Why is it so important that research informs our approaches to mentoring?
Our view is that engagement with educational research should be part of one’s preparation for teaching. It should also be a constant feature of a teacher’s professional development.
Teachers’ engagement with research
Engagement with research can be problematic for teachers. Some of the reasons given by teachers for their lack of engagement with current research include:
- Lack of time to familiarise themselves and difficulties in simple access to published research literature;
- Frustration that empirical evidence is not so much about what works, but rather what does not work, leading to dismissals of research as being ‘obvious’;
- Difficulties in seeing the immediate classroom implications and applications of research findings to their own practice. (BERA, 2014)
How does the course address these issues?
These barriers affect many teachers. In this course we therefore aim to make explicit how prospective mentors could engage with the research findings in both their own teaching practice and their practice as a mentor. In our view, engagement consists of a practitioner’s awareness of the research findings together with a critical reflection on the potential of incorporating the research in maths-specific situations. This is illustrated throughout the activities of the course.
Each mathematics-specific situation introduced in the activities of this course is either preceded or followed by a step titled ‘What does the research say?’ In each such step, we provide a selective summary of the research insights and results related to the specific mathematics topics under consideration. This summary consists of a very concise review of the research, where important details of the research studies themselves are left out. This is a deliberate decision and we are aware that omitting such details has its own dangers, such as overgeneralisation. However, we include references for you to investigate deeper and further.
For each course activity, the research evidence alone is not sufficient to answer the questions raised. Nevertheless, our view is that even the smallest insight or understanding is helpful to support better and more effective teaching approaches.
The summary of research is then followed by activities that aim to model how engagement with research could potentially support teachers in a number of ways, through offering:
- An insight into pupils’ misconceptions, mistakes, and/or challenges in understanding a particular mathematics concept;
- A better approach to teaching a particular topic;
- Recommendations as evidenced in and derived from the relevant research reviewed.
BRITISH EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATION (BERA) (2014) Research and the teaching profession: Building the capacity for a self-improving education system (Final report of the BERA-RSA Inquiry into the role of research in teacher education).