Session 302: How can educational research have an impact on modern day teaching practice?

Thursday 12th May 2016 - With @UKEdChat

The main question for this session explored, “How educational research have an impact on modern day teaching practice?”, with a lot of relevant, interesting and influential research hidden behind pay walls – inaccessible to the majority of teachers. Another obstacle is time – with practising teachers not having a lot of time to explore educational research issues that resonate with them, or their school.

The session asked:

  1. What is the most relevant educational research that has impacted on your teaching?
  2. How can schools ensure that teachers are given access to relevant research?
  3. What barriers have you encountered for acting on research in your own school or classroom?
  4. What are the key research skills that teachers need to create a meaningful research study?
  5. What are the best ways to access to research? eg journals, conferences, summaries online…
  6. If you were given the freedom, what area of classroom research would you explore? Why?

Summary:

Q1: – What is the most relevant educational research that has impacted on your teaching?

Sharon Smith started the ball rolling, with this response (shared over a couple of tweets), “Loads of pieces. I love Stronarch for his ideas on the ‘vocational heart’ of teachers-this is my creed, but I also feel Ball’s take on globalisation and Sir Ken Robinson’s take on creativity are enlightening pieces. He’s interesting, especially with Deborah p. Britzman-practice make practice. Link to Stronarch.

George Gilchrist commented on how, “Black and Wiliam made me reconsider my whole approach to assessment, questioning and giving feedback. Feurestein, taught me about plasticity of the brain, strategies for developing metacognition and improving learning” When pressed on how this had been used in school to impact teaching and learning, he added, “colleagues very receptive and most have embedded changes into their practice as a result”.

The session next asked, “How can schools ensure that teachers are given access to relevant research?“, with Sharon Smith arguing that, “Short pieces that are accessible-more like blogs than journals. I do this where I work. People more likely to read!”, and Mr Johnston called for, “Building efficient and open relationships with nearby universities that offer teaching”, and “I genuinely believe that practitioners (especially subject leaders) should have access to participation or establishing research”, which is a valid point, but is it realistic in schools where the focus is too much on achieving high results?

Question 3 asked about the barriers encountered for acting on research in own schools or classrooms. Nicole Brown considered, “Within own classroom and practice, none, but if wanting to put out there, existing policies may be in the way”

Benjamin White raised an interesting observation about classroom based research in that, “…too many school projects reach neat conclusions” – A valid point indeed. All research seems to have a positive conclusion, despite the gaps that may not have been attended. Using a question raised by Dylan Wiliam, Daniel Harvey pointed to a PowerPoint presentation (link here) titled, “Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a Good Thing”, but Kathryn Morgan felt that, “It’s key to have the time and trust within the school culture to ‘try’ out ideas. Without, it can become very difficult”, and Sharon Smith added, “…some feel self conscious when involved in research-participating can be perceived as opening up to criticism”.

One of the biggest obstacles was noted by George Gilchrist who argued, “The biggest barrier has been the way we have deprofessionalised and deskilled teachers, seeing them as deliverers not thinkers”

The next question asked, “What are the key research skills that teachers need to create a meaningful research study?Benjamin White felt that, “research use does require systemic support – planning time, observation, coaching, evaluation”, and David Chalk thought that, “An idea that is designed to improve student progress” and, “something that interests you first as you will be more likely to see it through, but it’s important that it will improve progress”, but the main skills were summed up by Sharon Smith who considered, “some critical theory, applying methodology, openness to receive and reflect on findings, willingness to learn.”

Mike Tyler added, “I think a good awareness of various methodologies & methods is of help. After this, data interpretation is critical.” Working closely in research in her role, Nicole Brown listed, “Methodology, methods, ethics, role of researcher, biases, how to analyse, loads to know about”

There is loads of educational research published, but the concern for the penultimate question wanted to explore, best ways to access to research? eg journals, conferences, summaries online…

Sharon Smith argued that,Many articles are published and available for free access but you can’t beat a university library!”, but again, one of the biggest challenges for teachers accessing this is time, the length of research articles (more digests required?), and pay-walls!

Australian teachers have access to the Trove, advised Mrs Burt, but Suzanne Savage pleaded, “It’s not just access to research, we need time to think & reflect about our practice & have that VALUED by the leadership”.

To conclude the session, participants were asked, “If you were given the freedom, what area of classroom research would you explore? Why?

  1. So many – the impact of a teacher’s belief on children’s progress would be my main one. (Suzanna C)
  2. Impact of different marking strategies. Hugely time consuming and high impact. Need to find most efficient method. (Mark Enser)
  3. emotional well-being support for teachers (Mr. Rai MBPsS)
  4. Currently I’m researching alternatives to traditional education practice, including online & remote teaching & learning. (Sharon Smith)
  5. Too many to nail one down. How about ‘impact of student nutrition on cognitive functioning’? (Mike Tyler)

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