Leading professional development, I’ve been wrestling with ways in which to encourage teachers to engage with research that leads to effective practice. There are a number of barriers to this, such as:
- lack of time;
- articles that present from one perspective
- inaccessible articles that are not written with teachers in mind (this is often because they originate from outside of education);
- articles that don’t have practical implementation in mind;
- poor research that may be based upon a flawed methodology or too small a sample size to make generalisations.
I know from experience during many hours spent in the library , that finding good research is tricky. This term, we have tried the journal joust: introducing teachers to articles and asking them to explore them and then share with the rest of the team.
I chose five articles:
- Great Hinge Questions. Dylan Wiliam
- Strategies for making learning last. Daniel Willingham
- Do they hear you? Hattie et al
- The flipped classroom. Turan Goktas
- Why is it so hard to teach? Daniel Willingham.
It’s important to note that my own biases led to this selection, as well as the strategic needs of the organisation. The central theme of the articles was feedback. To start the first session, the first page of each articles was cut into quarters and each participant given a section at random as they entered. This randomly(ish) assigned them to a group and allowed them to start a conversation around the article.
The main task was to read the full article and then:
- Summarise the main thrust of the article.
- Identify any practical implications to our teaching as an organisation.
- Comment of the design of the task.
After three weeks, we convened to hear the chats (a mixture of presentation styles). An unintended consequence was that teachers, whilst working together, also found out about new teaching techniques and found other research that provided the counter claim or critique of the assigned article.
Overall, although there can be improvements (mainly more time), this approach trusts teachers to find out what works (baring in mind that in our context, outcomes are fantastic) and shows the value of research by giving time. If we are to trust teachers, although there is room for a research lead, effective practice should also be allowed to develop as a grass roots approach, rather than a top down imposed set of ideals. Indeed, if staff are encouraged to challenge policy decisions, based upon research, then that is a healthy place to be.