Panel looks good on papers

20th July 2001 at 01:00
Kate Myers explains how a carefully selected group is ensuring teachers influence the future of education research.

We are often told how vital it is to listen to the pupil but what about the teacher?

How often do teachers get the chance to be heard by the movers and shakers in education? Members of the National Teacher Research Panel believe they may be bucking the trend by ensuring that teachers can influence the future of research.

They provide the teacher perspective on proposals for new studies and try to encourage teachers to become more involved in research work.

Set up in 1999, the panel is currently "housed" with the Teacher Training Agency but its future lies with the General Teaching Council. Its 25 members - 15 teachers and 10 specialist advisers who all work in schools - come from all over the country and all levels of schooling. One is a secondary teacher in a Forces' school in Germany. Members generally serve for 18 months and are appointed after a challenging selection process.

Jim Hines (pictured below), deputy head of John Mason school, an Oxfordshire comprehensive, is the panel's chair. In his school he co-ordinates a research group that has been running for 10 years. He believes teachers can profit by working with external researchers rather than just being the subjects of research.

He and his panel colleagues advise research funding bodies such as the Economic and Social Research Council. On more than one occasion they have pointed out that the proposed teacher involvement in a project was tokenistic.

They have also advised on the Government's Best Practice Research Scholarships (which enable teachers to do classroom-based research).

And earlier this year they organised a successful conference in London that showed how teachers can use research to improve their professional effectiveness. It attracted 400 people and a further 100 had to be turned away - rebutting the view that few teachers are interested in research.

Panel member Fiona Thomas, who teaches at Herne infants school in Kent, says that her study of French handwriting teaching - which attracted considerable media attention - transformed her career.

Like her colleagues, she believes research can re-energise teachers and help them to take charge of their professional lives. She and the other panel members are powerful exemplars of this theory.

Kate Myers is visiting professor at Homerton College, Cambridge. Further information about the panel is at www.canteach.gov.ukinfo researchpanelindex.htm

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