Launching an in-school ‘research group’

Step Two: Planning the First Session

I have found planning our first session a rewarding experience. Using the goals I set for the group in its infancy, I undertook the following journey in planning the session.

  1. Finding some literature

    I knew that I wanted to discuss a piece of research in our first session, to model the process of engaging with research as a teacher and to broaden the source of new ideas that our teaching staff access. Using Fordham’s helpful ‘index’ of useful sources, I went in search of an article that was short, accessible and would spark a discussion with colleagues.

    I eventually settled upon an article on retrieval practice which seemed to fit the bill. This article seemed valuable in that it offers a clear and easily accessible method and Smith’s conclusions are communicated clearly. I am therefore hoping that it should spark some useful discussions among colleagues on the extent to which we might be able to replicate the findings in our own context and how we might apply the lessons to our teaching practice. As a short article, and one written by a fellow teacher, it should not be too threatening to colleagues.

  2. Finding a way into the literature

    I am perhaps imposing my own preconceptions onto my colleagues, but I felt that the world of research might sound daunting and alien to them at first. I therefore want to begin our session by unpacking our ideas of what educational research might look like and where we might find it. I have compiled a list of sources, built in part upon Fordham’s ‘index’ as above, and will point colleagues in the direction of the Learning Scientists It is important not to overwhelm colleagues, who are time-pressed, with a range of sources. Whilst presenting a range of sources, I also intend to discuss with colleagues why they are interested in the research group in the first place, and explore the site to see what we can find that might be useful to them.

    I’m also keen to share the four ‘approaches’ to reading research that I have been given by my own MA tutors and the history team at the Institute of Education. To suggest that some read new teaching ideas as if they are unchallengeable scripture, and something that must be applied to every lesson: a universal truth. Others passively engage with literature and new ideas as if they are a manual to be replicated exactly in their own lessons. Both approaches have a place, but we want to use literature as a spark, to consider how we might adapt ideas to our own context or even joust with ideas, based on our own experiences, to identify what does not work for our particular students. We want to ensure that we’re mostly taking the latter two approaches, critically engaging with literature, rather than accepting it without much thought.

  3. Finding a way back out of the literature

    I’m hoping to capitalise on the interests of participants to build up some momentum with this research group. I’m therefore keen to get colleagues to generate some valid questions of their own, which they might take further and engage in some critical research around. This might take place independently, or it might be done within the group in a future session. As part of my internet search, casting around for ideas, I came across this set of slides from a ResearchED talk on PICO questions. I will therefore invite colleagues to generate some questions of their own, and hope that I have sewn some seeds of curiosity and laid the foundations for our next session.

I will update the blog after the session, to critically evaluate how it has gone. Anybody interested in the materials used in the session, or to chew the cud further, are invited to get in touch by commenting below or sending me an email: wdv@dartfordgrammargirls.kent.sch.uk

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