Research issue is worrying

5th September 2008 at 01:00

I found Brian Boyd's comments on research in teacher education faculties (August 22) worrying.

It may be the case that excellent former teachers feel marginalised by the increased expectation that they will become research-active lecturers. But why would one wish to lecture in higher education if not to take advantage of the greater opportunities to develop research expertise and to apply it?

There are many genres of research and presumably action research would not be the kind read only by a few specialists: that is an area in which some groups of former school teachers could specialise, making a practical impact which would be valued.

Several interpretations are possible to explain why a significant proportion of teacher education academics are at times hostile to research. One is that they are aware of the risks associated with the pressures of publishing and peer review. Doing research means one could spend weeks on a study only to have it rejected after it is submitted.

Building boundaries of time around research activity is more complex than in teaching classes, and often researchers discover it is a "lifestyle" choice, not one which allows them to draw manageable boundaries to give themselves space for family, friends and interests.

The logical conclusion of Professor Boyd's view is that teacher education is undertaken in schools with excellent teachers as mentors. Teacher education does take place mainly in schools in many parts of England, so it is possible. But it can produce a culture of local conformity, and stifle intellectual questioning and innovation.

While university lecturers are having their autonomy reduced, they are privileged compared with school staff to publish and debate more freely without having to seek approval from a manager. Any initiative which could disconnect the education of teachers from a wider set of intellectual and social networks would damage their professionalism.

Chris Holligan, senior lecturer, School of Education, University of the West of Scotland.

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