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Circular discussions pay off

A new "round table" initiative at Homerton College in Cambridge is helping to build closer links between education research and classroom practice. During a six-month pilot programme, the Homerton-Schools Research Circle has quickly established itself as a lively forum for East Anglian primary and secondary schools, advisers and researchers who want to explore key issues of teaching and school improvement.

The circle's first event, a mini-conference on gender and performance, drew representatives from schools across the region and a network of schools keen to carry out their own research is now being established. The research circle has also improved schools' access to published research relevant to teachers' concerns.

Requests from schools have included strategies for dealing with violent behaviour, differences in learning styles and promoting home-school liaison. Briefings about the college's research programme are also available to member schools.

Jean Rudduck, director of research at Homerton, says that the circle's aim is to respond to the needs and interests of teachers without adding to their workloads.

At the circle's recent seminar teachers from three schools talked about their own small-scale research on differences in boys' and girls' performance. Pam Morgan of Coleridge Community College described a trial of single-sex groupings for English; Mary Martin from Comberton Village College talked about her research on boys' attainment; and Sallie Dixon and Alison Lycett from Fulbourn primary presented findings from their study of classroom behaviour.

John Gray, who is also a director of research at Homerton, provided an overview of national research into the differential performance of boys and girls.

Opening such a dialogue between research and practice is reaping benefits for all. Researchers now have a better appreciation of the kinds of issues schools want to know about - future seminars will focus on literacy, target-setting, the management and "ownership" of time, and working with parents. And teachers and advisers are finding out more about current research.

Further details about the Homerton-Schools Research Circle from Julia Flutter, Homerton College Research Unit, Homerton College, Cambridge CB2 2PH

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