Saturday, 5 April 2014

Research and Education - from the point of view of a slightly rubbish teacher

Thanks to Mary Whitehouse I was able to go to the first Research Ed conference in September, and due to some encouragement from @Arakwai I have just come back from the regional event in Birmingham.

As a classroom teacher I haven't been able to take anything from the conferences that I can use in the classroom. So why go? And why go a second time if I didn't think that the first time was relevant to me?

I am curious about the link between research and education. To me there seems to be lot of information out there for teachers to use to help them teach better/differently, but is any of it any good? There are a lot of books by teachers, for teachers, but are any of them based on evidence or just anecdote? Does it matter?

After Brain Gym (which I never did in my own classroom) and Learning Styles (which I was always sceptical of) I am never entirely sure if I can trust anything that comes my way. I wonder to myself what good research looks like and how I can find it. I wonder if through the research Ed conferences  I might come across teaching methods that will help me and my students.

On top of being sceptical about research, I also find it unapproachable. "Direct Instruction" is the latest twitter/blogger buzz phrase. Those that use it seem to know what it means, I am not so sure I do. "Progressive Education", "Constructivist", "Meta-Cognition", etc etc. I saw Tim Oates talk about assessment at the ASE conference, I understood very little of what he said, only those used to the academic talk of assessment were able to follow him. As a scientists I understand the necessity of using technical language that describes exactly what you mean, however the in-context interpretation of the uninitiated could lead to misinterpretation.

I was interested in the session by Joe Hallgarten, who was looking at the relationship between teachers and research. Some of the guiding principles for resarch-rich, self-improvng education systems he showed us were that teaching should be informed by the latest research and teachers should be research literate. I agree with all of this, but how do I get 'research literate'? I can't understand the language, I don't know where to look to find reliable research and what if I don't like what I read or can't change my practice enough to take it on board anyway?

I am always wary of research; I have seen some practices that I would consider to be dubious when teachers have been involved in their masters projects. I have carried out deliberate changes to my practice as a result of some external CPD, and I am not sure if what I did had any impact.

I wonder if Research Ed can help with any of this? How can a teacher carry out a research project in their own school? How can teachers get access to sound research? If they do some research, how do they share it? How do we ask for funding to carry out research? How do we motivate ourselves to continue with changes in practice? What research is going on at the moment into teaching and learning and what can we learn from it?

Then again, I think that showing researchers that teachers are interested in what they are doing can only be positive. That having teachers feeling that they should, and in some cases must, engage with research can only be a good thing. That having the DfE engaged could help to move our 'profession' forward. I also got the impression that the word stills needs to be spread that it is important those who work in schools become engaged with research and Research Ed can only help to do that as word spreads.

I don't have an intention to go to Research Ed in September, I will hopefully be newly married and should spend some time with the husband. I will also have done ASE conference, two teachmeets, pedagoo south west, York tweet up, Wellington Festival of Education and ASE west conference as well as Research Ed Midlands and I think that is all I can spare.

In the mean time, I will take my research distilled by the School Science Review Journal, and by books like 'Good Practice in Science Teaching, what research has to say', 'Making Sense of Secondary Science', 'Evidence based teaching'. And luckily for me I have access to people who can help me understand the implementation of the ideas in these books too.

Thanks to Tom, Helene and the staff of John Henry Newman Catholic College for Research Ed Midlands. All of it was interesting and nothing I experienced was not worth it. A very positive day.

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