The theory behind evidence-based practice : going beyond the surface level

Firth, Jonathan William (2021) The theory behind evidence-based practice : going beyond the surface level. SERA Researching Education Bulletin, 11. pp. 14-16. ISSN 2752-4000 (

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When preparing teachers for practice, there are various options regarding the level of theoretical depth that teacher-educators provide, with some suggesting that guidance should eschew theory and focus on findings. In this article, I argue that developing a theoretical understanding of human cognition can help teachers to make better decisions about which strategy to use, and when. Research in cognitive psychology has uncovered a number of promising techniques that stand to improve classroom attainment (e.g. Dunlosky et al., 2013). For example, the spacing effect is where practice is distributed over a longer period of time rather than being intensive, and interleaving is where diverse examples are contrasted rather than examples presented in blocks of the same type. Teacher education should aim to develop an accurate understanding of the underlying theory among teachers. Without such a foundation, their judgements of techniques such as the spacing effect and interleaving are likely to be informed by flawed assumptions due to the fundamentally counterintuitive nature of human memory.