Overview explore an aspect of teaching and learning with a focus on your own personal professional practice based on collection and analysis of primary data NOT based only on evidence collected and analysed by previous researchers; NOT just synthesis of facts or arguments from the work of others
Aims and learning outcomes deepen your theoretical/conceptual understanding of your subject domain / phase develop your ability to carry out a sustained and systematic piece of professional enquiry; develop your research literacy, namely the capacity to act on an awareness of the benefits, limitations, values and impact of research in the field of education; increase your knowledge and understanding of different approaches to research in education, and to develop the capacity to apply this appropriately to a piece of small-scale enquiry;
enable you to reflect critically on the benefits and limitations of your own and others’ research; ability to articulate ideas cogently in writing in line with established academic practices; improve your practice through your engagement in an evidence-based enquiry; ability to apply and extend learning outcomes from taught modules through supported self-study
Feedback Overall comments Grasp of Field of Study (awareness of issues and insights into the field of study, understanding and critical review of literature, application of knowledge and an understanding of the value, impact and limitations of research in education) Methodological and Research Skills (understanding and evaluating research methodologies, appropriateness of chosen methodology and research design, analysis and discussion of data) Structure, Communication and Presentation (focus, organisation, cogency, clarity, fluency, accuracy)
Research question(s) Focused enough? Too vague or ambiguous? Enough time available? Enough resources available? Too topical? Data availability and accessibility? Trying to connect the unconnectable? Trying to measure the unmeasureable?
Three stages in practitioner research Preparing Intervening Sense-makingIdentifying a need Collecting baseline Analysing &in pupils’ learning data interpreting theDeveloping the focus Introducing new dataInvestigating what approaches Sharing resultsis already known Implementing changes Incorporating newAddressing ethical issues to teaching and practice into classDeciding what the learning routinesintervention will be Establishing & collecting process & outcome data (Buchanan and Redford 2008, p. 29)
Literature review set the context for the research show how the research fits into the existing body of knowledge convey what knowledge and ideas exist around a specific topic what strengths and limitations exist in the existing knowledge base what issues remain contested what areas remain un(der)explored its is NOT a descriptive list of existing material or a set of summaries of that material
instead, it is a ‘guided tour’ offering analysis and evaluation around an organising principle and a critical appraisal don’t just explain what other research has been done: explain why YOUR research needs to be carried out, what made you choose YOUR take on the topic and how YOUR work adds to what is already known
Methodology – making it ‘fit for purpose’ Qualitative Quantitative Focuses on words not Produces numerical data numbers Transforms data into Based on rich or‘thick’ quantifiable units description in a variety of Studies are analysed from a media statistical perspective Takes holistic perspective The research design is The full design often usually fully in place before emerges from the data starting Close involvement of the Helps ‘at a glance’ researcher in the study – accountability teacher voice
Participatory Individual/focus data group interviewsObservations Expert opinion Data CollectionQuestionnaire, survey Journals, diaries, Documents, work samples self-reporting
QuestionnairesGood for getting basic information in an easily manageableform, but not good for trying to find out anything complex likewhat affects student motivation and attitudes. You will need todecide what types of questions to ask – do you need to find outpersonal or factual information to research your topic? Is it aboutattitudes? How many questions will you ask? Too many is onerousfor the respondent and for you to interpret later… How will youcode the responses? Will it be fairly straightforward and readilyshown in a statistical chart, or will you ask open-ended questionswhich require you to identify what has been said under headingsor categories? This will take much longer to analyse but will tellyou more about complex issues.
InterviewsGood for allowing in-depth exploration of how students areresponding to an aspect of your English teaching, especially ifyou prepare the questions very carefully to be open-ended andaccessible. You might feel that your topic does not need thishowever, and so you can have a more structured interview with aset number of questions to follow. Difficulties can include thetendency for the researcher to ask leading questions, and thesheer amount of data that can emerge for transcription andanalysis – limit the number of interviews and the length of timeyou spend. Fifteen minutes can give you a great deal ofinformation. They need to be recorded and transcribed beforebeing coded by headings or categories relevant to your researchfocus.
Focus Group InterviewsGood for getting carefully considered opinions of anumber of students in a way that is economic with time. Agroup of 4-5 will usually allow for reflection and ideas tobe developed. But beware – the group dynamic will alsoaffect what students feel it is ‘safe’ to say in front of theirpeers, and it can be an eye-opener to interview the samestudents individually.
ObservationGood for when you have a research partner which allowsyou to be released to capture significant moments in theclassroom. It is often necessary to make an ‘observationschedule’ before hand, so that your notes can be focusedunder headings which you decide are relevant to theresearch topic. Otherwise, observation notes that are notorganised like this can take a lot of re-reading to identifywhat is important.
Textual analysisGood for examining evidence of student outcomes inwritten forms where appropriate, and can be used toanalyse relevant policy-documents e.g. the departmentmarking policy.
Film-recordingGood for capturing complex learning situations, e.g.group talk, but can be obtrusive unless students areintroduced beforehand to having a camera around.
Statistical analysesBaseline information about a class can be used tocompare student achievement before and after anintervention, though this can be misleading and simplifywhat is really going on so it depends on the focus of yourresearch. For anything complex, most real developmentcan be subtle and may not be evident in improved scoresetc. An advantage is that a lot of this type of informationis readily available in schools and you may not need tocollect it specially.
JournalsGood for collecting data as ‘field notes’, by which youkeep a record of anything which happens in yourclassroom which is relevant to the research. This is anotherform of data collection which needs to be kept focused sothat you can manage the data afterwards when it comesto analysis.
Communicating your research Introduction: setting out a rationale Problem statement: what are the specific questions, what is the context and background; why does it matter? Conceptual framework: what bodies of work does my topic relate to? What are the key concepts? How can they be defined for the purposes of your project? Methodology and methods: what did you plan to do? How did you plan to do it? What data did you collect? How did you intend to analyse it? How does it relate to your RQ(s)? Key literature
Key questions to be answered What is the main purpose of my research? Who is the main audience? What is my role in the research? What view do you have about the nature of learning and knowledge? What is/are my RQ(s) and what data will you need to answer it? How did I collect the data? What ethical issues did arise? What previous work exists in the field?
Possible structure of the PBE Title Introduction and background: why the research is important/ interesting, what made you choose your topic, purpose and scope of the research, research setting, relevance to personal professional practice, overview of structure (2000 words) Literature review: a review of the existing research in the field, including a discussion of your theoretical/conceptual framework 6000-8000 words)
Methodology: research paradigm, data collection methods used and possible alternatives, ethical issues, research question(s), approaches to data analysis (2000 words) Discussion of results and findings (6000-8000 words) Conclusions, limitations, recommendations, further research, impact on personal practice (2000 words)
Telling it like it isYou will need to present your findings in an accessible form forfuture reference and for sharing with colleagues.It is important to have a systematic approach to analysing theresearch so that it is manageable and, crucially, carried out in away that is transparent and shows the relevance of your findingsto what you wanted to find out.It is NOT about finding neat answers or setting out to ‘prove’ thatsomething works.Small-scale teacher-research is not about proving anything, but itadds to teachers’ collective knowledge about practice and helpsto question ready-made solutions from ‘out there’.
Teacher research tells it like it is. ANY findings are useful,including those which indicate that a recommendedstrategy has not worked for a particular group of pupils.The important thing is showing what you find out, and howthis contributes to the developing knowledge thatcolleagues can glean about an area of teaching.It is particularly useful if others can learn from your work.
Advice Stay in regularly touch by e-mail and skype Write up as you go along (e.g. literature, data analysis etc) Have work plan with clear but realistic targets and manage other commitments carefully (send me your milestones with a clear timeline) Establish a clear work pattern (e.g. an hour a day; 4 hours every weekend) Make full use of all available help, in particular peers