Teachers as Researchers

Teachers as Researchers

As part of our annual School Development Planning, the leadership team began to explore the role of research in day to day teaching.  In part this was a response to the number of research projects we have now taken on board as part of our role as a teaching school but also in response to the growing enthusiasm of staff to the various research schemes currently taking place.  There are now a number of teachers following M. Ed programmes, or the University of Exeter’s Research in Action project, but by far the largest number is involved in Trio projects which continue to prove to be very successful.

This prompted a discussion of the role of research in a teacher’s day to day activities.  Secondary teachers especially have long considered themselves to be specialists in their particular subject areas and it is this interest which drives their enthusiasm for the subject and thus encourages them to teach.  Increasingly, teachers are seeing themselves as experts in pedagogy, and much recent teacher training enhances this notion.  However, the idea of teachers as researchers is relatively new and considered by some to be somewhat faddish.

However, when you think about it, teaching never stands still and it is up to classroom teachers continuously to update their knowledge, both in terms of their own subjects but also in terms of teaching techniques.  The best teachers do this naturally and those that don’t tend to fall into the time serving category.  The teachers’ professional standards recognise the need to keep up to date in order to maintain the appropriate level of competence.  Sadly, there are staff who rely on their university education and never seek to update their knowledge; similarly, some think that the teaching skills they have already are sufficient.  The good teachers, however, are constantly updating their skills and always open to new ideas.  This is where the research element comes in.

Attached to this blog entry is a simple mind-map which seeks to explore the role of research in teaching at Woodroffe, though it is of course equally applicable to any school with a few details changed.  It is clear that the role of the contemporary teacher is no longer simply a matter of good subject knowledge (although Gove’s Free School agenda is out of line with this idea, as with so much else) but a question of pedagogy and research.  Teaching is dependent on good subject knowledge, strong pedagogy and a willingness to engage with new ideas, in other words to take part in research.

Building research into a teacher’s job description does not add any more work but simply acknowledges a role which is usually undertaken as part of their day to day lives.  Offering more formal research opportunities is an excellent way of both recognising this role and expanding it.  The notion of teacher as subject specialist, pedagogue, and researcher also serves to enhance the status of the role and underlines its professionalism, something desperately needed in the current political and cultural climate where teachers are regularly denigrated by politicians, the press and, increasingly, parents.

It could be that the teacher as a researcher is a way of increasing professionalism in teaching, enhancing the status of teachers and showing the outside world that there is more to the game than crowd control and exam technique.

Above all it keeps teachers interested, allows them to develop their classroom practice and leads to improvements for pupils in the classroom.