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!