ResearchEd 2: Kevin Stannard

Kevin is talking about the problems of educational research. He identifies, at the start, a lack of cumulative research and a lack of practical concerns. There is a poverty of educational theory. We lack an educational paradigm. Recent successful initiatives have run ahead of theory, such as 1:1 devices. There are lots of bandwagons and anecdotes but there is no theory. Similarly, much of the recent educational reform has not been based on theory.

We don’t lack evidence of what works. There are 1000s of articles, blogs, tweets etc on what works, and this has been incredibly useful for supporting initiatives, such as the Sutton Trust toolkit (have found this very useful in the past few years) and Hattie’s work. They’re evidence based and worth the discussion. There are, however, problems to be identified. A lot of the data is policy-driven which requires fast results. Evidence gets reduced to a narrow range of info that can be measured, completely ignoring the complexity of teaching and promoting a diminished vision of what teachers are there for.

Facts don’t interpret themselves. Kevin uses examples from Singapore and Finland, pointing out the respect and time allowance afford to teachers’ research in the latter.

Policy makers in a hurry need to be able to easily measure both the problem and the results. There is a danger of reducing things to a very simplistic level.

Small scale samples are really important. They’re very detailed, anthropological, but don’t receive funding or recognition like the meta analyses.

Rather than use data as a stick with which to beat teachers, we should encourage teachers to be the researchers. Kevin talks about the work of the GDST in encouraging teachers in their training and cpd. The problem is that research is not mentioned in the teachers standards, but supporting teachers to understand and interpret data and research is vital. Of course there need to be measured, but data provides an impoverished view, so value added and student achievement are important, but so are lesson observations, work scrutiny, student questionnaires etc. The lesson is only a snapshot of the process: planning and work scrutinies are important to the process too (hope Paul Clark reads this after last term’s T&L observations). The teacher’s role is multi faceted and can never be captured in a 20 minute observation, or even in an hour. Student voice is reliable, valid, and can be incredibly supportive.

Kevin shares a project of his own. It started a year early to embed with teachers before any results are measured. Teacher confidence is vital and was observable through lesson observations of various topics, the teachers moved away from seeing research as a threat and instead saw a process that would help them to improve their practice. Research should be seen as a peaceful garden of thought rather than the big stick.

I leave wishing that I worked for a GDST school.

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