I was initially hesitant about the research lead training. The treadmill of working in schools is all-consuming and I wasn’t sure I had the time to add in yet another role. I am not from the world of academia, and worried that it would be inaccessible, time-consuming and ultimately not beneficial to my school.
With each passing day of training, and with each resource that widens my perspective on education, I realise how wrong I was.
I thought it would be dictatorial - taking away my autonomy and dismissing my professional judgement. Not the case. I realise I can enhance both of these by using practical wisdom, making decisions based on good knowledge of content and research which have the highest likelihood of success. My judgement is further retained through intelligent adaptation – drawing upon the experience of my context to tailor to our specific needs without losing the core principles of the suggested change.
It has put a spotlight on decision making in school. Often with a sticky plaster approach, I have been too quick to judge the problems within our school and administer quick fix first-aid that will save the day without fully considering the true nature of our problems and gathering the necessary evidence to discover whether this is really an accurate picture.
It has also challenged my perspective of evaluation – showing more than ever that impact is the key. Sometimes, we continue with ineffective activities and methods because we have not taken the time to take a step back and consider why we are doing what we do, and the true benefits that it brings.
Active research has been another interesting part of the learning process. I have found that it is hard to take a step back from a project you believe in and really consider the true impact that it has. Developing this objectivity, and a more thorough approach to decision making, is vital in order to best serve the pupils in our care.
I have realised that staff buy-in for change is a must; there has to be a winning combination of key principles and research underpinning what we do paired with a clarity in the process and instruction to avoid ambiguity and confusion. Research must be presented in exactly the right way to encourage engagement and ellicit a shared understanding.
The best part of the training is that it has reignited my own thirst for learning; opening my eyes to the many possibilities of what can be achieved and how we can do this – learning from colleagues across the country and beyond.
With school budgets squeezed year upon year, we simply cannot afford to waste money on a hunch of what will work based upon the opinions of one or two individuals. Research gives us the opportunity to employ best bets, to be more considered in our approach and hopefully experience a higher rate of success for our pupils.
I am now excited for the ‘what next’. The best part of being a teaching school is the opportunity to collaborate and work with colleagues from across our local area, and the benefits this can bring. Our next steps, I hope, will be to use research based inquiry across a range of schools to address some of our local education issues and, eventually, share with a wider audience what we have learnt. We have some way to go before we reach this point on the path ahead but I feel that we are slowly heading in the right direction.
To those that are sceptical of using research – that feel it is just one more chore to add to their endless list of daily jobs – I say give it a chance. The benefits it can bring to the effectiveness of our classrooms, and the resulting impact on pupils will make it time well spent.
Many thanks to Stuart Kime, for his time and expertise, and to those that made it possible for us to be part of this cohort.