Guest Post: Jennie Richards
Many thanks to Jennie, our SUPER Emeritus ‘teacher research lead’, for the following summary of the key ideas generated at the recent Research Leads Network Symposium hosted by SUPER on 7th March 2017 (see our previous two blogposts for more information, presentations slides etc.) Thanks also to all symposium participants for your contributions to the ongoing discussion and debate . . .
What tools can be used to create and sustain teacher practitioner enquiry networks and partnerships?
At the individual school level
- The need to develop a deep and sustainable research culture (at governor, leadership and staff levels) was seen as key, but also challenging. The following suggestions were given as potential tools:
- Recognition of the need to change and improve practice based on evidence based knowledge through Teaching and Learning groups.
- Integrating enquiry into performance management.
- Encouraging leadership structures and formalised support for groups to be involved in research.
- Auditing and building on existing expertise in the school.
- Offering time and possibly money incentives to engage with research (bursaries, Masters etc.)
- Valuing, acknowledging and rewarding research efforts.
- Finding ways to make academic literature more accessible. Research should inform as well as engage teachers. Developing opportunities to share and publish findings in practical ways which impact on teaching in the classroom.
- Encouraging openness, trust, confidence.
- Offering methodological support.
- Knowing the appropriate time to launch and build momentum.
- Mapping research interests across the school.
- Involving parents and students wherever possible (modelling processes).
- Creating informal and formal opportunities to share information in a variety of ways, e.g. posters, blogs, journals
- Encouraging critical debate about evidence and impact
At the research network level
- Creating the network with appropriate structures to support and sustain involvement.
- Mapping research interests across the network to find common areas and problems to be addressed
- Regular meetings of Research Leads from each participant
- Celebratory information events/conferences
- Recognising the need for shared communication and archiving structures.
- Aligning the priorities and values of the members of the partnership.
- Building non-hierarchical, non-competitive but inclusive, collaborative and trusting relationships.
- Creating the ability to contextualise research to individual school s.
- Developing robust, shared research knowledge and tools.
- Developing good impact and evaluation tools.
- Recognising problems and issues and sharing potential solutions.
- Joint generation and publication of research findings
At the university/schools network level
- Universities have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can be shared with schools in collaborative networks
- Universities have access to methodological tools and knowledge of previous research which is invaluable to schools.
- Research capacity within schools can be built through university programmes e.g. Masters, and also providing specific training.
- Schools and universities learn from each other in a multitude of ways – it is symbiotic.
- Universities can ensure research rigour and critical evaluation.
- Creating joint research projects to move beyond the case study approach.
- Universities can support applications for research funding.
Some final thoughts
- In an age of austerity, how can funding for practitioner research be ensured?
- Research empowers teachers – they are hungry to learn more. Teachers love learning!
- All teachers are graduates and have some initial teacher training involved in research – this can be built upon.
- Should all schools be formally linked/partnered with universities?
The power of the collective should be recognised, supported and celebrated!