Teachers as researchers?
Lawrence StenhouseLawrence Stenhouse is one proponent of teacher research in so much as it encourages development of practice over time, professional collaboration, and useful insight for the local context and community.
‘Our educational realities seldom conform to our educational intentions. We cannot put our policies into practice. We should not regard this as a failure peculiar to schools and teachers. We have only to look around us to confirm that it is part of the human lot. But… improvement is possible if we are secure enough to face and study the nature of our failures. The central problem of evidence-informed practice is the gap between our ideas and our aspirations and our attempts to operationalise them’ (Stenhouse 1975).
‘The gap between aspiration and teaching is a real and frustrating one. The gap can only be closed by adopting a research and development approach to one’s own teaching, whether alone or in a group of cooperating teachers’ (Stenhouse 1975).
…the betterment of schools through the improvement of teaching and learning. Its characteristic insistence is that ideas should encounter the discipline of practice and that practice should be encountered by ideas. The teacher research movement is an attack on the separation of theory and practice’ (Stenhouse 1975).
‘What seems to me most important is that research becomes part of a community of critical discourse. But perhaps too much research is published to the world, too little to the village. We need local cooperatives and papers as well as international conferences and journals’ (Stenhouse 1985).
‘Researching is a particular skill, some of us took years to gain that skill. Asking teachers to be researchers? They are not. I want to put the emphasis on teachers as evaluators of their impact. Be skilled at that. Whereas the whole research side, leave that to the academics. I think it’s totally unreasonable to ask teachers to be experts in everything. I don’t have any time for making teachers researchers. We have got no evidence that action researchers make any difference to the quality of teaching’ (TES 2015).
‘What we need to do is build the bridges and encourage a dialogue, because researchers need teachers and obviously teachers need researchers. We have seen what happens when those two worlds don’t orbit together – basically nobody gets better’ (TES 2015).
‘Although it is right [that] primary research has to be rigorous and well established and it is hard to do that in one school, I actually don’t think that means that teachers shouldn’t be using the literacy and sensibility of research to inform their practice’ (TES 2015).
‘The oppositional discourse of practitioners versus researchers is unfortunate, because it emphasises difference and separation, rather than similarity and overlap. It is also unwarranted, because many of the dispositions, skills and understandings required of good research and researchers are the same as those required of good practice and practitioners. Instead of thinking of practitioners and researchers as different categories of person, we should think about them as different roles. This allows us to see the overlap between the two roles, and the possibilities for their integration’ (Robinson 2003).
‘There are at least two main challenges to be met. The first involves providing beginning and experienced teachers with enough high quality opportunities to learn the skills required to collect, interpret, and use evidence about the link between their teaching and the learning of their students. The second challenge is in developing a teacher culture in which evidence-based discussion of the quality of teaching and learning is an expected part of professional life… Many teachers are not used to providing an evidential basis for their claims about their practice, or asking their colleagues to do the same’ (Robinson 2003).
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Education Research That Matters: Ways of Researching
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