Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research, Chartered College of Teaching
Over the past few years, the idea that teaching should be an evidence-informed profession has become increasingly widespread, and supporting teachers to be more evidence-informed and research-engaged is at the heart of the work of the Chartered College of Teaching.
Of course, engaging with research and evidence can mean many things – from reading original research, to engaging with evidence brokers, to carrying out small-scale enquiry in schools. It is perhaps the last of these which attracts most debate; the notion of teachers as researchers is not without difficulties. From the inevitable problem of workload and expectation, via ethical issues, to the question of whether teachers have the skills to effectively carry out and evaluate research. Given all these challenges, is it a worthwhile investment for teachers to carry out their own research projects?
It is, perhaps, a question of degrees. At the simplest level, “research” as a process of “identifying an idea that seems likely to work, trying it in the classroom, and evaluating whether it did work” seems simply to articulate the cycle that many teachers go through on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Increased rigour in this cycle could involve engagement with research and evidence to select the approaches trialled; a strengthened approach to identifying, baselining and evaluating goals; and a more structured expectation of sharing findings to inform colleagues’ practice. For some teachers, of course, participation in a supported practitioner research project – whether through a master’s programme or some form of professional learning community approach – will also appeal.
Whatever the scale of the research carried out, if we reflect on what we know about what makes effective professional development, it is easy to see how engaging in a cycle of research or enquiry can support professional learning. Models such as “lesson study” or engagement in a research learning community provide a collaborative, practice-based approach that is by necessity sustained over a period of time.
While there may yet be limited evidence of impact on student outcomes, there is evidence that engaging with and in research can lead to an increase in teachers’ levels of self-reflection and discussion about their practice, and a renewed sense of themselves as professional learners. With that in mind, for many schools and individuals, involvement in practitioner research – with appropriate time and support – has the potential to form an effective part of teachers’ professional development.

To audit your school’s current level of evidence-engagement, download this free resource from the Chartered College of Teaching: Evidence-Informed Teaching: Self-Assessment Tool for Schools
References and further reading:
Brown, C. & Greany, T. (2017). ‘The Evidence-Informed School System in England: Where Should School Leaders Be Focusing Their Efforts?’, Leadership and Policy in Schools.
Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Research Learning Communities Evaluation.
DeLuca, C., Bolden, B., Chan, J. (2017) ‘Systemic professional learning through collaborative inquiry: Examining teachers' perspectives’, Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 67
Higgins, S., Cordingley, P., Greany, T., & Coe, R. (2015). ‘Developing Great Teaching’. Teacher Development Trust.
Rose, J., Thomas, S., Zhang, L., Edwards, A., Augero, A., Roney, P. (2017). Research Learning Communities Evaluation. Education Endowment Foundation.
Stoll, L., Greany, T., Coldwell, M., Higgins, S., Brown, C., Maxwell, B., Stiell, B., Willis, B. and Burns, H. (2018). Evidence-informed teaching: self-assessment tool for teachers. Chartered College of Teaching.
Stoll, L. and Temperley, J. (2015). Narrowing the Gap with Spirals of Enquiry. Whole Education.
Timperley, H.S., Wilson, A., Barrar, H. & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. New Zealand Ministry of Education.
A former English teacher, Cat's roles have since focused on supporting teacher development both online and through face-to-face activities, with a particular focus on development through collaboration and through engagement with research and evidence. She has worked as a teacher and advisor in the state and independent sector, as well as in corporate learning and development. Cat leads on the Chartered College of Teaching's work around teacher CPD, including the Chartered Teacher programme, and their research activities and publications, including termly peer reviewed journal, Impact. In addition, Cat is studying for her doctorate at the UCL Institute of Education, looking at school leadership development.
This blog post was originally published as an article in NACE Insight – the termly publication for NACE members. To view all past editions of Insight, log in to our members’ area.

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Monday, March 19, 2018