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Ideas rooted in the practical

Tricia David, Jon Nixon and Keith Sharpe, Canterbury Christ Church College: David Hargreaves highlights a key question for educational research: What constitutes teachers' "professional knowledge"? Unfortunately, however, he has skewed any serious debate by saying that educational research is second- rate, irrelevant to practice and unco-ordinated in follow-up. It isn't - our own institution not only helps to articulate the question of professional knowledge, but also addresses it in specific terms.

We have projects, for example, that enable us to contribute to the pedagogical knowledge of practitioners: what should be taught, when and how, and to which groups of pupils. Crucial questions of ordering, sequence and progression are explored at specific stages of development and with reference to particular curriculum areas.

We are also engaged in research that enables us to contribute to our professional knowledge of the material, emotional and spiritual "needs" of learners and of the effective responses to these "needs".

We have a strong commitment to the study of policy, thereby contributing to the public debate on, for example, school exclusions, the conduct of school inspections and careers guidance. These studies impact significantly on the professional knowledge of practitioners, policy-makers and school managers.

Finally, we contribute to "boundary knowledge"; the knowledge that professionals require to bring about the shared understandings that education requires; knowledge of how schools can operate across their internal and external organisational boundaries and of how professionals can link across their institutional domains. We contribute, in other words, to the practical development of partnership and collaboration.

Is this what David Hargreaves has in mind? Or is he out of touch with reality?

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