For example, I have read repeated reports that reading aloud to students is beneficial. But it takes a significant chunk of class time, and if I also implement independent reading, paired reading, reading strategies instruction, process writing, writing conferences, various models of vocabulary instruction, group presentations, and critical-thinking seminars, how can I possibly make it all fit together in any way that does not seem totally frenetic? I do what I can, but I am constantly wondering if the activities are in the right proportions and presented at the right moment.
At times I think perhaps the answer is meta-analysis: taking huge numbers of data from schools teaching every imaginable type of student, dumping the data into a computer with advanced logarithms (can you tell I have no stats background and have no clue what I'm talking about?) and then coming up with incontrovertible evidence about certain practices that work best based on the sheer breadth of the data.
One of the most compelling arguments I have ever had presented to me in education was a huge meta-analysis of studies investigating the best method of instructing English Language Learners. The researchers compiled every study they could find that met certain conditions of size and quality, then did a statistical analysis on the data to conclude, quite powerfully in my mind, that a program promoting a true bilingual education--that is, instruction in students' L1 and L2s--was always more effective than English only immersion. I was astounded: if this was the case, WHY is this not more widely shared? I am amazed at both how the political machinery can cloud the results and how the academic world has done such a poor job of sharing this result with the general public.
Anyway, back to my point: while it would be a slow, tedious process to determine how to analyze all the components of a well-rounded ESOL program in such a way as to find out what works best in which increments, would it be worth it to have more effective instruction? And then I wonder, how boring would THAT be if all my instructional decisions were obliterated and all I had to do was read a script?