This post follows on from this article on ‘planning the first meeting of a research group.’
My first session was initially designed to gauge the levels of interest, experience and expectations of colleagues that decided to attend. From my perspective, the group felt a little rudderless but certainly achieved this aim. Helpful colleagues of mine have also pointed out that the group perhaps should not necessarily have a strong direction but instead it should guide colleagues to explore research for themselves – something to think about a little bit more fully when planning the next session.
Colleagues were very interested in research, and saw it more as an opportunity to ‘learn something new’ which I found quite interesting. I’m not sure how far educational research can achieve that, or how far this chimes with the aims of the group. Ideally, I want colleagues to question their teaching practice and use evidence to guide changes. If this involves learning something new, then great, but I’m not sure they will receive the silver bullet they’re looking for. It is perhaps worth noting, at this point, that the session fell in the week that we picked over the bones of our mock results. Staff were naturally looking for “interventions” that would turn around students who were not performing at the expected level.
Reflections on own performance:
This group sits as part of my own personal development. I have been guided by the senior leadership team this year to think carefully about how I might grow into a successful leadership role. This has therefore led to the following thoughts:
- Staff respond well to experience. I am not the most experienced teacher, and most of my participants were more senior to me. However they responded well to my background as an MA student currently engaged in the research process myself: this was something I was perhaps anxious about before the session.
- Staff are supportive, and are generally willing to be led to where you want them to go. In hindsight, I wished I had used this session to unpack more fully what colleagues meant by wanting more research on successful interventions. They can only make progress in this area if they have more concrete ideas about what aspects of their student’s learning they wish to develop.
Reflections ahead of the next session:
- Staff want a range of ideas. I am therefore minded to provide them with a few different articles, summarised, and invite them to discuss which of them might prove the most useful to them in designing an intervention to improve a set group of students in their exam classes. This should hopefully encourage them to think in a more focussed way, and will allow us to plan some useful interventions to be evaluated in a subsequent session.
- I want to send staff off with a concrete task to complete. This session didn’t have the ‘zinger’ of an ending I had hoped it would – largely because we were all speaking about attending the next session, which does not fall until the beginning of May. This should take the form of a structured, planned use of some research to modify (or perhaps even remove) an element of their current practice.
Reflections on the role of the group next year:
- I have mentioned this elsewhere, but the group does need to meet more regularly. I need to have, by the end of this academic year, put together a clear proposal for the model the group should follow in 2017/18.
- With a clear programme for 2017/18 staff should be encouraged to commit to the group for the year and perhaps even be invited to join. This allows for the action-research model I am aspiring towards to be sold more clearly before the first session of this year. The first meeting of the group did feel like colleagues were arriving with broad, differing expectations. The session had also come as something of an interruption to their year-long professional development programme which has, of course, been underway since February.
I remain interested in speaking with fellow research leads and others bringing research into the classroom. Please do get in touch, I have always got the time to chew the cud on this subject.