Becoming a research engaged school #ResearchEd @C_Hendrick

Carl Hendrick is Research lead at Wellington College, and has set up a research centre to embed research across the school. Carl has identified five problems with education research:

1. The outside in model
Research has been something done ‘on’ teachers as objects of study rather than active participants.

2. Knowledge creation
Teachers have been given answers to questions they did not ask. Outside agents have told teachers what to do. The questions come from outside and so do the answers.

3. Gap between research and practice.
This is a canyon. Teachers should be asking what research looks like in their classroom. And example of this is ‘grout mindsets’. Ask any teacher you get a good working model, ask them how they can affect a growth mindset you get a different answer. This results in a chinese whisper effect – 30 years of research turning into vapid motivational posters. Implementation is a real problem.

4. Narrow measures of success
We’ve become really good at measuring some things such as exam results, but not the hidden effects of what happens in classrooms. In the Vietnam war McNamara thought the success of war could be measured by body counts, leading to… the result of that conflict. In education we measure what we can easily measure, such as Robert Coe’s ‘poor proxies for learning‘.

5. Time and capacity
Systemically teachers don’t have the time and headspace to engage meaningfully with a field that requires significant engagement to get anything out of.

What schools can do to engage with research?

1. Establish a research centre
Wellington Learning and Research Centre has been set up to strategically approach engagement with research rather than just access it in a piecemeal way project by project. It helps enable staff to engage with the evidence base, ask their own questions, involve students and establish a platform to disseminate work.

2. Appoint a research lead
You need to consider if someone should be on SLT (clout to get things done), if they should have academic qualifications, what their relationship is like with staff and whether they can see projects through. Sometimes senior people take responsibility for this area but then don’t have capacity to make things through.

3. Embed it across the school
Often people’s MAs and PhD’s take place in their own space, unaligned with a whole school focus and not even talking to each other. Wellington are co-ordinating their research across the school with a student research council, staff research fellows and strategic partnerships with other organisations. The student research council meets every fortnight, carry out literature reviews, and works alongside teachers to make the research happen. Carl has seen something powerful with students when they read the research- another level than many ‘learning to learn’ programmes.

He said research can be a change agent in schools, not top down, but empowering when embedded properly and linked to the challenges that teachers and students face in the classroom.

Related posts:

How research engaged is your school? Matt Walker, NFER #researched
Research makes education better @kateatkins33 #researched
Why should primary schools be engaged in research? @Jon_Brunskill #researched

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