Surf the Net to find most valid theories

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Jack Whitehead, lecturer in education at the University of Bath and former president of the British Educational Research Association: My contribution to the debate over research priorities is in the form of a challenge to school and university teachers and researchers and the Teacher Training Agency: show me more valid educational theories than those on the action research homepage at Internet address: http:www.bath.ac.ukedsajw For 20 years I have maintained that educational researchers and the funding agencies must create educational theories which can explain the processes of improving education within schools in practical terms.

I am thinking of the educational theories created by practitioners as they describe their own educational development, having first asked such questions as: How do I improve what I am doing? And how do I help you to improve your learning?

Kevin Eames, head of English at Wootton Bassett School, Wiltshire, graduated from Bath University with his PhD on teaching, educational action research and professional knowledge, only last month and Moyra Evans, deputy head of Denbigh School, Milton Keynes, will graduate with her PhD from Kingston Univrsity early in 1997.

Kevin Eames's afterword explains why much of the knowledge about teaching, which is created by university reseachers, is of little use to teachers. Moyra Evans's chapter on "Creating my own living educational theory" shows the differences between the theorising of many university researchers who are studying teaching (but not their own) and the theorising of teachers who are researching their own teaching with the aim of improving the quality of their pupils' learning.

My challenge to my colleagues and the funding agencies is to test my claim that these two PhD theses contain the most valid views of educational theory available at present. If my claim is valid, then we should be campaigning for increased funds to enable practitioners to carry out research that will enable them to improve their practice and create their own living educational theories which can be directly related to the processes of improving the quality of pupils' learning.

Comparing the contents of the action research homepage with the Teacher Training Agency's homepages will also allow TES readers to compare the evidence from the research conducted over the next five months by the 33 teachers receiving grants from the TTA with the evidence from the teacher-researchers supported over the past 10 years through partnerships between university and school teachers and researchers associated with the Universities of Bath and Kingston.

I believe that the TTA has much to learn from this latter research.

Kevin Eames's PhD thesis can be downloaded from the Internet to an Apple Mac, into Microsoft Word. Moyra Evans's PhD thesis can be downloaded to any PC or an Apple Mac directly to Word.

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