Educational Research has always been an area I’ve stayed away from in my teaching career. I felt it was inaccessible and wasn’t really about the students I had in my school. The longer I stayed in the profession the more I saw that it was a way of organisations, who were so far removed from the classroom environment, trying to peddle another rehashed concept to make money and not really about the improvement of my teaching practice. However as I’ve begun to take on more responsibility of CPD within my school and look at my own professional development with a bit more rigour, I am beginning to see some beneficial uses.
As a teacher we have limited time time and energy to implement any changes in our practice. Educational Research is a way to ensure, if we have the energy to change anything, to help focus what we should be doing. What areas have potentially the biggest impact on our students attainment and achievement. I’m also seeing more teachers embracing research so that they can have autonomy and control over their own professional development. All of a sudden it is our profession, the teachers, who are taking responsibility for implementing educational research. So where to begin? Here are some of the resources that have helped me look at my own practice and decide where my time would be best spent:
There are some publicly available tools that might help with research:
IEE (York Uni) www.york.ac.uk/iee
Personally I feel EEF/Sutton Trust are really leading the field in this area and, generally speaking, they would encourage practitioners to use the existing evidence, but apply it in a local context, adjusting to local needs and evaluations. Not only do they pull together a lot of the existing evidence to help practitioners sift through the poor and good quality existing evidence, but they try to help practitioners apply it locally.
If you are looking to implement research yourself then The DIY Evaluation Guide (www.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evaluation/diy-evaluation-guide) might help with measuring the effect of an intervention within a school. It discusses your form of measurement, comparison groups, pre- and post-tests, process evaluation, analysis and reporting. It generally focusses on attainment, but you could also look at qualitative effects as well. As YOUR pupils might not typify AVERAGE pupils, it is important that you take into account the local context of your own school and evaluate it yourselves.
There are other schools looking at this kind of work where you might be able to partner up with. Teaching school alliance partners, HEI partners or research organisations (eg NFER, Curee or Camstar) could help with evaluations if your research is school wide. I recently attended the Wellington College Teaching School Partnership launch. The scope of what they are doing at Wellington College is impressive, with a focus on ITT, CPD, Leadership, School to School Support. SLE’s and Research. It was their approach to Research, specifically looking at meta-cognition, along with their support from Harvard University and a number of state schools who had signed up to become partners. I look forward to their findings and how it might be implemented in other schools.
Journal clubs are another good way to discuss each piece of evidence and how it could be put into practice locally. NFER runs an Enquiring Schools programme which is a school-wide CPD programme using enquiry-based programmes (www.nfer.ac.uk/enquiringschools). This is something I am looking at introducing into my school in the next academic year for those staff who are interested.
There are a number of teachers and researchers on Twitter who I follow that are I feel are very helpful with regards to making research a little bit more accessible to teachers:
David Weston @informed_edu – the CEO of the Teacher Development Trust
Mark Healy @cijane02 – Mark is a teacher who is enthusiastic about the benefits of educational research and he is hugely generous with his time if you engage with him
(Im sure there are plenty more, If you want to recommend someone to add to this list, then let me know).
When I asked my colleagues what one book they would recommend to read about Educational Research all of them said ‘Visible Learning’ by John Hattie. I have attempted and failed to read this book on a number of occasions, and there are far more accessible reviews of his work online rather than trying to engage with the whole of his book. My recommendations would be ‘Teacher proof‘ by Tom Bennett, a far more accessible book for teachers and a balanced opinion on the use of educational research for teachers.
Educational research is a difficult area. Most of the research that comes out is not done for the teacher, even if it has particular impact that would be beneficial for us to implement in the classrooms. It doesn’t also understand the difficulties we face on a day to day basis or have an idea about the context of our students or our school. However my own gut feeling is that the rise of educational research is not a fad, it isn’t going to go away. Colleagues have felt in the past, like back seat passengers, to where SLT and educational research is leading them with regards to their own teaching. They don’t like and it makes them very bitter. Therefore we as a profession need to educate ourselves so we can challenge the research and not, like I have been doing for most of my career, blindly accept it because some academic or member of SLT told me so. We need to get researchers to listen to us, work with us and to make research much more accessible. In the end we are the only ones that are responsible for what happens in our classroom, we should not allow others to dictate that.