Starting an in-school ‘research group’

Step One: Setting some parameters

This is much less of a manual, and much more of a documentary of my efforts to get a group started in school. In the first instance, it must be said that the EduJournalClub website and guidance given by Beth G-G, Tom Bennett and Dan Sabato have been invaluable.

I was first tasked with running this group back in September, and given a rather far off date of Wednesday 1st February for the first session. Naturally, I made very few plans being somewhat busy with my own MA level research. Before Christmas, I felt it was important to check with the Senior Leadership Team what it was they expected from the session, to ensure that it was able to fulfil their wish list and the school’s broader vision for the development of the teaching staff. As befits our school’s approach to CPD, I was given quite a blank canvas.

Some contextual detail might be valuable here. Our school’s CPD model revolves around a series of ‘professional learning groups.’ Each of these is built upon our school’s five teaching priorities. Staff opt into one of the groups, which meet regularly, to discuss one new habit that they wish to develop in their teaching. Within a supportive group, some input is given by an expert, some literature is discussed among the group and how the habit is being developed, and with what success, is discussed among colleagues who offer helpful advice.

I see my ‘research group’ as something of an extension to this model, for those that want to get hardcore with their consultation of the literature. I largely see the group as an action-research group, which reinforces the school’s ultimate goal of having a reflexive teaching staff.

I have also had to think carefully about what is realistically possible given the nature and regularity of the sessions:

  1. I have only been assigned three twilight sessions to get this group off of the ground. I must prove the viability of this group and pitch for more time in the next academic year.
  2. Given the school’s personalised nature of CPD, and the range of differentiated options in the schools’ development programme, the group will need to be attractive to earn members. No teacher will be attending because they ‘need to make up the hours’.
  3. How much research can a group of teachers engage with in a one hour session after school?

 

I have therefore devised a series of, hopefully realistic, goals and principles around which I shall plan our first session, which I will blog about when I get around to planning it.

  1. To expose teachers to a range of ideas about teaching beyond the staple diet given in the existing CPD programme.*
  2. To encourage staff to think critically about how they engage with new teaching ideas, however they are presented.
  3. To encourage a model of critical evaluation of new teaching ideas within our particular context.
  4. To encourage teaching staff to take an ownership over their own CPD and reflect on the process of improving their pedagogy.

* Dan Sabato has helpfully suggested that a mixture of blog posts, TED talks and research abstracts are a realistic and desirable mix. I’m hoping Michael Fordham’s blog-post on useful ways into research for teachers might also prove useful in planning.

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