I provoked some minor debate with my Research Home Guard post, suggesting that ‘research ayatollahs’ ought to be more relaxed when more practitioner researchers commandeer their favourite R-word. My point is basic: if I want my colleagues to engage with research, they need to have some experience of also being engaged in it.
What does that mean? Engaging with research is more than just clicking on twitter, or scouting around the EEF site – though I would do nothing to discourage either activity. To be properly engaged with implies that I can read the findings critically, that I can ask questions about validity, that I have an appreciation of methodology. It also means that I don’t let go of my own professional judgement: I may catch some shining new insight escaping out of an academic hole, but I also have long years of my own experience to call upon. In short, if I am to understand what I am reading, I need also to understand how the knowledge was put together. And that is where school-based, action/practitioner enquiry comes in. Done well (and – I owe – it can sometimes be done badly), it can be systematic and rigorous. All I know about evidence-collection, I have learned from doing it and from guiding others to do it. Action researchers learn by doing. In other words, they can read other stuff because they have had to write their own.
This map arose out of a survey conducted among my staff, compiled by David Godfrey at UCL-IOE. It revealed that, although I was at the centre of much of what my colleagues perceived as the school’s research culture, I was not alone: our Lead Teacher team was vital to the wider dissemination of ‘what we know’. I wanted to build upon, and to further democratise, this distribution. So, as my homework for the Leading Evidence Informed Practice in Schools course (led by David and Karen Spence-Thomas at UCL-IOE), I proposed the creation of volunteer Research Co-ordinator posts at my school. With the green light from SLT, I advertised and successfully recruited two colleagues who had recently completed excellent school-based MAs with me. (See here.) They are @louleggo7 (our head of Psychology) and @DSaunders1106 (a PE teacher). With @BTerziyski, we have now completed our first meeting. They have taken on a lot, and I need to reconsider the ‘volunteer’ aspect of their job title. As their work proceeds I, and they, will report further. But, for now, here are our plans:
|To increase staff engagement with research||· DS and LL will start ‘research reading’ groups (name tbd), convening possibly on a monthly basis to share thoughts on a piece of recently published research. This could be something with a controversial edge, or an enquiry conducted by a colleague at Chace.
· DS and LL to publish a termly ‘research digest’ (name tbd): either synthesised by them, or ‘found’ elsewhere. This will be placed on our ChacePD website, and flagged in the staff bulletin.
· Either as well as, or instead of, the above DS and LL will compile a booklet of research which will underpin our Development Time focus. E.g. pieces on resilience, growth mindset, collaboration, independence.
· LL and DS will contribute to short School Briefing slots on research into pedagogy, school leadership and the educational system.
|To increase the Research Coordinators personal effectiveness.||DS and LL will continue to pursue their own research interests (and through this contribute to School Briefing, as described above.)
Through twitter, blogs and publications they will enhance their skills in data collection, and their appreciation of how best to engage a school in and with research. Among the commentators and academics they will familiarise themselves with: Chris Brown, Louise Stoll, Gary Jones, Alex Quigley, Tom Sherrington.
|To support internal research and review||· RCs will conduct a review of the impacts of MDT. They will design their evidence-gathering methods at the outset and measure progress towards desired outcomes.
· RCs are keen to work with one or two middle leaders as they write and review their improvement plans. Enquiry questions such as: What do I need to focus on? What might success in this area look like? What evidence can I gather against this? What is my current position? What does research – and my experience – tell me might work? Therefore, what will I do?
· Assist with the construction of enquiry questions when SLT are conducting reviews and learning walks.
· To respond to ‘commissions’ from SLT for research findings into areas, on an ad hoc basis.
· Work with NQTs on one action enquiry across their induction year.
|To impact on teaching and learning, and on school culture.||LL and DS are keen to implement next steps from their MA enquiries. They will explore opportunities to work further with interested departments.|
|To create a repository of items of research interest.||MQ, CLTs and RCs are increasingly sharing insights and thinkpieces from twitter, blogs and online publications, which we need to store more efficiently.
We will share using the #ChacePD hashtag, so our PD website can maintain items on its timeline.
MQ and BT will create space – and place interesting items – on the ChacePD site, under the Research Enquiry at Chace heading.
|To support the RC team.||Request that MQ and the RC team have a timetable free together, to meet to plan and review work.
MQ to enquire as to how now to remunerate RCs (via TLR or time), as their input could be substantial.