What Is Research-Based Instruction?
Did you ever wonder about the term "research-based"? We all want to make sure our instruction is research-based. But every commercial program for reading instruction on the market advertises itself as research-based and professional developers always preface their talks by saying their recommendations are research-based. We are told the Common Core is research-based. What exactly does "research-based" mean?
The conventional definition of research-based is instructional practice that is "founded on an accumulation of facts that have been established in research." Let's take that Common Core favorite close reading as an example. Close reading is research-based. It is founded on some things that we know about reading instruction. For example, research shows definitively that reading comprehension and fluency are improved by repeated reading. Research also shows that focusing on vocabulary and sentence structure strengthens reading comprehension. Since close reading deals with these factors of reading comprehension proponents can say that close reading is research-based.
What close reading is not is researched. According to the Common Core's own review of the literature published here, "close reading was not a widely practiced method prior to the adoption of the Standards, [and so] it has not been studied directly through rigorous academic research." There are no studies that demonstrate that close reading accomplishes improved reading. There are no studies that show that close reading makes you more college and career ready. There are no studies that demonstrate that close reading is a better use of time than other instructional strategies focusing on fluency, vocabulary, and syntax.
Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so. Let's look at an instructional strategy that has been proven to improve reading comprehension - reciprocal teaching. Reciprocal teaching is an integrated strategy approach where students are taught to use several reading Russ on Reading: What Is Research-Based Instruction?: