Research in Education: a local response to a national debate?

I really did not intend to write a blog this weekend. Having shared this valuable advice from Teacher Toolkit with our staff on Friday, I was intent that a relaxed weekend was stretching out before me; all thoughts of work were to be banished. However, as I wandered Brighton’s Open Houses, Twitter drew me in! Far, far away, in York, colleagues gathered for a collaborative event between NTEN and ResearchEd. The event was hosted by John Tompsett (speaker at the WSDN Annual Conference 2013) at Huntingdon School and was themed around the relationship between research and education. I followed the twitter feed and the live streamed talks. There was much to take away and in blatant “confirmation bias” mode I felt there was much that was congruent with a wide range of practice across West Sussex. The blogs of the key participants and the link to the live stream feed are listed below so I will try not to repeat or misquote, I will seek instead to reflect on the themes as they appeared to me and how they may relate to the work of colleagues across the county, with specific reference to the WSDN JPD projects but also to those working in other collaborative partnerships on a range of topical developments.

It was topical, or at least timely I felt that John Tompsett’s opening comments included a reminder of the ‘golden thread’ that runs from what we do in the classroom to student outcomes. Along with a keen pursuit to become more “deliberate, reflective practitioners”, we must monitor the impact of research on student performance. Our questioning and challenge must allow us to be clear on the efficacy of research we utilise in education. This sense of challenge, for the profession to lead the direction and application of research was a common theme. Sue Williamson referenced the history of the partnership between education and academia. She emphasised the importance of leading with confidence, engaging with and reflecting on both research and case study to shape our own direction.

Author of Trivium 21c, Martin Robinson, urged us to be research informed not research led. Education, he reminded, is after all human led. Tom Bennett guarded against top down models of research, instead asserting it should be led by the profession not vested interest. Echoing the importance of questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing. Can we show it works in our context and if not, be prepared to question the received wisdom? We can be the drivers of the research. Mary Myatt was quoted as advising colleagues to pursue “counter intuitive lines of inquiry” which for me emphasised that we must be willing and open to test out ideas in our context and adapt our thinking, not simply look to affirm what we think we know. Research undoubtedly has a role to inform much of the current work of colleagues; Alex Quigley asserted its importance in allowing us to question more, know more and become better. He developed the correlation between tacit knowledge and research evidence to increase our “reflective competence”. It was great to hear him discuss this process as requiring time, often being messy and not a uniform package to be adopted en masse as a route to outstanding.  It underlined for me the importance of giving time to the process, time to ask the questions and time to reflect.

These themes both reassured and challenged me as they converged in my thinking.  I am reassured that our collaborative, research informed JPD work is both relevant and interesting. We have 9 schools across the county working with each other to source research and case studies to inform 4 projects: boys’ achievement, mastery approaches to assessment without levels, feedback and measuring impact of CPD.  All have met and shared ideas, formed partnerships. One of the challenges now is to ensure these are indeed research informed to their own context. Further, we must be willing to question each other and ourselves if we are to genuinely increase our “reflective competence”. As a network we will work with colleagues to find the time, access examples of research and structure their own direction.  These projects will inevitably run over the academic year, they will not always fit neatly into packages we find comfortable, they may not always produce the outcomes we want in a timescale that is convenient.

We welcome the input from the SSAT and Expansive Education in helping us find our way in this particular project but there are colleagues working to develop great new ideas and approaches in all corners of our county. We are all committed to improving student outcomes and seeking out research to inform the process.  If we can genuinely support each other, challenge each other, share findings and experiences then the impact on both student outcomes and professional understanding will be magnified.  Perhaps then not just in our schools but across our networks and all-round the county we can fulfill the Roland S Barth quote that John Tomsett shares, to work in an environment: “characterised by a high level of collegiality, a place teeming with frequent, helpful personal and professional interactions”. That really would be “seizing back our professionalism”.

The link to the live stream: here

The summary of the blogs following the event (via Tom Bennett): here

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2 Responses to Research in Education: a local response to a national debate?

  1. Pingback: ResearchED York- the blogs - Tom Bennett - Blog - Tom Bennett - TES Community

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