Teachers as Researchers – a project in 4 parts.
A Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and Primary Education and Partnerships (PEP) collaboration for Tower Hamlets schools.
Written by Julia Weston
Independent Consultant for PEP.
“When teachers learn more, children do better.” (Hattie, 2011)
Getting started: session 1
Just before the half term break we were delighted to welcome Alison Eley (Academic Director) and Ruth Shallcross (Regional Mentor) from the Primary Science Teaching Trust to the PDC in Bethnal Green for the start of the ‘Teachers as Researchers’ project. They are leading this trial project for a group of 12 of our schools, under the deeper enrichment training offer from the PEP team.
The aim of the project is specifically to develop evidence-informed approaches to teaching and learning in primary science. Through this, models of effective self-improvement practices will be developed in all the schools, which will be transferable across the curriculum.
Session one found us considering a whole plethora of issues which would allow us to prepare and choose well our school-specific project going forward:
- A rationale for teacher research
- What does classroom research look like?
- Review of questionnaires – identifying issues
- Working in groups according to topic – what do we want to improve?
- Where are we now and how do we gather data to find out?
Being asked to discuss and ask questions of our own practice in some of the aspects of school life such as why do we sit children in groups or why do we teach the skills of working scientifically meant that we considered how much of what we do is accepted historic norms, common accepted practice, embedded practice or practice from well researched methodologies or a mixture of a wide range of different reasons. But it provoked lively debate and lots of very passionate responses about why we do what we do and where those beliefs and practices originate.
Group debate as we discuss and challenge some of our ‘norms’ of what we do and why we do it.
Evaluating given questionnaires for their effectiveness and purpose gave us valuable insights into decisions we would need to make about questionnaires we will devise for our gap task, aimed at finding out where we are now as a school in our science teaching and learning.
In some cases, questions from example questionnaires appeared to be leading, others seem to be lacking in a real focus and in some examples single questions seemed to be asking for complex pieces of information. So, it left us considering how we could formulate useful devices which would be smart and short, with clear language and an idea of the kind of responses we might expect.
Some accepted conventions of questionnaire design were discussed too, such as having the option of a neutral response and scales with an ideal of 5 responses.
The pre-session gap task allowed the facilitators to be able to focus the schools at this initial stage on possible projects so we can form clusters of schools working together to support each other. We discussed the core focus being on impact and what we want pupils to be achieving, feeling, doing and saying as a result of the focus of the project work and how we could evidence this.
Participants have been invited to conduct trials first in their own classes, finding ways through, discovering potholes, hopefully filling potholes and moving forward with the research informed practices. Some may choose to manage the project and the trials across phases or whole schools.
Ali did make clear however that the smaller the steps they are trying to take, the easier it may be to collect valid data for this progress.
So the final session for the afternoon got us considering how we could attain an accurate and realistic picture of what’s happening now through a triangulation of evidence. This could include any combination of looking at planning, viewing teaching and learning, devising and using focussed questionnaires, book scrutinies or other means.
So that’s where this blog wraps up. The next session on the 28th November will find us sharing baseline data from our evidence gathering. We’ll then refine our research questions and begin to identify possible strategies and interventions to try.
Sign up for the informative, engaging and useful termly newsletter from the PSTT and look out for updates on the project as we work through the year.
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