Teacher view: Gareth Alcott

Gareth Alcott Assistant head teacher at King Alfred's Academy, Wantage galcott@kaacademy.org; @GalcottGareth
Gareth Alcott
Assistant head teacher at King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage
galcott@kaacademy.org; @GalcottGareth

“For research to work effectively for busy teachers, a new College must ensure a number of things…”

Since the Department for Education’s announcement of a consultation on 9th December, support for the College of Teaching has gained momentum. More and more teachers are backing the Claim Your College campaign. During the process of going public, questions and concerns have been raised on social media, in staffrooms, and in the press. No one person can answer all these queries – and nor should they. Yet collectively, we – the teachers in the classrooms – must have opinions on these issues and contribute to their answers if we are to claim our professional autonomy. Having a College of Teaching will allow us to build our professional capital and raise the professional status of teachers.

The use of research to inform classroom practice is an ongoing development within education and has become part of the Claim Your College debate. Much has been written regarding the use of research, culminating in some common themes and approaches:

In March 2013, Dr Ben Goldacre presented Building Evidence into Education, outlining some key aspects; these have been reflected in part by BERA-RSA’s findings in January 2014. These support some of the DfE’s recommendations. Interestingly, the BERA-RSA study commissioned six papers and reviewed them in their interim report, which gives an excellent backdrop for our current debate.

I am a strong advocate of teachers engaging with research and I try to ensure that research informs my own classroom practice where it can. For research to work effectively for busy teachers, a new College must ensure a number of things:

One: Teachers must be convinced it is worth it. This is no mean feat, but most teachers – presented with reliable research proven to promote better outcomes for learners – will gladly adapt their teaching when given the correct support and time to embed it properly. A new College must commit to training research-literate and critical teachers who have the capacity, skills and desire to engage with research.

Although the initial proposal suggests no initial teacher training involvement from a new College, a strategy to educate newcomers to the profession would have to be developed alongside ensuring that high-quality, career-long professional development is available for existing teachers. On a cautionary note, it is also worth stating that – as classroom practitioners – we must understand the limitations of research and recognise that our creativity and experimental approaches in the classroom will be the source of future research.

Two: If we are to have research-engaged teachers, we must have a clear and concise method of interface. It is essential to ensure easy access to research using an effective information architecture and up-to-date technology; and to use systems to ensure transparency and guard against hidden agendas or research bias.

Over the past decade, access to beneficial research has become much easier thanks to the internet, blogs and social media. The Education Endowment Fund’s Toolkit and the Institute for Effective Education are making an evidence-informed profession a reality, even for the busiest teachers. Add to that the drive and passion of individuals like Tom Bennett who founded researchED, and it is clear that education is in the midst of a sea-change. There are also other models such as those in Scotland, the USA, Singapore, Chile and Finland.

Three: There has to be recognition and commitment by headteachers, governors and system leaders, who must allocate the necessary resource for this to happen in schools. In the current economic climate this will be a bitter pill to swallow; but proper engagement with research cannot happen after a full teaching day plus marking and planning. It must be embedded; there must be time to engage effectively; it must be a tacit part of our thinking.

Making research part of our teaching culture will not happen overnight – it has taken other professions years to make it work effectively. But it can be done, and the long-term benefits to teachers, students and the economy could be extraordinary. If we are to finally free ourselves from top-down policymaking and call ourselves professionals, we must embed research into our practice as a statement of intent.

Individually, we change lives – but collectively we can change the nation’s thinking!

Please join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #claimyourcollege

Leave a comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that. Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked