Teaching is a constant learning journey. For 2014 the focus of my learning journey will be the daily use of Te Reo, developing the Enviro Schools Team and developing independence in learning - the next step on from Daily 5.
Education is often divided into three key areas, research, policy and practice. In an ideal world all three areas will inform and shape each other (Figure 1). Unfortunately this often is not the case. There has been much written about the lack of connection between research and practice in education (see for example Hargreaves, 1996; Hargreaves, 2000; Levin, 2004) and the subsequent impact this has on all three areas of education.
Figure 1: How research, policy and practice can inform each other (in an ideal world)
What is research?
There is much debate surrounding definitions of research and more particularly education research. Here are some definitions of research:
The term “research” is itself contested and can cover quite a wide range of activities, from carefully designed studies by independent, university-based researchers to analysis of data for particular administrative or political purposes to arguments for specific policy positions that may be more or less well grounded in evidence. Any consensus that might once have existed about what counts as research has vanished in education, with highly contentious arguments about the relative merits of research based on methods from the natural sciences vs modes closer to the humanities. (Levin, 2004, 2)
Research is systematic, critical and self-critical enquiry which aims to contribute towards the advancement of knowledge and wisdom. … Discipline research in education aims critically to inform understandings of phenomena pertinent to the discipline in educational settings. … Critical enquiry [is] aimed at informing educational judgements and decisions in order to improve educational action. This is the kind of value-laden research that should have immediate relevance to teachers and policy makers, and is itself educational because of its stated intention to ‘inform’. It is the kind of research in education that is carried out by educationists. (Bassey, 1999, 38-39)
Educational research is not just a way to come up with new ideas about teaching and learning, but most often it is a way to convince us that the ideas we already have are worth exploring—that they are worth buying into (Morrell and Carroll, 2010, 2).
Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue. At a general level, research consists of three steps:
The main things you should take away from this reading are:
What research is and the roles that it can play
The basic steps in the research process
The nature of quantitative and qualitative research
Different types of research design in education
How research can support teachers – evidence informed practice
You may have heard the term evidence-informed practice or evidence-based practice used in relation to schools and education. Evidence-informed practice refers to the ways in which teachers and schools use research evidence, in conjunction with other sources of evidence (such as student data) and their own expertise to make decisions and to support their teaching. It is based on the idea that to be their most effective teachers should engage with research and keep up to date with the latest developments in their curriculum areas and in the discipline of education more generally.
Most people agree that when discussing evidence-informed practice it is necessary to think about not only how research produced by academics can be used to support practice but also how teachers can become involved in the research process themselves. This could involve teachers working with professional researchers to collaborate on particular projects or teachers undertaking small-scale research projects in their own classrooms or schools, and using the findings to help them to plan and develop their practice.
There is a lot of literature available on education research and evidence-informed practice. Some supplementary readings that you may enjoy:
Carr, W. (2007). Educational research as a practical science. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 30 (3), 271-286.
Hargreaves, D. (2000). The Production, Mediation and Use of Professional Knowledge Among Teachers and Doctors: A Comparative Analysis. In OECD (Ed.) Knowledge Management in the Learning Society. Paris: OECD. http://ocw.metu.edu.tr/file.php/118/Week11/oecd1.pdf
In this course you will be exploring how research can help to support you and the communities you work. The first three weeks of the course will explore how you can use formal research (especially that undertaken by academics) to deepen your knowledge of particular topics and areas and to inform your teaching practice. This week you will focused on understanding the different types of research that are undertaken in education and the various roles that these can play. You will also explore Kaupapa Maori research, which is focused on empowering Maori people, voice, processes and knowledge. Week 18 will focus on how you can locate relevant research and how to read and interpret research findings critically. Week 19 will explore how you can synthesise the research you have found into a literature review on a particular topic.
In weeks 20 to 24 the focus will shift from how you can use research to how you can conduct your own research in your own practice in the form of an inquiry project. Week 20 will provide an introduction to the concept of teacher-led research. In week 21 you will learn how to design your own inquiry project. Week 22 will focus on the different methods you can employ to collect data to inform your teaching practice and in week 23 you will learn how to analyse the data you collect and use it to make changes in your practice. Week 24 will discuss about ethics and research.
The final week of the course will examine several initiatives that have been developed around the world to support closer connections between research and practice in education. You will also receive information about some of the various opportunities available to you to continue your involvement with education research.
As part of this course you will be designing your own inquiry research project, which should focus on an area of your practice that you wish to develop. Each of your first two assignments will focus on the area that you select.
For your chosen area you will:
Engage with the research literature to identify why your chosen area is important and what is already known about it
Recognise how the research literature could help to support you in your practice
Identify opportunities or gaps within the research literature that you could build upon in your own practice
Use the research literature as a basis to develop and justify the design of an inquiry plan, which engages with your community in addressing the chosen area/topic
Demonstrate how you will utilise evidence from your inquiry project in your practice and evaluate the potential influence this evidence will have for you and your community.
The list below provides possible areas to focus on. The topics have been selected because they are all areas that you have encountered as part of other courses.
You may select a topic outside of these fifteen suggestions. However, if you want to work with a partner on assignment one then it will be easier to find someone if you have selected a topic from one of those listed below. Also, some of the weekly tasks that form part of this course are focused on the topics below.
Decide on the topic area you want to focus on for this course. You may choose a topic from the list or select your own topic. To help you to decide on your topic it might be helpful to think about:
a question you have about your practice
an issue that you are currently facing
an area of your practice that you would like to develop
a particular initiative or intervention that you would like to trial in your practice.
Here are some other ideas that could help you to decide on your topic:
Pine (2009) in his book Teacher Action Research: Building Knowledge Democracies, suggests some ways to identify your topic:
conversations with your colleagues; professional literature; examination of your journal entries and teaching portfolio to identify, for example, patterns of teacher/student behavior or anomalies, paradoxes, and unusual situations; dissonance between your teaching intentions and outcomes; problematic learning situations in your classroom that you want to resolve; a new teaching strategy you are eager to implement; an ambiguous and puzzling classroom management concern; or your curiosity about testing a particular theory in the classroom.
(Pine, G. (2009). Teacher Action Research: Building Knowledge Democracies. Los Angeles: Sage Publications).
Caro-Bruce (2007) suggests some questions that might help you to identify an area:
What would I like to improve?
What am I perplexed by?
What am I really curious about?
What do I think would really make a difference?
What is something I would like to change?
What would happen to my students’ learning if I did _______?
How can I implement _________?
How can I improve _______?
(Caro-Bruce, C., Flessner, R., Klehr, M. & Zeichner, K. (2007). Creating Equitable Classrooms Through Action Research. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.).
Caro-Bruce, C., Flessner, R., Klehr, M. & Zeichner, K. (2007). Creating Equitable Classrooms Through Action Research. Thousand Oaks: Corwin
Creswell, J. (2011). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. London: Pearson.
Hargreaves, A. (1996). Transforming Knowledge: Blurring the boundaries between research, policy, and practice. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 18,2, 105-122.
Hargreaves, D. (2000). Production, Mediation and Use of Professional Knowledge Among Teachers and Doctors: A comparative analysis. In OECD (Ed.).Knowledge Management in the Learning Society (pp. 219-238). Paris: OECD.