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Research is integral if you want to meet demands of teaching, professor says

Research skills are "essential" for a teacher to meet the job's changing demands, insists the University of Dundee's dean of education, social work and community education.

"Research is integral" if teaching is to be viewed as a profession, said Yolande Muschamp, who gave the opening address at the Scottish Educational Research Association's annual conference in Ayr.

"The essential aspect of being a professional is the autonomy that it brings," said Professor Muschamp. "However, with autonomy comes responsibility."

That responsibility demanded decision-making underpinned by expertise.

"It is inconceivable to imagine that this expertise can be acquired without research skills," she said. "Even if the professional role does not require the role-holder to be research-active, it will require the professional to be able to read and interpret and evaluate research findings. Research skills are therefore essential."

She believes that teachers, as professionals, should be confident in aspects of research methodology including data collection and analysis, and have the ability to recognise, understand and use "theoretical perspectives", whether philosophical, historical, psychological or sociological.

Such expertise was part of what made the professional model of teaching distinct from what she described as the craft model ("training conducted by using a predominantly modelling approach with an emphasis on practice") and the technology model ("dominated by prescribed methods and curricula").

"A professional is able to recognise and understand and use these theoretical perspectives," she said.

"Without this understanding, decisions are made at the parochial level of 'We've always done it this way' of the craft model, and the 'We have to do it this way' of the technology model."

Professor Muschamp highlighted "scholarship" as an aspect of research methodology with which teachers should be confident.

Scholarship had been defined in UK higher education's Research Excellence Framework as "the creation, development and maintenance of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines, in forms such as dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases".

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