All entries for September 2019
September 30, 2019
The future of research in the palm of your hand
My biggest concern moving into my NQT year is that I will become one of those cynical teachers, disengaged with the system, laden with stress and driven purely by results. We all know those teachers. We’ve all met them, or been taught by them and I find the thought of morphing into one quite frightening.
I think keeping on top of research is a way of ensuring this never happens. I don’t intend for research-led practice to be as laborious a task as in my training year. I won’t be pouring over library books for hours, or spending entire weekends locked away in my study, but there are definitely quicker and more engaging ways of keeping up to date with innovative ideas and movements in education.
Schools often offer CPD training on a variety of topics. While the quality of the training relies heavily on the trainer, the opportunity to engage with teachers of other subjects or schools should not be underestimated. At University, some of the most valuable sessions were when, even as students, we just talked about some of the things we had seen or tried in the classroom. It’s how I found out about Kagan structures, which, after further research, transformed my understanding of what cooperative learning is and how it should look. Other teachers, their ideas and experiences are an extremely accessible and incredibly valuable resource for exploring research and current educational pedagogy.
And, due to the incredible capabilities of modern day technology, we are not limited to exploring the experience of people we know, but we can tap into the innovations of educators around the globe. Twitter is a fantastic example of how this can be done. A whole world of blogs, reports and ideas all linked to 120 character summaries. Read a title, decide if you’re interested, click or move on.
Pinterest is another great way for coming up with novel teaching initiatives. For the tired teacher, who can’t even face the 140 characters of Twitter, Pinterest offers a scrolling screen of never ending pictures to browse and explore - all the in palm of your hand. General teaching ideas, subject or topic specific activities, behaviour for learning strategies and SEN support and guidance, classroom organisation, all presented in a range of bright, appealing pictures.
These ideas may not be the most up to date practice. They may not be based on the most contemporary research, but they are real life examples of real teachers and how they manage their workload and their classroom. It offers a quick way to dip in and out of the world of other teachers, ensuring that my own practice doesn’t go stale. Most of all it keeps me excited about teaching. I enjoy looking at what other people have done and thinking about how I could use that in my own classroom, how it could benefit my students.
Pedagogy and innovations have been made accessible in an attractive and convenient way and this is certainly how I intend to engage with research, at least as a starting point. From this, if there is an idea I am particularly inspired by, which I wish to develop and experiment with, then I may need to revert back to the hours of trawling through books and journals that I became so familiar with in my PGCE year - but the library certainly won’t be my starting point; the pretty Pinterest pictures will!
September 16, 2019
Research and its role in a trainee’s development
When first told about the research project that we would be conducting during our PGCE year, in all honesty I was not looking forward to it; however over the course of my research I have begun to appreciate the real benefits which research has had on my professional development.
Whilst I still appreciated that the assignment was going to be demanding, my own specific interests and queries within teaching started to take form and eventually led to my decision to research the interaction between feedback and student confidence.
Secondary research through reading around my subject has proved to be invaluable within my first year of teaching; it has provided me with a depth of understanding and a range of perspectives on various elements of the profession. I will undoubtedly continue to read around educational based research in areas I see of importance at different points in time.
In terms of primary research, conducting a large (ish) study is something which I may consider undertaking in a few years’ time, but for the moment it will be put on the back burner. Before embarking on anything major in terms of research, I aim to hone my teaching skills and build my confidence within the classroom; this will also allow me to discover more issues or challenges and potentially uncover new points of interest for my own research.
With this being said, I believe small scale research would be beneficial for my own professional development. Within my final week at my training school, I intend to set aside 5 minutes at the end of my lessons and distribute short questionnaires to my students. These questionnaires will ask students to rate on a scale from one to five on areas such as my marking, homework tasks, fairness and how interesting my lessons were for them over the year. This will be followed by two open ended headings “What I liked” and “Advice/what I would change”, the aim of this is to seek ways to improve; importantly it will also allow a focus on what students enjoyed. This gives chance to appreciate what I have done well over the year, rather than purely focussing on negatives or areas to change.
The data will not be analysed as meticulously as my assessed university work, however it will still be collated in a similar manner; to look for patterns or general trends. Starting a new school in September, I believe conducting research of this manner could prove to be invaluable in developing my own practice to best benefit my students. There is scope for this to be placed at various points over a year, or even over a career; had I thought of this sooner, I would have attempted to do this type of research at my complimentary placement school earlier in the academic year.
Being in the early stages of teaching or indeed any career, I believe you need to be incredibly open to change and should actively seek any ways possible to grow and improve. Having the chance to gather personalised feedback from my students is a fantastic opportunity that I intend to make the most of over my career and I believe should be something which is integrated into lessons wherever possible.
So ultimately, yes, I will engage in research during my NQT year and beyond, as I believe it holds scope to really benefit my professional practice. Small scale research of the kind aforementioned allows quality reflection on one’s practice, which then allows for maximum impact when implementing change, therefore giving scope to achieve the ultimate goal; to improving students’ learning.
September 09, 2019
Thinking about blogging?
What is WJETT?
The WJETT blog or Warwick Journal of Education - Transforming Teaching blog is designed to encourage staff and students to disseminate good practice and to engage with their peers on academic cultural critique or areas of research that they find interesting.
With the increased focus on ‘teachers as researchers’ in the sector, many qualified teachers are expected to publish the outcomes of any action research projects they undertake. The WJETT blog can be the first step on your journey towards publishing and enables you to experience publishing and reviewing in a friendly and supportive environment.
Can I write about anything in my blog post?
Yes pretty much. Academic cultural critique (Thomson and Mewburn, 2013) is always a good source of content for academic blogs. This can include (but is not limited to) comments and reflections on funding; higher education policy or academic life. You might also want to consider blogging about:
- Academic practice (Saper, 2006)
- Information and/or self-help advice
- Technical, teaching and careers advice
- Your research or practice
- How you’ve undertaken research
- Impact of research on your practice
- An area of research/practice that interests you
- Your experiences/reflections
How long can my blog post be?
Each individual blog post should be no longer than 500 words. Long blocks of text are sometimes hard for readers to digest. Break up your content into shorter paragraphs, bullet points and lists whenever possible. Also include a list of keywords or tags as this makes it easier for Google to find your work.
Do I need to use citations?
No, this is a reflective piece so it does not need to include citations (but you obviously can include them if they are relevant).
Can I include links or images?
We would encourage you to include links to any articles that you have considered whilst writing your blog post. We also welcome the use of images (as long as you have permission to use them) as they can often help to illustrate a point and obviously will not be included in the word limit. Please remember this is a public site so if you want to include images of your students in your classes then you will need permission to do this.
What is the process for submitting a piece of work?
Your blog post should be emailed to me at A.Ball.email@example.com. Once the submission has been reviewed it will either be uploaded at the beginning of the next available week or sent back to you for editing if it requires amendments. You should then send the amended work to me once again and I will then upload it onto the WJETT site.
September 02, 2019
A Never–ending Journey
If I am being completely honest, I didn’t enjoy conducting my action research and then writing about it as much as I thought I would, or as much as I enjoyed writing my other post-graduate assignments (if enjoy is the right word?). Despite this, as I go into my NQT year I am almost certain I want to continue my Masters at Warwick and conduct more education-based research, just next time on an area I am slightly more interested in. I’ll give a brief explanation about my reasons for wanting to do this.
Firstly, education is such a big topic and is changing so much and so often that I’m intrigued by the fact that there is still not really any set way to do anything because, essentially, every child is different and every individual has different viewpoints, opinions and ways to do things. In addition, to bring the politics in, every Government wants to bring different ideas to the education system. I’m baffled by the scope of educational research out there and think it is exciting that everything works differently in a different context.
In the light of this, I would love to look at action research on a larger scale and in a familiar context, to try and tackle a specific problem and see its impact and how exciting it can be. One of the students involved in the action research I undertook achieved a positive outcome from my intervention, and the more I think about it, the more I realise how interesting tracking this was. Moreover, it was fascinating to see how the rich qualitative data that I collected from student interviews and questionnaires gave me such an insight into how the project had an impact on students.
Secondly, I wasn’t fully engaged in the action research project I undertook primarily because I didn’t find the topic overly interesting. This meant that reading around the topic became quite a painful experience and I got to the point where I felt some of the literature was stating the obvious. I would like, next time, to choose a topic that engages me more and makes me want to read on. Furthermore, after completing my own action research I feel like I would take more notice of the analysis and discussion sections within the articles I read next time. Although I don’t really want to admit it, I had a tendency to skip these and simply focus on the literature review and the conclusion. I feel that now I’ve done my own action research, and understand it more, I’d be able to find the relevance in those, actually vital, sections.
Thirdly, I want to push myself to find a way to implement something in the classroom that isn’t bogged down by data gathering but still produces results at different intervals. This would mean further researching tools to consider the best way to undertake an intervention. I found that making students fill out something every lesson was definitely not the best way to evaluate, as they just wrote something without really thinking about it, so I doubt the reliability of some of the data I have collected. I’m aware that action research is a continuous reflective, looping journey and, although I don’t really want to do any more research on the project that I have undertaken this time, I’m very aware that I could work to find ways to refine it to develop it further.
To put it simply, I would definitely like to continue to engage in research. As a teacher, I see my own learning journey as continuous and ongoing. For some this may be frustrating, but for me, it is very exciting.