Research plagued by self-congratulation

19th July 1996 at 01:00
Hurray for David Hargreaves! How invigorating to feel the fresh air of intellectual integrity blowing through the comfortable, self-congratulatory climes of educational research. I am celebrating "A cosy world of trivial pursuits?" (TES, June 28), in which you quote Professor Hargreaves's criticism of "frankly second-rate educational research which does not make a serious contribution to fundamental theory or knowledge, which is irrelevant to practice and which is unco-ordinated with any preceding or follow-up research".

I was amused to read a defence by Caroline Gipps (TES, July 5) in which she ascribed to researchers credit for what she calls the "breakthroughs" in assessment associated with records of achievement. I led the Inner London Education Authority team that co-ordinated the authority's development work on the London Record of Achievement. We were in no doubt that the development was powered by inner London's teachers. We felt privileged to work with them and proud that they made sure this initiative was implemented right across London for all students in the 11-19 age range.

Our work was evaluated by a national team of educational researchers, by the authority and by Her Majesty's Inspectors. Suffice to say that I have yet to find anyone else who has actually read the voluminous tomes that came out of the national evaluation. These volumes reflected the preconceived notions of the authors and betrayed a failure to read the carefully prepared reports of what teachers and students were actually doing in schools.

HMIs, on the other hand, spent their time in classrooms looking at the effects of our efforts on the way students learned, and we learned a great deal from the rigour and accuracy of their observations.

J E KEARNS Sunningdale Main Street Peasmarsh, near Rye East Sussex

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