Book club finds research project unputdownable

8th July 2011 at 01:00

An Edinburgh primary's research project started as a small book club and mushroomed into a whole school collaboration, transforming teaching practice as it gained momentum, a UK conference will hear tomorrow.

Rehana Shanks, depute head at Dean Park Primary, started the project with six teachers. Three months on, 27 teachers had joined, observing others' lessons, meeting regularly, and thinking deeply about their own practice.

"The school was being transformed by the leadership of teachers as a collaborative empowered group of practising professionals," says Mrs Shanks's research paper, Educational Leadership in an Age of Globalisation.

The project began towards the end of 2009 as an academic book group for teachers where they read and discussed research and policy documents relevant to their work. Mrs Shanks realised it would be useful for staff to work together to improve their practice, and to see what was going on in other schools, which led to an "action research" project.

Other staff became more interested as the original teachers took more responsibility for the research; by February 2010, two-and-a-half months after the project started, a study group was over-subscribed and attended by 30 people - all but two of the school's teaching staff.

Two months later, in April, nine "reflective practice groups" and 27 members of staff were leading projects. All chosen by staff, they covered: collaborative learning, reciprocal reading, reading games, maths games, visualising and verbalising, and self-evaluation.

The paper explains: "The teacher models the lesson for their colleague. They team-teach by planning together the second lesson. The colleague independently plans and teaches the third. Both evaluate the experience and save it to their reflective record. Workshops based around development of skills were set up and tried out during departmental meetings, led by staff members and evaluated together."

Mrs Shanks believes it will be possible to expand such approaches to involve teachers across Scotland and beyond, using Glow and other online communities, to "open up learning on a global stage".

She will present her paper at the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society's annual conference near Cambridge, which takes place this weekend.

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