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Doing Classroom Research

Small Data: What professional educators have been doing for years.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

At a time when Big Data rules, I look for small answers to big questions about how policies get translated into classroom practices. Big Data can be seen in massive surveys when thousands of teachers respond to questions that pollsters ask. And yes, there are huge data sets derived from major projects that video teacher lessons as well as from students who answer questions about their teachers when taking national and international tests.

But if you really want to know and understand teachers, teaching, learning, and students, one must spend time in classrooms listening and watching the key actors who create good-to-poor lessons. Big Data go for the generalization overlooking the particular that often matters to policymakers, researchers, and practitioners.

Classroom research is crucial to understanding how policymaker decisions aimed at improving instruction and curriculum (think Common Core Standards, 1:1 tablets for kindergartners, Judging teachers on the basis of student…

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