One thing that has always baffled me is how school leaders have marginalised staff involved in research or practitioner inquiry. If a teacher wants to do an MA or PhD in an area related to their own professional development, they are often given little or no financial or time support. Certainly research has not been a central part of the mission of being a classroom teacher, it has in effect been seen as an expensive hobby.
Many teachers I’ve spoken to have essentially felt like rogue agents, “pale students of unhallowed arts” wielding dangerous knowledge. Their work is not aligned with a whole school focus and very little of it is even linked with their own professional development.
How many senior leadership meetings features the phrase “What does the research say?” or even taken the position that it might be something useful? In my experience many younger staff who want to do research are not sure exactly what it is they want to research but just want to improve and be more reflective about their practice. Why aren’t school leaders harnessing that kind of enthusiasm towards whole school improvement?
In order to maximise the impact of school led research we need to move towards a model where there is a common focus of inquiry that has many stakeholders One way of doing that is to:
- – Establish an issue to be solved that is aligned with whole school vision.
- – work with HEI to survey the literature around this area and help design methodologically robust approaches.
- – Opportunities given for practitioner research embedded across all departments/faculties not just a self-selected few.
- – Involve the student body with this focus using student journal clubs.
- – Establish a Research Centre to act as a conduit.
- – Build in time for staff to conduct research and disseminate findings.
If we are going to maximise the impact of research in schools then it needs to be more than a clandestine bunch of mavericks practicing some kind of weird alchemy that no-one even understands (especially themselves.)
Opportunities need to be given for practitioner-led research that is aligned with a clearly defined whole school vision of improvement, that is well communicated and where all staff feel they can have an impact.