Theres been a groundswell in the past decade of teachers becoming more research informed. This has been evident in the creation of organisations such as pedagoo and researchEd. Pedagoo is a large community of teachers which aims to support and encourage teachers working collaboratively to improve teaching and learning. They have organised grassroots events called TeachMeets where teachers can go along in their own time and share best practice in the form of learner conversations where they discuss pedagogical approaches and what works for them in their context. It has grown from a simple idea to connect Teachers to what it is today. If you are on twitter I would highly recommend reading through and perhaps sharing your own #pedagoofriday, which was created for teachers to share their highlights. It is a great read on a Friday evening.
ResearchEd is another growing grassroots organisation. It was created by chance in 2013 by Tom Bennett and is now growing to have events worldwide. Their mission to explore work works and raise research literacy through bringing people together has been a key to the event growing. I have just purchased my ticket for their event held in Glasgow in February 2020, I can’t wait to hear some excellent people speak about their research and how this will then translate into my own classroom.
For a while now I have been wondering how much of what I do in my teaching practice is because someone somewhere said it would be good to try and how much of what I do is backed by meaningful research so I have engaged with organisations like Pedagoo & ResearchEd to help get some answers to my question. Is what I do day to day what actually works for improving the outcomes for young people? So I have sought to become research informed but what does this mean to be a research informed practitioner?
As Mark Enser wrote in 2017, teachers should engage with research to tackle through all the misinformation that we are given, but what is the misinformation and how do we know? An example of this is that of Learning Styles, this was used for a number of years to help differentiate in classrooms for Audio, Visual & Kinaesthetic learners but this has since been debunked by research. Do you still use learning styles? it is maybe worth looking at the research to see for yourself, after all in a profession like Teaching shouldn’t we be at the cutting edge of research if we really want to be efficient, effective and high performing in our classrooms.
How do we become research informed practitioners? our time is precious and also limited with workload being a key feature of almost every discussion in education. Earlier this year the OECD published ‘Education at a Glance’ and they highlighted that teachers in Scotland have the biggest teacher contact time with young people in the developed world. So time really is an issue for most and with so many priorities (marking, meetings, SQA deadlines, coursework, reporting) it is difficult to find the right amount of time to sift through research, so are there easy ways to engage with research that are quick, easily digestible and can translate into making an effective change in my practice.
A quick and easy way to engage with research is by joining twitter. The online community of teachers sharing their practice, offering up research, practitioner enquiry and simply asking challenging questions of one another is growing daily. If you join twitter I can offer up some useful tips that can get you started.
- Use your own name or a professional name depending on whether you want to make your profile private or not
- Choose education as a topic to follow
- Follow as much people as you’d like (you can always unfollow them). I would recommend the following to start with: @teachertoolkit, @teacherhead, @researched, @UKedreschat, @AceThatTest, @DavidDidau & @ImpactWales
- You can follow hashtags (#) to join in or just follow along with a conversation: I would recommend the following to get started with: #pedagoofriday, #LrnSciChat, #2ndaryrocks, #PrimaryRocks, #NQTChat, #ScotEdChat & #UkEdChat
There is also an excellent guide by Erin Miller to getting started with twitter here.
Another way to become more research informed is by reading books. I love to read and have really built a good habit of reading. I set a target of 10 pages a day minimum for an education book to help me master my craft. If you like to read there are a plethora of excellent books out there that can make an impact on your teaching practice. So much so that it is worth a blog post on its own. However to get started I would recommend the following books.
- The Learning Rainforest by Tom Sherrington
- Just Great Teaching by @TeacherToolkit, Ross Morrison McGill
- Teach Like Nobody is Watching by Mark Enser
- Oops! Helping Children Accidentally Learn by Hywel Roberts
If you want to go further with books and book recommendations I would encourage you to read this blog by @87History Kate Jones on her Love to Teach blog.
There are a range of websites out there that are run by educational researchers. These sites are filled with strategies and research that are proven to work in classrooms. The best websites for me are the following.
A final recommendation to becoming research informed is to engage with your own action research. This can be as big or as small as you would like. Some local authorities in Scotland offer practitioner enquire courses which helps you focus on one or two things to investigate and improve in your classroom. It is important with any research you do that you prioritise the impact on young people. A basic structure to conducting action research in your classrooms can be found here in a blog post by @TeacherToolkit. He breaks it down simply for the reader and things of action research in as four point.
- Ask – what do you want to investigate? What types of evidence can you gather?
- Investigate – What types of evidence are available? How do we best investigate our practice without impacting too much on workload
- Innovate – What tentative claims can you make once you have tried new ideas and gathered evidence? What is working and what isn’t? Is the evidence reliable?
- Reflect – What did you learn about your practice? What do yo now know? What can you celebrate and share with your colleagues.
Ross articulates it much better than I do in his own blog. I would recommend you read that if you are interested in action research.
Becoming a research informed teacher isn’t as time consuming as you think and starting with as little as 15-30 minutes a day will build your knowledge quickly. Whatever you read or see it is important to consider whether it will work in your context and if you would be willing to put the time into investigating whether it works for you. Collaborating with colleagues is an excellent way to do this and some schools have some excellent examples of working groups and book clubs. I have recently been reading ‘Research-Informed Practice’ by Jennifer Ludgate and it would be an excellent addition to your own and your schools CPD Library.
I hope you do engage with research as I believe that in doing so we can only become more effective and efficient teachers who become masters of our craft, which will improve outcomes for our young people as the better we become as teachers the better it will be for the students in our classes.