Research for Teachers? Whatever will they think of next?!

Throughout the past 9 months as a flipped learning educator, I have been asked, “it sounds great, but does it work?”  My answer, usually just managing to sidestep the pedantic “define work?”, has been so far quite vague.  I will refrain from blaming the question, because as teachers we know what this means generally…does the flipped classroom ‘raise attainment’?  Well, it hasn’t lowered it, thanks Ken for the witty repartee!

I have mentioned in the past, and on Radio Edutalk, that as teachers, we care.  We do not want to change for changes sake, we want to know that the effort that we put in on a daily basis for young people will yield results for them.  Yet the puzzling thing about all of this is…is that we rely on someone else to tell us what works, what will have an effect on learning, engagement, attainment, results?!  The mere mention of finding out for yourself has not yet taken hold in the majority of practitioners minds…yet.

Think of it like this…you go to the doctors, feeling stressed and run-down.  the doctor breaks out this:

blood letting!

It’s a ‘scarifier’ from around 1810 or so, and the doc casually mentions that the treatment is blood letting!  You do this…

daffy hole in wall

Ok, so you don’t turn into Daffy Duck, but my point is that research has led good doctors away from centuries old practice and towards new, increasingly evidence based practice.  Doctors are obliged to keep up with current research and be reactive to it and, ‘Big Pharma’ interference aside, do so for the good of their patients.  Can we, as teachers, say we’ve come so far from the blood letting days of old?

We want to certainly.  I’m just not sure that we know the way yet.  It was my pleasure to attend the Into the Light Conference and hear Marilyn Cochrane Smith (can’t sum up without rampant hyperbole!) , the GTCS’s own Tom Hamilton  and Pat Thomson (read her blog, but please come back to mine…one day!) discuss the way forward with this issue.

Research/Enquiry or whatever label you give it, is the process of practitioners developing their critical faculties.  Often what we are told to do in teaching, we kind of just do it…think VAK, Traffic Lights or Phonics.  That is not to say that these techniques and principles do not have value, it’s just that as teachers, we don’t ask, we deliver.  This is borne of course, out of the desire not to appear cynical, but we must distinguish cynicism from constructive criticism so that we can weed out the “Snake Oil Salesman” (hat tip to Tom Hamilton for that one!) and focus on the valuable and beneficial research evidence that is increasingly more accessible to Scotland’s teachers.

I refer of course to the access to over 1700 research journals and 28 eBooks that is now provided here by GTCS.   Access to this information from a central source is a massive leap forward in terms of the ease that a teacher can get their chalk stained hands (somewhat outdated imagery perhaps, but smart-boards don’t really stain!) on a piece of quality research.  Follow me on twitter for more information as I will retweet profusely or search #gtcsPL for updated information, research focussed chats etc.

The big question, the elephant in the room and the spanner in the works of course is will teachers engage?  Aside from being a central part of our new Professional Standards in Scotland, so ‘a huv tae’ (that’s Glaswegian for mandatory!). I think that the future is very bright in this regard.  We will be able to engage on many levels, from twitter lurking to full blown PhD research, and if my experience is anything to go by, this evolution can happen quite naturally.  A focus on practitioner research is empowering, and if we as teachers can be courageous enough to find out ‘what works’ for ourselves, and crucially in partnership with the once distant world of academia, we can all have a transformative effect on the profession that we are all a part of.

My penchant for the theatrical (and the fact that I have National 5 homework to mark) leads me to end this post with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Annual Message to Congress 1/12/1862:

             “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.

As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Somewhat dramatic perhaps, but apt nevertheless….to be continued.





2 thoughts on “Research for Teachers? Whatever will they think of next?!

  1. Brandon Dorman says:

    Great thoughts Craig. The main reason I would consider a doctorate (more likely: EdD) would be to do more research! I wonder: how can even action research be fit and molded into everyday teaching activities? Hmm. I think I just had an idea for something else…

    I love this quote: “A focus on practitioner research is empowering, and if we as teachers can be courageous enough to find out ‘what works’ for ourselves, and crucially in partnership with the once distant world of academia”

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