Making the most of practitioner research
Steen et al.’s article about the impact of practitioner research draws out key features worth pondering in any setting that is seeking to develop teacher research as a school improvement strategy. The findings are derived from eleven case studies and they chime with similar EEF research.
Know the rules.
The research demonstrated in the importance of practitioners understanding the structure of school improvement that it is intended to fit within.
These include four features:
1. Guidelines for the context of the research.
2. A clear focus for the research.
3. A well-defined process for the conduct of the research.
4. A dissemination plan for the findings, distinguishing between awareness and application.
Know the goals.
Steen et al. argue that practitioner research tends to have one of three goals: developing professional knowledge, changing pedagogy or supporting school improvement.
Validate the research.
To be credible, they argue, practitioner researchers need to reference other, validating sources. They suggest that this may be internal or external research, the security of the research process or external, usually higher education scrutiny.
Understand the intended outcome.
The research suggested that, where outcomes are not agreed, two potentially antagonistic understandings occur. Teachers believe that the principal outcomes is increased professional knowledge while senior leaders expect the outcome to be a catalyst for school improvement. Steen et al. seem alert to the greater frequency of research that generates ‘primarily transformations in the knowledge and attitude of the teachers’ (pp 134) but ‘fewer transformations in their actions’ (pp 134). By not arriving at an agreed outcome for the research, they concluded that it tended to have individual, rather than collective, benefits.
The full article can be read in Educational Action Research (Vol. 22, No. 1, 2014).