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Quality and equity for teachers requires proper use of research

Anne-Marie DuguidAnne-Marie Duguid, SSAT’s director of education, argues the case for an approach to an evidence-informed profession that is not limited to randomised controlled trials…

At the core of our beliefs at SSAT – and, indeed, among the vast majority of educators in this country – is quality and equity, for all. Hence the themes for this year’s National Conference. In this piece I want to focus on quality and equity for teachers.

The College of Teaching is on the brink of something special.

SSAT for years has modelled ‘by schools for schools’, ‘by teachers for teachers’. That is why we have been so instrumental in supporting the establishment of the College of Teaching; most importantly, ensuring it was teacher-led and driven.

A vital part of this is supporting the profession to be evidence-informed, so we have the best chance of improve our students’ life chances. As I once heard a 10-year-old student say at our National Conference, ‘We only have one “today”.’

If we accept the notion of teacher professionalism and schools as learning organisations, then we must also accept that teachers can and should contribute a significant amount to creating ‘new knowledge’ through practitioner research.

Just as there is no one right way of teaching a class, so there is not just one form of useful research. Nationwide, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are producing recommendations for best practice based on amalgamated data.

Just as there is no one right way of teaching a class, so there is not just one form of useful research

The upsurge of RCTS is a good thing in my opinion, when carried out well – they tell us whether something is working (if you ignore the arguments about lack of lab conditions). But we are losing something if the profession is not asking why something worked. We need to generate our own hypotheses: true modern professionalism.

Teachers are busy, schools are busy and there are many external pressures that may lead us to feel that research is a luxury. It isn’t. But it has to link to your school priorities, be meaningful and manageable – and most importantly have a measurable impact.

there are many external pressures that may lead us to feel that research is a luxury. It isn’t

To this end, I have been developing the 4Es approach to research in schools. The approach, built on years of the intellectual capital of the SSAT Lead Practitioner Accreditation programme, comprises:

  • Engage with the evidence base (could be data from RCTs, or literature review etc)
  • Enact in your classroom through an iterative process of small-scale action research
  • Embed in your practice (perhaps with another class or subject)
  • Extend to another colleague.

To really make a contribution to the profession and provide system-wide change in our country’s education, we need to look at ways to spread and mobilise knowledge.

Many schools in the SSAT network have been doing this successfully, and we would be delighted to hear your experiences.

‘Show and tell’ is ok, but does not provide systemic change.

If we can find ways to support a truly evidence-informed, research (non-selective)-driven profession, then we can have world-class teachers who will make world-class schools. Not the other way round!

Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @AnneMarieDuguid

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Find out more about SSAT Lead Practitioner Accreditation.

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