A new kind of culture

7th April 2000 at 01:00
Cambridge Regional College created a research culture by encouraging its teaching staff to think about research and development in the broadest sense. Ann Limb, the principal, says: "We made an explicit policy statement with a commitment to developing research in FE, led by me." Remarkable progress has been made in just 18 months.

A seminar on research in post-16 education revealed that colleges needed a different kind of approach from higher education, with a very different concept and methodology.

"For instance, in FE you can't have pretensions to becoming a research establishment," says Ms Limb. The college staff also realised that it had to be aimed at improving teaching and learning. "University research into FE is useful, but we needed to develop something by FE practitioners."

A research steering group was created to shape a strategy that would implement and support projects across the college. Staff interested in research were were invited to join a peer support group. This was christened a "research cadre". Tim Smithson, a college manager who had done doctoral research, was appointed head of research.

"Immediately, an amazing amount of individual staff undertook a whole range of research projects, from completing their PhDs to undertakingtheir own investigations for the fun of it," says Ann Limb.

The cadre then devised a framework of research styles: strategic (commissioned by senior management), college-based (commissioned by departments) and personal (undertaken by individuals).

A research week and lunchtime seminars were organised to discuss investigations into topics such as bullying in primary schools.

Tim Smithson says that establishing a democratic culture of research can "engender a community of peers that transcends the traditional line-management structure". It can improve college decision-taking. Bids for government "partnership" cash have also been more successful, including a bid to the Department for Education and Employment for a major project on key skills.

"This is a very good example of FE research and partnership," says Ann Limb. "In FE, we have the practical knowledge of key skills, but not the time to do research, while the university has the time but not the practical knowledge."

She has persuaded two Cambridge colleges to give fellowships: a term's paid sabbatical, to FE researchers. This is part of a strategic policy to break down barriers between the sectors. "What we've done, other colleges could do with their local university," she says.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now