A research journal for teachers by teachers

//A research journal for teachers by teachers

What difference does education research make to teachers? Precious little. Thousands of papers are published every year and very little changes in classrooms. Recent attempts by the Education Endowment Foundation to synthesise and simply research so it can be easily consumed by busy teachers is laudable, but leads to problems. When someone else has does the thinking it relieves of the need to think for ourselves and all too often we end up saying, “the research shows…” without any real idea what it actually shows.

So what to do? What would be great is if teachers had the time and expertise to read research journals. Currently, most don’t, but it’s even worse than that – we don’t even have access to most of the papers published. English teacher Vincent Lien has embarked on a campaign to get free access to education research journals for teachers and has launched a petition addressed to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Schools Week reports:

The petition, which hopes to gather 500 signatures, says that free access to journals is “absolutely fundamental” to moving towards a position where teaching practice is more informed by research.

“The educational benefits of empowering teachers to be researchers have long been argued by many leading educators and academics such as Dewey, Hoyle, Stenhouse, Hargreaves, Hargreaves, Fullan,” the petition reads.

“Successive governments also recognise the educational benefits of evidence-based research and research-informed practice.”

“Yet teacher as researcher has remained largely a slogan. For many teachers with a strong desire to examine their own practice through research, this ideal is no more than a source of frustration.”

The petition calls for free access to major e-journals for teachers, “regardless of qualification status”.

Whilst I don’t think this will make much difference to the vast majority of teachers it could make a major difference to the profession. The small cost of providing free access (about £30,000) sends a powerful message about the kind of profession we want teaching to be. A research-informed profession is a field of dreams: build it and they will come.

As all this was kicking off, Glen Gilchrist decided to set up his own journal – The Journal of Applied Education Research, written by teachers for teachers. It’s now live on Kickstarter and needs YOU to invest. We’re hoping to initially raise £1500 to ensure the journal can weather its first year.

As  Glen says in his post Hacking Education Research:

As a teacher, head of subject and now education adviser, one thing seems to be increasingly true:

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between teacher practitioners and academic led “educational research”

You see, every teacher, in every classroom is a researcher – they just don’t publish the research. Every time we devise a new strategy to get through through to “that kid” at the back we’re conducting research. Every time we devise a new rubric, seating plan or field trip, we’re setting hypothesis and measuring outcomes. But we (most often) don’t realise that.

Because we don’t realise that we’re researching, we don’t share our experience with colleagues – and we’d never consider submitting our findings to a “journal“. That and the inevitable fear of feeling slightly unworthy – “our research is not that interesting – all we did was teach English grammar via science lessons”

And when we do look in real journals – they are all but impenetrable – the language, style and format of academia makes translating what’s in a journal into something that we can try in our classroom all but impossible. So we don’t read journals.

This could be part of the solution. Please get involved. If you’re a teacher and have ever wanted to share your research, or a researcher who would like to engage more meaningfully with teachers – check it out:http://kck.st/1wQRDEZ!

2015-01-13T20:05:08+00:00January 13th, 2015|Featured|

15 Comments

  1. […] Read more on The Learning Spy… […]

  2. Marilyn leask January 13, 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Check out http://www.meshguides.org maybe trying to do the same as the research journal.

  3. Glen Gilchrist January 14, 2015 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Hi David

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment and for widening the exposure of the project (see http://kck.st/1wQRDEZ ).

    I’m in the privileged position of being able to visit schools, meet with headteachers, HoDs and classroom teachers and see the excellent work that is being undertaken to both deepen the understanding of their learners and to devise strategies to improve outcomes. All great stuff.

    But one thing stands out, time and time again – the amount of duplication across all schools – right now, in a school near you, there will be a working party / PLC:

    1) Discussing the impact of poverty
    2) Implementing strategies to engage boys
    3) Working on a new behavior policy / rewards / sanctions

    Ditto literacy, numeracy, science, (insert your subject here), engage parents, STEM, reading, more able and talented, ALN, uniform, books, marking, revision, KS4 to KS5 progression…. in fact the list goes on and on.

    Schools often consider their work as “hyper local” – only applying to them, in their circumstances, at a particular time. So, when an intervention is planed, acted upon and the data analysed (research undertaken) there is no compulsion to share the methodology and findings with a wider audience.

    Research without publication is not research. Without publication your findings are hidden inside your school and either (a) not challenged / improved by peer review or (b) you are forcing co-workers to undertake broadly the same research, make the same mistakes and possibly find the same things out (or not).

    If teachers share their research we can all “stand on the shoulders of giants” and give each other a leg up.

    If people are interested in the idea of a peer led journal, by teachers, for teachers and reviewed by teachers, please check out the Kickstarter at: http://kck.st/1wQRDEZ

    Glen

    • oliverquinlan January 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm - Reply

      This sounds like a wonderful idea, and I fully support the intention behind it. £1500 is a very small amount of money for a venture like this, one I would have thought you could raise very easily from an education charity or even one of the DfE innovation grants. If I was doing this I’d try to find a grant for the whole thing as a pilot rather than a kickstarter.

      I’m concerned though with some aspects of the plan. There is no factoring in for anyone’s time, or explanation of the business plan beyond the first issue going to print. There is a danger with things like this that the project can snowball and people’s excellent intentions end up sapping their energy and the whole thing dying when they no longer want to spend the considerable time it takes doing it. Perhaps you have this plan waiting in the wings, if so it would be worth sharing to reassure supporters that there is some sustainability built in.

      Also it would be good to get a sense of how many teachers would contribute content to this. UKEDCHAT magazine seems to do well with contributions, but writing a magazine article and one for a research journal are very different in terms of the time and commitment needed.

      I’m not meaning to pick holes here, I sincerely hope it works as I think it’s important, but I hope this constructive criticism can help develop the plan.

      • Glen Gilchrist January 14, 2015 at 7:44 pm - Reply

        Hi Oliver

        Thanks for taking the time to reply – and I don’t take it as picking holes, just constructive questioning 😉

        Let’s start as they say, at the beginning….

        Having researched the costs , the majority of which are essentially printing, postage and marketing – £1500 was the minimum sweet spot at which the venture essentially becomes self funding (the unit cost for a print edition plummets).

        In the first instance, I have the Illustrator / InDesign and Photoshop skills to prepare the journal for printing. Equally, before coming into teaching, I was a self employed web designer – so I can manage the web side.

        For the first three issues, I’m planning about 8 articles, plus editorial. These articles will come from either my professional network, from subscribers or through working with teacher colleagues.

        I have already asked a group of 10 teachers, headteachers and educational advisers to form the embryonic review team and editorial team. They will not be remunerated, and have all responded favorably to the approach.

        I purposefully wanted to start small and to keep an authentic teacher voice in the process. I would rather demonstrate capability and desire for the journal to succeed and then seek funding to take things to the next level. This applies to sustainability also. With grant funding often comes visions of grandeur (as you needed such grandeur to get the grant) and you end up serving the interests of the grant not the stakeholders.

        To steal some phrases from other sectors, I want the journal to be Lean and Agile. However, you make a valid point, one that I will reflect upon.

        During the Kickstarter period I will be:

        a) Setting up the infrastructure (web and physical)
        b) Designing a house style and document template
        c) Testing the review / submission process
        d) Walking thorough the print process
        e) Determining the potential for user generated content (via social media)

        Once the Kickstarter is finished (and funded of course 😉 ) I will move into a phase of personally calling for papers from colleagues and professional networks.

        The plan is to automate as much as possible and make templates for what remains.

        Back to Kickstarter and sharing a business plan – to be honest, I’ve never seen a Kickstarter that shared a detailed business plan — after all this is crowdfunding, not investing — however, again you make a fair point, and one that I will reflect upon.

        Happy to chat / discuss – keep the comments coming.

        Cheers
        Glen

      • Glen Gilchrist January 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

        Oliver – on reflection my comment over “not investing” is unfair – it’s still an investment and maybe more detail as you suggest is needed. (I wish I could edit comments….. lol)

        Glen

  4. Stuart Scott (@collearn) January 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Collaborative Learning is backing you! In fact we started out on our own in exactly the same way as you are doing now when our sponsor, the Inner London Education Authority, was closed down in 1989. We managed to secure a thousand pound grant from Esso petroleum and we have become a powerful teacher network with links to teachers all over the world. Our research area – scaffolding classroom talk – has never been popular with the education establishment. As Andrew Wilkinson remarked in Spoken English (1965) “rhetoric has never been one of the three R’s” We are looking forward to reading the first issue and sending you articles for inclusion.

  5. Glen Gilchrist January 22, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Stuart – great feedback

    Articles greatly received – inclusion dependant on peer review!! (lol)

    Any help with funding greatly received, including hooking us up with sources of grants…..

    Cheers
    Glen

    • Glen Gilchrist January 26, 2015 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Hi all

      Two weeks in and we’re 50% funded: http://kck.st/1wQRDEZ

      Attention now turning to institutions and corporate backers looking for some ad exposure.

      Spread the word and help get us funded: http://kck.st/1wQRDEZ

      Glen

    • mmiweb February 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Glen – I am not sure what the lol in reference to peer review means – are you against peer-review in which case how will contributions be reviewed for entry? and how will you assure quality both in terms of writing but also in terms of research (e.g. reliability, validity, ethics etc…)

      The system of peer-review has worked very well in academic journals for a long time. The question of access is the one I thought you wanted to tackle (as do others see the comments re MESH guides) and there are others such as Steve Wheeler who is working on the model of Open Educational Resources (OERs) where there would be little or no cost.

  6. mmiweb January 31, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    It is great to look to spread research ideas around and get more teachers involved in this. As Marilyn Leask says above there is a movement already doing this with the Mesh Guides project so as was mentioned watch out for duplication that may be unnecessary.

    The Carter report picked up on the importance of teachers being better informed about understanding research – sadly it then rubbished the idea of teachers have academic qualifications as it pushed the idea that QTS was the qualification for teaching not PGCE. Most PGCEs will now have 60 credits at Masters Level which will include some research methods training.

    In one of the comments above it says that all teachers are doing research – well yes and no – without some training in research methods the quality of this is very variable. I would hope that those who read these columns – who are mostly teachers would value the training and study that goes into those who are professional researchers – or are you with the politicians who seem to feel that academic qualifications are not necessary?

  7. Marilyn leask February 8, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    I was trained as a teacher- researcher and later ran the local authority teacher researcher network in the late 80s. The outcomes of teacher research can meet the standards expected of professional researchers if ethics, reliability and validity procedures are followed. I did research the specific issue and interviewed top researchers at the time so am confident we could rapidly build a strong evidence base for practice if we just had agreed protocols and a bit of coordination.

    • mmiweb February 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Yes, the key phrase there Marilyn is, “I was trained as …” there is a worrying trend at the moment to de-professionalise a number of aspects of teaching the removal of the need for qualifications in certain school types (though this has been little taken up), the denigration of pedagogy as important compared to subject knowledge (as opposed to the work from Shulman and many others), the Carter report’s comments on the PGCE (though this seems ironic in light of its comments about child development and research – another example of muddled thinking).

      At the centre of this does lie the destruction of the place of HEIs as places of teacher education where the research and the practice could be brought together in very meaningful ways (as has and is still happening). There was need for some reform of the partnerships between schools and HEIs but this has mostly happened over the last 10-15 years and as Ofsted and others found this partnership is the strongest model – and one most used across the world – but when we have a legislation which is ideology over evidence (another irony given their supposed betrothal to “finding out what works” then we should not be surprised.

  8. Marilyn leask February 12, 2015 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    Just picking up the note about training. It is an odd profession where the more a person studies the less knowledgeable they are considered to become. Yet under a recent Secretary of State for education in England this is what has been brought in. Advisers with no knowledge of education can be given advisory roles in government. I have been told by the Institute of Physics that in England we now have one person who is a Professor of Physics Education ie their peers consider them to have subject specialist pedagogic knowledge which is world leading.

    Presumably the said Secretary of State and advisers are pleased with this state of affairs. What they are too ignorant to notice is these ‘experts’ known as the ‘blob’ to the ex SoS are responsible for generating millions for the UK economy over their careers through book sales and teaching international students as well as their England focused work eg specialist CPD. The country can’t afford to have such ignorant politicians.

    They have fractured all sorts of knowledge sharing partnerships.

    I have recently come across teachers had no information about professional associations in their training and who didn’t know there is a professional association for their subject yet this is surely the place where ideas, problems and solutions are shared. The Council for Subject Associations in England can point people in the right direction.

    Has any one else wondered if the said SoS has requested that his children now at secondary school have the unqualified teachers he has foisted on other families?

    We wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who didn’t personally make the effort to keep up to date so why do some teachers, who work with the mind, consider it acceptable not to belong to their subject association? Why does a sec. of state think qualifications don’t matter? Unqualified teachers – another Bonkers policy.

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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