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Probing the original probers

ACADEMICS PLANNING educational research would do well to involve teachers in the planning stages, to give them an insight into the realities of the modern classroom, a pilot study has shown.

Teachers who have participated in research said they sometimes felt distant from "out of touch" researchers who asked obvious questions only a non-teacher would ask.

Nick Mitchell, a PhD student from Nottingham University, interviewed 16 teachers about their attitudes to researchers and found they are increasingly clued up on research methods and able to "see through" interviewers who fish for particular answers.

"If teachers advised researchers on what questions to ask and how to approach staff, it could help," he said. "Teachers are an overlooked resource."

One teacher illustrated the problem, saying: "People who do educational research often aren't teachers and they ask you questions where you think, 'D'uh yes!' and 'Why are you wasting time with this?' Go and teach a class and find out!"

Mr Mitchell said: "To what extent are researchers taking account of the increase in teachers' research literacy when they design research? Some may be misled by teachers who are simply 'playing the game' when they take part."

One teacher admitted they liked to outwit researchers: "When interviewers interview, often they give off the answer they expect. And, for me, it was sort of, 'been there, done that, I'm not playing that game!'"

The study also revealed that some researchers alienated their subjects by not telling them the purpose or outcome of their studies. Some researchers even ignored official guidelines that say subjects must be told they can withdraw from a study.

Mr Mitchell is seeking teachers who have participated in educational research to widen his study.


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