DIY work more satisfying

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Professor David Hargreaves's assertion that educational research is irrelevant to practice and unco-ordinated in follow-up (TES, June 28) ignores practitioner research in schools such as mine. Denbigh School in Milton Keynes has been working in partnership with Kingston University for five years to develop a community of teacher-researchers.

As part of our staff-development programme, teachers can enrol for a postgraduate diploma and are encouraged to raise their own research questions from the school development plan. The diploma has been accredited by Kingston University since 1994, and from this month we are also offering a Masters programme which is open to teachers in neighbouring schools.

Ownership of their own learning is a very motivating factor in teacher research; and because teachers select areas of their work which they want to improve, their research is entirely relevant to their everyday teaching or management roles. They are supported by each other, their school-based tutor, the university and the culture of the school. This form of emotional group support makes an important contribution to the success of the initiative.

Most of the research enquiries begin with the question "How can I improve what is happening here?", and over the years the topics have included: improving the teaching of personal, social and health education; managing departmental and tutor teams more effectively; improving teaching and learning methodology in English, sociology and modern languages; improving personal organisation skills; developing group-work skills in sixth-form discussions; and improving the evaluation of careers lessons. One of our teachers, Helen Morgan, has gone on to get a Masters and is receiving TTA funding to investigate how to increase motivation among sixth-formers (see table).

This is the kind of research teachers are interested in and which will change and develop teaching and learning in schools. That teachers want to share such practitioner research is evidenced by the large number of them who spent a Saturday in July at Kingston University at a conference organised by Pamela Lomax, professor of educational research. Teachers from this country and overseas shared their work and listened and challenged each other in lively debate about how to improve teaching and learning.

There is a world of difference between being able to acknowledge a list of characteristics of "the good teacher" and being able to help people to become good teachers or even to become one oneself. Perhaps funding could be directed towards these teachers who, by investigating their practice with the support of other professionals from higher education, are really helping to raise educational standards?

My own action research into my work as a deputy head is described in my PhD and can be accessed on the Internet at http:www.bath.ac.ukedsajwlomax.

Moyra Evans is deputy head of Denbigh School, Milton Keynes, Bucks.

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