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Take control of your teaching by embracing research

Teachers don’t engage enough with research. They don’t understand enough about research. And they don’t do enough research themselves.

These are the conclusions of a group of educators championing the latest trend in education: school-based research. The aim of school-based research is to better equip teachers to consume and create educational research by schools providing training, creating higher education links and putting in place a culture of rigorous research methodologies .

On Saturday, many of the key figures in the movement will come together in one place at TES columnist Tom Bennett’s researchED conference in London.

“Teachers are frequently research illiterate, and who can blame them? They have neither the time nor the training,” says Bennett. “The aim of researchED is to help get the best research into the classrooms that need it the most. It aims to professionalise teaching from the ground up and inoculate teachers against the bad research that is out there."

Quite how teachers become more savvy about the studies that dictate how they teach, and how they generate some studies of their own, is a matter of much debate. But in the 5 September issue of TES, David James, director of educational enterprises at Wellington College, offers what he hopes will be a blueprint for schools to follow.

“School-based educational research poses some of the most fundamental questions that can be asked of a teacher: how do we know that what we are teaching is actually having a beneficial effect on our students? Where is the evidence? And, if there is evidence, how transferable and testable is it?” writes James.

He offers ten steps for school leaders to follow in order to provide the best environment for these questions to be answered. Perhaps the most crucial is to appoint a head of research.

“Ideally this person will have a background in research, having completed a further degree in research methods,” writes James. “Failing that, a current member of staff should be appointed and encouraged to apply to do such a course: gaining a deep understanding of pedagogy and methodologies is fundamental to the role. The post holder should also be a teacher and one who knows how schools work, how teachers teach and how children learn.”

The head of research should “filter and make accessible important research for colleagues”, writes James, “and it should be easily swallowed and done so regularly.”

The aim, says James, is to make teaching truly professional.

“In the future it is hoped that teachers will have a very active engagement with the latest research that informs not only what they teach, but also how and why they teach it. In doing so, there is a chance that teachers and schools can begin to develop new and highly-relevant pedagogies that have been tested from their inception in schools. If we achieve this then our job will have become truly professionalised.”

Read the full article by David James in the 5 September edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

researchED is a research conference being held in London on 6 September. Partnered with the TES, it will feature sessions including Ofsted’s Michael Cladingbowl and Sean Harford interviewed by edu-blogger Andrew Old and Dylan Wiliam discussing why teaching will never be a research-based profession, and why that’s a good thing.


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