Evidence & Education from the grassroots
There is a growing discourse in education in England about research, evidence and how these can relate to the practice and activity that happens in classrooms.
Research in education is certainly nothing new, but there has historically been a gap between much research conducted by academics often in the education departments of Universities and the teachers at the chalkface.
One of the latest developments in this field is the 'ResearchEd' organisation, a teacher-led, grassroots organisation aiming to bring together the wide range of parties with interests in research in education.
Last Saturday saw 750 delegates from teaching, academia, research, politics and education business come together for the annual conference at Raines Foundation School in London. Led and curated by teachers Tom Bennett and Helen O'Shea, the programme was an eclectic mix of researchers, academics and teachers sharing their ideas and work.
Many of the talks I attended dealt with unpicking the field of education research and practice, and there was a strong sense that this is an area where there is much work to do.
For teachers in schools, there are many challenges in engaging with research, from the time pressure they face from teaching timetables to access to the closed journals in which much research is published. However, there was a great optimism at this event and a sense that there is huge potential for constructive development in this field.
I ran a session exploring what we have been learning from Nesta's research trials into the effectiveness of various education technologies in schools, the slides of which are here. This led to some fascinating conversations about the role of evidence in the roll out of such technologies.
Some suggested that we should only implement that which has been proven to 'work', others that technology is part of modern infrastructure and need to be implemented to allow for new potential avenues in learning not limited by our traditional aims for young people.
In the lunch break I attended a meeting of 'research champions' in schools, attended by school leaders and a number of teachers who have been appointed by their schools into roles leading engagement with research. There were others attending who may not have been appointed to such roles, but were taking up similar activities themselves driven by their belief in the power of research to develop the teaching profession and the learning of young people as a result.
Such a mix of formal and informal structures for me summed up the movement of people around ResearchEd. While there may have been top down initiatives and informal groups looking to integrate research into teaching before, this movement seems to have the balance of grassroots enthusiasm and wider buy in of institutions that just might make a significant difference to the way teachers engage with research. For the 750 people who attended their conference on a Saturday I have no doubt it already is.
For those interested in the growing discourse on evidence in education, the ResearchEd website has just been launched to bring together articles, events and resources on this topic.
Photo Credit: Tom Bennett