustained gain in student performance)
  • Partnership with makemathawesomED!, game-based math intervention software providers and math-growth-mindset programming (in effect as weekly math supplement — including PD for all elementary math teachers offsite once per month — since 2012; no observable gain in student performance, numerous schools have discontinued)
  • Partnership with differentiatED, standards-based grading/differentiation advisers and PD coaches (implemented 2015, effect on student performance as yet uncertain; considerable amounts of PD time being used to implement at staff-training level)
  • Partnership with restorED, restorative practices behavior-management trainers (introduced 2014, training teams of teacher leaders centrally; student suspensions down in schools over that period, but number and severity of violent incidents within schools have increased)
  • Partnership with accountEDfor, teacher evaluation policy consultants (relationship beginning 2011, teacher evaluation system implemented 2012: as above, no observable gain in student performance)

These half-dozen examples should provide at least some illustration for your short-term consideration and planning. For our more comprehensive analysis of your district’s Diffuse/WTF PISS™ (and trust us, there’s lots more where this came from), please contact us to work out full report pricing and/or next steps for a fuller partnership with aggravatED. We look forward to hearing back from you and wish you the best in your continued efforts!



After TES rejection, one last #rEDWash post (plus thoughts on ed media)


After having written a few pieces for TES USA in the run-up to researchED DC, TES contacted me last week to request a wrap-up article — something general about the conference that could bring the series to a close, that kind of thing. I went ahead and produced the piece below this italicized note.

In it, as I hope you will see, I linked to some blogged recaps of participants’ researchED experiences, a touch I thought might illustrate how a diverse group of educators (read: not me going on and on again, for a damn change) view a researchED event’s learning sessions, networking opportunities, and general spirit. As this type of professional-to-the-public sharing played a big part in helping researchED grow from a single humble convening in the UK into a full-on ed-improvement movement being clamored for all over the globe, sure seemed novel and newsworthy to me.

TES USA, on the other hand? Not so much. They sent the story back. ‘With all its links and stuff, really more of a blog,’ they said.

Fair enough. A blog it will be.

In the end, the episode served as another example of why it’s so important that those of us interested in improving education use available social media, blogs, etc., to share what we’re learning and to share what works with each other. For just like waiting on district experts [sic] to provide the right professional development: if we wait on ed media to do it for us or to aid us in getting words out, we could be waiting forever. Way, way too many in the ed media simply don’t have the time, space, understanding, and/or interest in helping ed practices get soundly better.

TES is nowhere near alone here. Despite all of the above, they were far and away the most researchED-supportive of any media I encountered through this process. In the main, though, my researchED-organizing and -promoting experience was FILLED with ‘Sorry, researchED is just not a story’ stories. If I’m hearing ed media right, then, the idea of ‘Education professionals seeking to improve their respective crafts on their own time, being spoken to about evidence-informed practices by some of the field’s most respected figures (who donate their time and fees to appear), and using social media to cost-effectively spread word to other motivated educators’ simply isn’t much of a story, while pieces like this one and any number of stories about lazy and/or incompetent teachers are considered truly newsworthy.

I’m not surprised, as I’ve long thought it to be true. In the past few months, though, media members pretty much told me it was true to my face, over and over.

All that said, here’s the piece that probably just should’ve been a blog anyway. I wasn’t planning to put another researchED summary piece up here, but I’ve now got it so might as well use it. And hey, seriously: visit the posts linked throughout, follow the bloggers there, get to know them and their Twitter networks, and all that. If enough of us learn from each other, maybe we can do this on our own.

Two weeks ago I had the great privilege to work with researchED — the UK’s practitioner-driven improvement movement — on hosting a conference in Washington, DC, their second ever in the US. And though researchED’s conferences and international network of education professionals have made profound impressions on me for going on two years, the excitement I saw in conference participants and the near-continuous communication I’ve received (and witnessed via social media) in the days since may actually have lifted my researchED-thusiasm to a new height.

For in short, it’s clear that lots of people learned from and became intrigued by all the ideas flying around the event, and it’s clear that many of them are now connecting with each other like mad to chat further—solidifying understandings, debating perspectives, working out collaborations, and such like.

…exactly, in other words, what this researchED thing is all about.

Also: considering researchED’s fierce commitment to building and broadcasting sound educational practices (as opposed to emphasizing structural-reform concerns of accountability, school choice, etc., or any number of intuitively pleasing but unproven methods), the conference provided a healthy dose of exactly what’s missing from our education-improvement conversation.

I’d provide a general recap of events here, but I find it more appropriate to defer to those in attendance, speakers and audience alike. For if all this talk I’ve done about researchED conferences and connections have you interested, it’s really these folks you should pay attention to for confirmation and additional information, not me. My objectivity on the matter, after all, was shot long ago.

(Plus, it’s not like I haven’t put it out there already: If you’d really like to see things through my organizer lens, see this blog post at A Total Ed Case, this tweet-story of the day at Storify, or, of course, any of the researchED-gushing I did through TES in the past couple months. The TES posts aren’t directly about the conference, per se, but I share quite a lot in those pieces about why the researchED influence is so important to get established in North America.)

Below are a few summary pieces generously penned by various participants at 29 October’s DC conference. If you check them out (and you really should), do yourself a favor and follow these blogs and these fine educators on Twitter. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot if you do, and doing so is how we will keep researchED’s learning momentum rolling.

So, it was indeed a special day and researchED is indeed a special movement. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I’m thrilled to see so many in North America coming together to experience the same. I hope we’ll be able to tell you about another event on this continent sometime soon. In the meantime keep learning, keep connecting to new folks, and keep asking the right questions.

researchED US 2016: Assorted Scenes, Name-Drops, etc., from #rEDWash

Yeah yeah, I know I never stop when it comes to researchED. I was taken in with my first conference, and my appreciation for it has gone on and on (…and on and on and on), likely well past reasonable amounts of patience.

At bottom, though, I look at it this way: if all those words have caught your attention at least a little, or if through all the words I’ve been able to make clear how special and important I believe the whole researchED movement to be, they were words well spent.

Based on early reactions to this past weekend’s conference in Washington, DC, though, you may soon have to deal with even more ‘you gotta be there’-type enthusiasm about researchED in your media feeds. In the few days since the conference, I’ve lost track of how many new enthusiasts have engaged me on matters like requests for more such events in North America, queries relating to talks they heard, questions about how to best connect with other conference-goers, etc., etc., etc.

It’s all very exciting, of course, as stirring and sharing ideas about effective education is what researchED is about in the first place. Here’s to hoping it grows and grows. I’d love for all educators to know what it all feels like first-hand.

All that said, I’m following up on my deck-sharing post from a few days ago to give some bulleted glimpses of highlights I took away from Saturday’s conference. I’d give a more complete review (especially of speakers’ talks), but as a conference organizer I spent the bulk of the day running around to keep things like lunch, coffee, A-V, and the like operating (close to) smoothly.


  • Taking the Metro in from my hotel after learning how close the nearest station was. It was a wonderful tip (courtesy of my well-traveled friend Lori — thanks, L!), as the train became my main transportation all weekend long.
  • Sipping mid-morning coffee with Tom Bennett (researchED’s Papa Bear) and David Didau (Twitter’s Learning Spy and a favorite ed author/thinker of mine — I’m reading his and Nick Rose’s book right now, actually, and it’s brilliant). It’d been too long since I’d seen either of them, so the visit’s a great treat. Might be my first real sense that any of this is actually happening.
  • Meeting a bunch of other speakers for a tour of the White House, graciously arranged for us by the very talented Seth Andrew (one of our conference speakers). While waiting in line and chit-chatting, I introduce Holly Shapiro, one of the WH tourist-speakers, and her husband Matt to David (whose work, by the way, I know through Twitter that Holly greatly admires). Ed Cases, their reaction is one I’ll never forget. So happy to have been there for it.   ddek
  • Riding up into Maryland (thanks, Hilarie!) for a luncheon at the gorgeous Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning, meeting the generous and energetic Glenn Whitman, having a great meal, and sharing a great stand-up chat about education by the buffet table with Dr Ian Kelleher.
  • Dinner and drinks with David, joined by the amazing Optimist Prime and partner. So many laughs, such great people. Perfect before a train ride to hotel, some presentation-cramming, some wind-down reading, and crashing.


  • Rushing around CHEC as the sun’s coming up (took this pic  wm from my Uber during ride in — DC even better than I’d imagined) to arrange classrooms into more talk-suitable orientations, getting assistance from various kind people — even a couple educator-friends of mine who’d made the trip out from Minnesota (thanks, Andy & Carrie!). How deep, the generosity? Bryan Penfound even ran to Starbucks to make sure all the pre-event stress was properly fueled.
  • Emerging from the classrooms area (where I also get to help literacy champion Steve Dykstra and Tom set up for presentations) to registration area and getting slammed aback: LOTS of high education-brainpower has assembled in the past frenetic hour or so. People like Ze’ev Wurman, Ben Riley (who, as he’s now clean-shaven, I nearly walk right past — looking great, Ben!), Giselle Martin-Kniep, Ulrich Boser, and Kate Walsh are milling about, so I welcome as many as I can. Would linger longer with each, but the opening remarks are about to begin…
  • Blowing into CHEC’s ‘Model UN’ auditorium space for Dylan Wiliam (!)’s keynote. I say a quick hello to Dr Wiliam; he tells me he enjoyed reading my book and that he’d love to chat sometime. A little dazed and nodding, say something (but I have no idea what) back. Spot Lindsay Malanga in the house and Lisa Hansel stops me to introduce herself. (This is so awesome.) Dr Wiliam’s keynote is thoughtful and well-evidenced (and funny!), setting the day off on a perfect researchED-ly foot. As the talk moves, I’m pretty sure I can feel the room coming to a proper buzz. Some of my tweets in the moment:




  • Hurrying around looking for the greatest facilities staff ever (thanks, Will & Pankaj!) so we can handle some tech issue or another, I see one of my favorite ed thinkers, Robert Pondiscio, standing at the front door. I drop whatever else I’m up to, let him in, and have a quick hallway-length conversation with him. Oh, then of course I bug him for a selfie with me and he obliges. Boom. rpek Bonus: all three of the amazing Learning Scientists (Yana Weinstein [who is also a fabulous editor, I should add], Megan Smith, and Cindy Woolridge) are at a nearby table doing some last-minute talk prep.
  • Continuing the room-to-room shuttle, I end up missing huge chunks of the speakers. (Through it all, though, I get to stop so I can properly meet TNTP’s great Liesl Groberg. It’s at the door and I’m carrying in huge bags of sandwiches, but at least I get to say a proper hello.) I drop into speakers’ talks wherever I get a few minutes, though, and groove on all the inspiration and insights. Steve Dykstra, Kate Walsh  kw2, Robert Pondiscio, Ben Riley 20161029_154231, and Rob Craigen rc all pretty well blow my mind. Hard to believe they’re all in the same place. Even better, their sessions include watching them field questions from all the other ed superheroes in attendance. Simply, this kind and this level of conversation about our enterprise can’t be seen anywhere else.
  • Giving my talk in the early afternoon, just after a lunch that goes long because people are so engrossed in conversations. The talk goes pretty well, I think, but a bit of a blur. (I will Storify the Tweets later, stay tuned. For now, here’s proof that I was there, courtesy of Howard Greville-Giddings: dsc_3290)
  • Still running all over the place in the afternoon, missing lots more talks. I get a DM from Sarah Thomas (yes, HER, the #edumatch founder) to meet her at the front door. I do, and find her to be one of the happiest, most gracious important people I’ve ever met. (Plus, Sarah and I get to fill our bucket by meeting Will [CHEC’s facilities guy, remember?]’s darling family, sharing a family moment just inside the door. Perfect.) Get Sarah her badge, show her her room, and post up to watch her talk. Here she is: st  Oh, and quick note about Sarah’s talk: if you aren’t familiar with #edumatch and all the ways it’s connecting eds, you really have to check it out. Great, GREAT potential there, thanks to all of her work.
  • Filing in to the closing comments, back in the auditorium. About 3/4 of the original crowd is left to hear Tom Bennett wrap, and the whole thing feels downright victorious. Once we put the classrooms back in order (lucky we took pictures in advance — thanks again, Andy, for your administrative foresight), we’ll be able to head to the pub.


  • LOTS of regrets about chats I wanted to have but couldn’t. Was so looking forward to meeting so many of these people, but time just went too fast. All the more reason to book another one soon, right?
  • Made a bunch of new associations I can’t wait to follow up on. You all know who you are, and you all have my contact info. Please be in touch!
  • Huge thanks to all those who helped so much with set-up, tear-down, the day’s A-V and logistics challenges, and the like. researchED is ‘by us for us’ to its core, and it couldn’t run without assistance like yours. It was so great to work with you. Especially big on these scores, by the way, were Andy, Carrie, Bryan, Jessie, Nils, and JoAnne. Thanks to all of you.


Big cheers to all in attendance (reach out t0 say hello, by the way, if reading this — and feel free also to post your own recaps if able), and big invitations to all who read this and find it intriguing. Watch this space, researchED’s site, and/or some particularly researchED-ly Twitter accounts (start with mine, researchED_US, researchED home, and Tom Bennett‘s, for example, and go from there), and you should have news fairly soon about other things we’re looking at, stateside and internationally. We’d love to have you at any of them!

Now, back to writing about non-researchED-related ed stuff for a while. See you soon, Ed Cases.

researchED DC talk slides, ‘Hip-Waders for Bullsh-initiatives’

After months of planning, we got researchED DC in the books yesterday. And yes, it was again unforgettable on all the usual scores: I was able to meet and chat with people I’ve looked up to for years, see them speak about their work & ideas, connect with colleagues from around the world I’d previously known only virtually, laugh my ass off near-continually, etc., etc., etc. Though being a conference organizer for rED DC provided a whole new view, this may have been my favorite researchED experience yet — really saying something, of course, based on my overflowing appreciation of the org. (See previous gushings on this blog and elsewhere for proof on that.)

I’ll go into all that in more detail sometime soon, promise. Got a DC-based college buddy to meet for lunch and a few hours between to see some DC sights by foot and early morning light. For now, here are my presentation slides: researched_102916. Take, use at home, review and send questions or angry feedback, whatever. Just keep the conversation going, please.

Thanks again, researchED. Waited a long time for you, and thrilled to be a part of you.

At 3-week warning to researchED DC, some things I love about rED

After months of planning, y’all, researchED DC is three short weeks away. We got Tom Bennett, we got Ben Riley, we got Sarah Thomas, we got Ruth Neild, we got Dylan Wiliam, we got Lisa Hansel, we got Seth Andrew, we got Pedro de Bruyckere, we got David Didau, we got the Learning Scientists (Megan Smith & Yana Weinstein), we got, we got, we GOT!

(And these names are only the start, I’m telling you. Click the link event link above and see for yourself. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)


In other words: if you haven’t registered and have been planning to, you’d better hurry. Some of the biggest names in all of education are going to be in one place — in a school, no less (as opposed to some gaudy hotel conference space with a dedicated hall of desperate vendors) — to share their wisdom and their sparkling personalities. It’s really not something you should let pass by if you’re passionate about improving ed practice. [Plus, if you don’t do so soon, you won’t be included in the lunch count. Seriously: Chop. Freakin’. Chop. What are you waiting for?!]

We’ve still got quite a lot to do behind the conference’s scenes, but seeing this video about researchED yesterday really got me thinking about all the reasons I’m so crazy about the teacher-driven learning & improvement movement Tom Bennett’s led over the past few years. I’ve written about it before (see here and here and here for a few examples), but just feeling like I’ve got to give it another shout.

Here goes: in no particular order, some things I love about researchED are…

  1. It was started by pissed-off teachers, all who believed they could find better PD on their own than the dreck dished out by their schools/districts.
  2. It cares about improving practice first, way before all the ed structures & policies so many are so convinced are the true keys to ed enterprise-improvement (but which keep yielding up only meager returns).
  3. It doesn’t follow marching orders of anyone, really: neither scale-hungry, ed-clueless vendors nor reform organizations nor teachers unions run the decision-making of researchED; if you know something about what works for kids and teachers, and if you have strong evidence to back your position, chances are good that researchED will give you a spot in its program. When ideas clash, they figure it’s actually good for the conversation. Imagine.
  4. It deeply values the idea that improvement choices should be based on sound evidence–not intuition, ideals, or sentimentality alone (as so much ed-improvement conversation tends to be).
  5. Everyone I’ve met from the worldwide researchED community is brilliant, genuine, passionate, funny (!), and generous. At each conference I’ve been to/spoken at, I felt immediately welcome and accepted — even, sometimes, by internationally renowned ed thinkers I’d admired for years. After starting off as such with them, I have since felt very little hesitation when needing to reach out for a tip or additional insight or whatever. In an age when so many choose to stay within their bubbles or preach to their own choirs about what needs fixing in education, this kind of collaborative and continually idea-pushing connection to thousands of practitioners was exactly what I needed. (And, frankly, before that I had begun to lose some hope.)

Thanks for letting me share all that. In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about researchED coming back to the US in a few weeks. If you want to find out more about all this up close, I urge you to take a look at the event site or the video link in this post — or, better yet, the conference in DC. If my experience is any guide, you’ll never be the same afterward — and it’s something we desperately need more of here in US education.

Have great weekends, everyone!

4-Step Starter Kit: Beginning in Ed Research (cross post from TES)

This is another piece from the series I’m doing for TES US on the value of ed research in advance of the big researchED US conference (only a month away! Get tix now! Have you SEEN this program?!!).

Also: Education Post ran an adapted version of one of the series’s earlier pieces this past week, find it here — and, of course, feel free to retweet, share, etc. We really want to get word out about researchED DC! (Which you can follow at Twitter now, by the way…)

Have a great week, y’all.

I’m an evangelist for teachers taking control of their own development by using education research.

But I know there’s a great distance between saying, ‘Reclaim your profession, educators!’ and actually doing it.

If becoming a better user of educational research were not so difficult or time-intensive, countless more practitioners would already have made it a habit by now. And, in turn, the myriad bad professional development courses, wasteful consultants, and misguided improvement initiatives would long ago have been sent into retreat.

So, as someone who has invested time in education research and seen first-hand how it can pay off, here is my quick starter kit of ideas for people who want to give it a try. My Starter Kit won’t make research work magically quick, but it should help you along your way.

1.        To Begin, Ask ONE Question

A simple point, but a very important one as you set out. For once you start looking around, your main issue will quickly escalate from ‘how do I find what I need?’ to ‘what in this overwhelming pile of information is most reliable and most useful?’

Beginning with a single focus for inquiry (‘What is the effect of Balanced Literacy programs on students’ reading outcomes in my state?’, for example, or ‘Is there evidence that 1-to-1 iPad initiatives have improved students’ learning in the metro districts that have implemented them?’) can provide an effective cordon around a much more workable space and keep distracting or erroneous information under control.

2.  Run, Don’t Walk, to the Cognitive Science

Many of the least-effective yet furthest-reaching approaches in education are based on ideals about how people learn best, not on the science of how people learn best.

The good news is that the past 3 to 4 decades of advances in cognitive science can give us much more reliable information about human learning, based on scientific trials.

To anyone starting out as a researcher, then, regardless of discipline or grade level, I’d heavily suggest getting up to speed with these concepts as quickly as possible.

As far as matters to prioritize, I’d recommend starting with these three and learning all you can: (1) Long-accepted truths of instruction and learning (like learning styles, for example) that science have proven to be mythical, (2) The importance of background knowledge to all kinds of what we consider ‘higher-order’ thought, and (3) How learning improves through various forms of practice/repetition.

These three will provide a lot of insight, I’m pretty sure, that your training programs and continuing professional development never would. I would recommend the following pieces of reading as starting points:

3. Plug In to Other Practitioner-Researchers

Back when I first jumped into the ed research stream 13-14 years ago, I basically had a couple books’ reference sections to guide me. The internet was humming, of course, but blogs weren’t much of a factor and Twitter hadn’t even been invented.

Today, one can get daily doses of fellow educator-researchers’ work from huge numbers of bloggers. There are links to lots of good ones on my blog A Total Ed Case if that is a helpful starting point.

Plus, a worldwide community of like-minded professionals can be found on Twitter, which is great at rapidly spreading useful research and resources. If you’ve put off opening an account, at least do it for this. You won’t regret it.

Seek conferences like researchED, too, to connect with fellow educators. My shameless plug, as I’m one of the organizers, is to encourage you to attend our next one on 29 October 2016 in Washington, DC. But if you can’t, follow us on Twitter or seek out other conferences near you to build your professional network.

4. Know How We Got Here

Though you may not feel education’s history applies very well to the day-to-day of your classroom, I’ve found immensely useful over my time in education—maybe because we’re so inclined to repeat our mistakes.

Plus, histories are rich with ‘gateways’ via their usually deep references and indices. From a purely strategic standpoint, taking some time as a researcher to know how we got here will pay off in big ways the further you go.

A couple of recommendations I’d make are Diane Ravitch’s Left Back and The Troubled CrusadeEven The Death and Life of the Great American School System, the book that bridged her move from reform champion to reform enemy, does a lot well to explain American Education in its post-NCLB Accountability Era.

Other titles I’d suggest include The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958, by Herbert Kliebard; Why Knowledge Matters, by E.D. Hirsch;Getting It Wrong from the Beginning, by Kieran Egan; and Ouroborosan ebook by Greg Ashman.

ResearchED is holding a conference at CHEC in Washington, DC, on 29 October, tickets for the conference are on sale now. Click here for more info on the conference program and tickets—and be in touch if you have any questions.