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Research seeks a front seat

A call for teachers to "engage with theory and research" was made at the weekend by one of Scotland's leading education experts.

Brian Boyd, associate director of the quality in education centre at Jordanhill, told modern language teachers: "Postgraduate students are up to their eyes in theory which then takes a back seat in schools as teachers are forced to respond to the daily demands of practice."

Dr Boyd is set to become an influential force if there is a change of government, having been approached by Labour to review teacher training. He told the annual conference of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching in Stirling: "If teachers do not engage with research and theory, how else can they challenge some of the outrageous statements that are made on education, such as the recent HMI report Achievement for All which should really have been entitled 'achievement for some at the expense of others'."

Dr Boyd said: "If you went along to your doctor and found he had not read a book on medicine in 25 years, did not do any research, never read the Lancet, you would probably change your doctor. Yet we find in our own profession teachers who avoid staff development like the plague, never read books on education, carry out no research. It is the Postman Pat mentality, relying on something to be handed out from the centre for you to deliver."

He urged schools to adopt collaborative approaches instead of individualised learning. "I firmly believe that the thinking child is a social child, yet in many of our classrooms learning takes place in stony silence."

Dr Boyd added his voice to the growing support for pupils to be regularly praised. "If we spent as much time praising pupils as we do on referrals for indiscipline, we might start to turn things around. Recent research, from the marriage guidance field, tells us that people need four parts of praise to one of criticism."

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