Plenty of research is relevant

26th September 1997 at 01:00
So Alan Smithers believes that most research is a "desperate waste of time" because it fails to tackle the real issues facing teachers (TES, September 12). On what evidence was this claim based? A few carefully-selected titles of articles in academic journals that are presumed to prove a lack of intrinsic value (example: "Between postmodernism and nowhere: the predicament of the postmodernist").

It is a relatively simple matter to select a few titles and spin a story of ivory towers and second-rate philosophers around them, though this hardly constitutes a rigorous method of evaluation. A more serious attempt to consider the worth of educational research might look at the ways in which the products of research are drawn upon, by teachers and others, as well as a review of the types of publications reported across an appropriate selection of journals.

The function of some journals is to provide a vehicle of communication and criticism within research communities, whereas others are designed to provide an interface between researchers and practitioners.

Professor Smithers could have learned much by listening to the presentations of his co-speakers at the British Association Annual Festival of Science. Christine Harrison of King's College, London, spoke about the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Project, showing evidence of whole-school improvements in GCSE scores following participation in research-based curriculum reform, and Philippa Cordingley of the Teacher Training Agency described how research findings are consulted in the formulation of policy.

It is surprising to see such sweeping and unsustained conclusions being drawn by someone who argues that the only educational research of any value is quantitative information gathering to inform policy.

DR JOHN LEACH

Centre for studies in science and mathematics education School of Education The University of Leeds

Leeds

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