Three wise monkeys of research


Initially there were no monkeys. Just a proverb which focused on being good of mind, speech and of action. The monkeys themselves originated in Japan on a play on words of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The pronunciation of the words was the same as the names of three monkeys. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

However the Western world has misinterpreted the meaning of the wise monkeys, seeing it as a metaphor for turning a blind eye and not taking responsibility. Perhaps this is what has happened in education as well with regards to research?

With so much happening in and around education at the moment, I think many of us feel like Iwazaru, unable to talk about our own practice within school. Generally most of us want to become better teachers and do our very best for our students. However Mizaru and Kikazaru are deaf and blind to our plight.

Mizaru (or the researchers) have to take some of that blame. Mizaru talks a lot of sense but is blind to the context of our school, of the expertise of our own teaching and of course the type of children we teach. However Mizaru has been filling our ears with contradictory thoughts with what successful/effective/outstanding/great teaching looks like for so long we aren’t sure we trust the little monkey anymore. When Mizaru does produce something of value, it’s so long and incomprehensible we aren’t sure what that monkey is on about. Mizaru has begun to make us second guess ourselves. As soon as that happens our teaching isn’t natural, experience goes out of the window and we begin to make poor judgements on the children we probably know the best.

It doesn’t help then when we try to tell our concerns to Kikazaru, (or our SLT), as they don’t always want to listen. They think they know better about our classrooms and our subjects than we do. They’ve spent the CPD budget on someone who has sold them current ‘research’ on how to make us better, which is then delivered via whole school INSET and never touched again. Adding work scrutiny, marking frenzies and PRP into the mix only ensures we keep our hands tightly clamped over our mouths. This in case we blurt out what we actually think and do, and that is seized upon to either prevent a pay raise or even worse. We don’t even have the time to engage in professional talk anymore. Sitting down and talking to our colleagues about what is happening in their classrooms, never seems to occur due to other pressures and workload. When something prevents teachers from opening their mouths and being honest about their practice, then improvement and change will never happen.

What we really need to help us, is facilitation from both Kikazaru and Mizaru. Kikazaru needs to create an environment where we have both the time and feel comfortable to voice our thoughts and opinions about best practice within our classroom. They might need to listen to us rather than talk at us via SMART targets. We also need Mizaru not only to share the wisdom that has been found out about what works, but more importantly, how to clearly implement that wisdom into the complexity of our own learning environment. Perhaps with SLT listening, empowering and trusting us and researchers guiding how we as teachers can implement their findings, then finally we can all be wise little monkeys together. Good in mind, speech and action about the research and practice which is the best for our own teaching and the students learning.

– SLT to trust staff to make the right decisions in the classroom
– to create an environment where being open about practice is encouraged and will not necessarily have consequences on PRP
– to cut down unnecessary workload and create more time for teachers to reflect, collaborate and engage in dialogue
– for researchers to give clear guidelines and information about what research is successful
– to spend more time helping teachers implement research into the context of our subject and school

2 thoughts on “Three wise monkeys of research

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