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Teachers talking about teaching: creating a research culture in school

Every since hearing Sir Tim Brighouse talk whilst I was a 21st Century Learning Alliance Fellow (read the report from 2010), I've seen the importance of teachers talking to teachers about teaching. I prefer to think of this as a campfire situation because, as an outdoor instructor, we used to evaluate the day around the stove with a brew in hand.

Coupled with this, whilst the value of educational research is not in question, it is quite often inaccessible to teachers.  The studies can be vague or too focused on a small scale development.  the buzzwords (growth mindset, GRIT, metacognition) are easy to use, but the underlying practice can be difficult to unpick.

This is why we created research bursars with the twin aim or translating research into practice within our own context whilst championing the process of action research and engagement with academic literature.

First, I would encourage you to read through what our 2014_15 team developed:

The selection process was straight forward.  As accelerating the progress of Pupil Premium students was a school priority, staff were invited to submit a research proposal. The scope was pitched as a classroom based investigation, rather than an MA write up.  We asked staff to cover the following points:

  • What research would they be investigating? This was limited to the Sutton Trust toolkit.
  • Use existing school data to identify an issue that could be solved, with a clear focus upon accelerating the progress of PP students.
  • A plan of how the research would be translated into clear guidelines for other staff to follow.
The team were given a tight expectation and coaching from our external coach to support them. Otherwise, the direction and process was very much up to them.

The findings were very interesting, and I spoke about some of these:

We are really pleased with the outcome and the next bunch of bursars have bene identified, this year focussing around attendance.  In summary:

  • Bursaries were paid as a TLR 3 from Pupil Premium Funds.
  • During the first year, impact was limited to a few classrooms so this year we asked applicants to explain how they would impact either a whole department or year group, in other words how will the project be scaled up?
  • The findings of the project have been invaluable in decided where to focus PP spending and intervention this year - with added investment in what works at a wider scale.  
  • Research should be shared and feed into and influence school-wide policy.  Otherwise it is a pointless exercise.
  • Spend a lot of time developing the focus, key groups and deciding how impact will be measured.

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