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Marsh b

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Marsh b

  1. 1. School-Based Teacher Action Research What are we learning? Brian Marsh University of Brighton
  2. 2. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Introduction • In amongst the plethora of changes / noise regarding teaching in England is the mantra teaching being an “evidence-informed / research-based profession” • Not new …  Best Practice Research Scholarships  National College for School Leadership (2004) … “We know that when teachers are engaged in actively researching and enquiring about existing practice, processes and outcomes with teachers … they are more likely to improve their own analytical thinking and … to generate network-wide knowledge that can have a direct impact on the children in classrooms across all schools” • Today we have  Increasing dissatisfaction with CPD which is whole school led and focused often on issues of performativity  increasing involvement of teachers in o Teachmeets … teachers sharing aspects of practice o Conferences such as ResearchEd  Some schools trying to develop a research informed culture … including action research / practitioner enquiry projects
  3. 3. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Literature Investigating teachers as researchers brings with it the challenge that this is a contested issue (Carr, 2007; Elliott, 2001). Reported benefits which are worth further exploration … • teacher learning which include those changes to an individual teacher’s practice (Kemmis, 2009) • potential to enhance reflective practice thus leading to an increasing capacity to make appropriate judgements in the classroom (Wilson, 2013) • helps teachers learn about teaching and identify things that work (Furlong, Salisbury, & Coombs, 2003) • supports tacit knowledge being made explicit and articulated through dialogue and reflection (Wilson, 2013) • affective benefits include the altering of teachers’ values and working practices along with pre-conceived understandings of practice (Leat et al., 2015)
  4. 4. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton The Project The programme comprises 3 inter-linked phases, each approximating in length to 1 school term: • Phase 1 – exploratory phase comprising an introduction to action research, peer-supported discussion of the issues to be investigated, • Phase 2 – implementation phase including discussion of research methods and ethics and data gathering • Phase 3 – concluding phase including summary and dissemination Term 1 Sept-Dec • Identify issue to be explored • Reading – find out what is already known • Have teaching on the nature of action research Term 2 Jan-Apr • Have teaching on methods, data collection, ethics • Planning • Start of data gathering • One-to-one support Term 3 Apr-July • Conclude data gathering • Short write-up of project • Presentation of findings (e.g staff meeting, Teachmeet etc)
  5. 5. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Examples of Projects • Teacher disposition – The Growth Mindset Teacher • Developing a ‘Rights Respecting Culture’ • Threshold concepts in Chemistry • The effective use of TAs in school • Evaluation of subject specific interventions • Several projects around ‘closing the gap’ for pupil premium pupils • Use of cognates • Memory retention and recall • Transition (Year 67) – impact of summer programmes
  6. 6. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Initial Findings – Common to All Three groups • 15 / 16 spoke of engagement with literature … both practitioner and peer-reviewed … valued and appreciated – made time to do so • Issues with literature for teachers ...  Access and understanding how to read peer-reviewed literature  The relative importance of different types of literature  Struggle when the research evidence conflicts with widely held teacher beliefs and practice • 14 / 16 spoke of value of …  discussing their project in school / alliance group and the resultant peer feedback … both led to shaping both thinking and their enactment of project  discussion of teaching and learning … both arising from their own projects but others in the group ... exploration, articulation and reflection of tacit knowledge  sense of struggle in developing ideas and undertaking project
  7. 7. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Initial Findings – Common to All Three groups Impact was variable: • individual practices being changed (15 / 16 responses) • 2 instances a change in whole-school policy Other impacts were • on school environment (school leader) … “It is a ripple effect - it has made it OK to talk about practice and research” • ephemeral personal benefits … increased self-esteem / getting quality feedback / receiving praise when giving short presentations to other staff
  8. 8. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Initial Findings – School A Pilot year … 3 teachers Project year 1... 5 teachers Project year 2 ... 6 teachers Participants enabled to choose own project … one school leader spoke of “long term commitment and professional trust … we wanted to give them ownership” • 7 / 8 reported changes to their practice • All 8 valued the opprtunity to do an extended investigation on issues they had been previously thinking about • 7 / 8 commented on the personal ownership of own professional development • Data from project year 2 still to be completely gathered and analysed
  9. 9. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Initial Findings – School B • 7 participating teachers and 1 school leader • Initial interviews have already taken place … exploration of why they wanted to engage with practitioner research • Some final interviews • Project ...  School A & TSA participated in an academic year (2015- 2016) whereas School B is participating in a calendar year (2016)  Disjointed ... Both time and momentum were lost around school exam season (May – June) which should have been a critical point in their practitioner enquiry ... also lost some participants through moving on to new positions in September
  10. 10. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Initial Findings – Teaching School Alliance • Middle level leaders drawn from 3 secondary schools, 1 primary and 1 special school in a teaching school alliance • Used by the TSA as an alternative form of middle level leader training to NPQML which had previously been undertaken • Unstated expectation was that they would undertake enquiry directed to their roles in driving forward school improvement  Sense of their personal agency being reduced  Although never explicitly instructed to so they all articulated a sense of being expected to respond to performativity issues in their own school  Not all undertook enquiries in areas they would personally have chosen had they been given free choice  Corresponds to Hammersley’s (2004) point of some action research being a contradiction • More problematic and more complex to undertake AR with narrower projects all relating performativity (either intervention to raise exam performance or ‘closing the gap’ with pupil premium pupils)
  11. 11. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Emerging Themes • Value of  external support / critical friend to support the research  School-based communities of practice … peer-support • Professional learning  taking part in action research was a valuable form of continuing professional development  for many, the research led to ‘informed reflection’ • Impact on schools • Professional capital • Agency - teachers becoming more confident, more knowledgeable, collecting and using evidence, and learning about their own learning • Personal disposition • Challenge of the ‘difficult project’
  12. 12. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Challenges Faced By Teacher-Researchers Time Access to Literature • Getting access to peer-reviewed research / syntheses of research • Relative authority of different types of literature (particularly social media and teacher blogs) Expectations • Initial expectations of potential impact once the enquiry question was determined were vastly over-estimated • Some teacher-researchers appeared unable to distance themselves from their preconceived views about effective practice Understanding of Research • Paradigms • Iterative cycles of action research … some thought they would get instant answers • Use of multiple methods and triangulation of data • Ethics including issues arising from insider research • Validity and generalisability
  13. 13. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Conclusions … tentative at this stage For the participants ... Engaged in a process that has given them ownership and some personal control over their professional development ... a professional development that appears to lead to:  Learning how to think about practice and articulate tacit knowledge  Increased reflection-on-action  Changes in their classroom / departmental practice  Increased ephemeral benefits including raising their status in schools ... increased professional capital  These teachers being in a ‘struggle zone’ – their learning paralleling the learning of their pupils  An increasing desire for evidence-informed practice ... doing it because we’ve always done it this way and ‘tips for teachers’ / toolbox approaches no longer will do For Schools ... The project • Leading to a greater openness to research • Ripple effect ... positively affecting the ethos of the schools • Occasional change in whole-school policy and practice
  14. 14. Teachers as Researchers University of Brighton Future Work This Project • Complete the programme including data collection in school B • Revisit teachers from school A (Years 1 & 2) & the TSA (Year 1) to explore any lasting impact … extend into further year for both • Explore if there is any difference from doing such practitioner enquiry in own school compared to doing it as part of a programme across a TSA Developments Working with schools in 3 different frameworks: • Bespoke modules delivered in school for PGDip  MA • Non-accredited framework as this project ... appropriately costed • Specific sessions from non-accredited framework as this project ... appropriately costed Brian Marsh – University of Brighton @brianmarsh52

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