ResearchED: What works? Where do you start? or Best Practice, the enemy of Research

Research is a complex business, it is also sometimes an end in its own right, I was lucky enough to attend

the BERA Conference in 2013.  Which was an excellent event where I learned lots.  I was however concerned at the number of people presenting there who appeared to view that as the end of the process.  The fault in the academic game is that we as academics have become connoisseurs of the research paper, rather than consumers of the knowledge within it and with no real thought about the impact of their research in the wider community.

I am also minded of a colleague of mine in Plymouth, Peter Kelly who talked about the idea that research isn’t a thing, an object to be venerated, it is a disposition, a state of mind.

So I thought I would summarise the key items that a teacher ought to consider when considering their investment in research and taking on that researching disposition.

Working out what works is not something that teachers should expect to have done to them.  Teachers don’t need academics in order to undertake research.  academics might be able to provide short cuts to useful reading and support an ethical research process.

Taking on a research mindset:

A researching mindset is the enemy of  “GOOD PRACTICE”.  Take classroom display, for example,  every body knows it’s good practice and works really well, don’t they? Except there is little or no research to verify that.

READ – The body of knowledge in Educational Research is HUGE, there is no point in reinventing the wheel.  There is also much to be learned by studying the way that others have undertaken research.  A researcher knows their field.  Try Ben’s Journal Club in school.

BE FORENSIC – Are you digging into the provenance (via Stephen Lockyer) of the research you do read, whilst journals are expensive, it does validate the credibility of the research and reassure the reader that some peers have kicked it to pieces (with love).

ASK A DECENT QUESTION: one that will deliver decent data that can be compared and analysed.  ( correction via Oliver Quinlan) Then check that your research design will actually answers the question.

PLAN & THINK ETHICALLY & SUSTAINABLY –  Consider how you will go about metatagging children’s learning      How are you curating your data that will enable you to interrogate it.  BUT think about how to do it ethically, without compromising the rights of the child.  I just had this discussion about the splendid trial that John Tomsett recently undertook with his English team.  How do you justify to a parent that their kid is in the control group.

NETWORK – Adopt Ben’s concept of joining a trials network to provide a more robust and broad ranging data set.

CRITICAL REVIEW –  The least appreciated but most enjoyable part of being an academic is the joust of defending your research.  People confuse argument with confrontation.  Seek people to give you robust feedback, to interrogate your ideas and respectfully kick it to pieces.  This is, in my opinion, not the same as coaching, it is by nature more adversarial.

REPORT & SHARE –  Blog, don’t bury it in a Journal.  There is however a problem in the way academics are rewarded in many institutions, who are unable to process the impact of an academic’s blog or other writing and focus entirely on the number of 4* or 5* that are written. We need a bit of constructive alignment.

ACT – The action might be to reject the idea, it might be to embrace it as a whole school.  If your research has been effective, then you shouldn’t be able in all conscience to bumble along doing exactly what you did before.

The problem you face with taking on the mindset of a researcher is that you are also by default embracing change.

6 thoughts on “ResearchED: What works? Where do you start? or Best Practice, the enemy of Research

  1. I’m not sure about your statement that you need to ask a questions that produces data that can be measured. This seems open to the (mis?)interpretation that I is only quantitative data that has any value. You have to ask a question that will produce data that can be analysed in se way, but ‘measuring’ is not always the aim. Tagging, coding and such like might be attempts to organise qualitative data, but it is simplistic to suggest that they are measuring them, and they are also not the only structured way to explore more narrative data.

    Just embracing the argument ;).

  2. Excellent post…

    Peer review and journals can be patchy and biased. One eminent researcher I know had a paper rubbished in peer review precisely because of who she was rather than based on the quality of it. Also I recently found a peer reviewed paper with a sample size of 1…

    We need to read all research with care – even peer reviewed stuff.

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