Research in schools – being Devil’s advocate – #rEDlead


Professor Coe said we should be Devil’s advocate and ask questions in research. I feel this is my forte so this post will raise questions I have about research in schools following an excellent day at #rEDlead.

Who is the research for? I feel there was a dichotomy emerging between doing it to make a difference with our students in our own classes and then for ‘doing research’ that can then be used by others. Is there still a tension between real life classroom practice and academic research? I didn’t feel that many of the presentations looked at the potential impact on children and or the school themselves. Or is this a case of research needs to be done to see if research in schools has impact? Essentially, why should a teacher bother with academic, time-consuming research?

What makes research research? If I do it by myself and never share it, it is classed as research? Are there different types? Do we need a new taxonomy for educational research so we are all clear what we’re doing and what we’re reading?

Do we need set protocols and processes? This goes back to the idea of what constitutes research. If I forget my bibliography does that matter? How much should I read? Do we need to balance qualitative with quantitative?

Should research be differentiated? Could some colleagues be offered small scale mini projects; less reading, simple methodology, A4 write up? Whilst others who want to complete Masters level work have the opportunity? (see suggested taxonomy for Ed Research – what would go in the *?)

A possible structure for research?

A possible structure for research?



Should there be set formats for presentation? Does it matter if it is 3.5k words long or an A4 summary? Could there be a small/medium/large/extra-large option. Small being an A4 summary sheet and Extra large being the size & standard needed for MEd. Could the whole research be recorded by video without any written aspects?

What if we’re just wasting time? I try something in my class and when it goes wrong I analyse the possible causes, I adjust it or bit it. I don’t need to spend hours reading around it and then writing this up? Whilst it may be important to share, does the time spent making it audience ready outweigh the benefits of the process and findings?

How will school CPD change? INSET days? should it ALL be allocated to research? Should CPD budgets be being spent on texts?  I’ve been told that reading isn’t CPD, this is a problem!

Does everyone in the school have to do some research? We’ve all heard horror stories of everyone being made to complete research. Should it be optional? Should someone be ‘allowed’ to do research if there are serious weaknesses in their teaching that need addressing first, that research itself would take time away from addressing?  Should all types of staff including non-teaching be given the opportunity? What about LSAs? HLTAs?etc is there an opportunity for a qualification I.e the extended project level 3

How will we have access to published research? It’s been said many times. if we’re committed to this, should universities give schools log ins to their Athens service?

And how will teacher’s research be shared and/or published? Will professional full-time researchers be happy for the amateurs to join in? Should this link to the new College for Teaching? Should they host teacher research? But again, will they require a ‘Standard’?

Where is this time coming from? No-one really discussed this hot potato. I’ve heard people saying to introduce something new you must take something away. But this isn’t small. It’s big.

Should there be ‘core’ reading required? Again could it be the small/medium/large/extra-large idea where for example small projects have 2 core texts whilst extra-large have extensive reading?

What about the resistors? I can’t remember the term that was being used but what about those that don’t want to do research? How to manage them? Should we make them do it? What are the consequences?

Should research be linked to performance management? Again I didn’t hear this discussed much. Will some schools start linking these? How might that work? Is it reasonable to link them?

Should a link with a university be due to it being close and/or should be have a research directory of specialisms in education that teachers can then contact specialists linked to their area of research?Where could the central directory be held? How do I know who is available to work with? What if a HEI colleague is overwhelmed by requests? We have over 24,000 schools and approx 150 HEIs. Could it become unmanageable? Is it a model that can cope with exponential growth? Are there financial implications for the school and/or the HEIs?

How can teacher researchers make contact with those who are searching the same area? Should there be a research forum where you can give an outline of your work so others can contact you? Sharing ideas and even working in long distance pairs/groups could end up with more evidence.

Is this current movement just trying to get education on par with other professions? If we are trying to close a gap in educational research should overworked teachers be used in this way in the current situation?

Research Leads

Should research leads have a minimum set of skills and knowledge?
Should they have to have PhDs themselves?
What should they job role specification include?
Should they be on SLT?


I really enjoyed the day especially discussing ideas with other colleagues. Lots to think about. Thanks to Helene & Tom for organising and to those who presented and shared. I can’t make the next one as March is a busy month but it will be interesting more questions have answers by then.


5 thoughts on “Research in schools – being Devil’s advocate – #rEDlead

  1. Many things to comment on in your nice blog, let me pick up two:
    – For research access better to look at big publishers. They make 100s of millions, should open this.
    – On schools with HEI: there was an extensive network with ITT provisions. Now, I wouldn’t say all of them had enough research grounding, but it seems a bit as reinventing the wheel if a new collab between HEI and schools was forged. That’s what I never understood with the whole School Direct change: instead of strengthening the collab the development basically entailed cuts in funds hence making collab more difficult. Now people are realizing this and getting new mechanisms in place. I wish more thought had gone into it in the first place.

  2. Great questions! Here is a starter for 10 response.
    Doing a literature review is something HEIs require for their accreditation systems. It’s a great skills to acquire but not an essential part of CPD or even research informed CPD. But building on existing evidence about what is likely to work and in depth expertise does matter for effective continuing professional development and learning.( CPDL is a useful way of thinking about research and evidence informed practice because it emphasises the teacher’s ongoing contributions as much as the efforts of facilitators, mentors etc. And the point is to make sure you aren’t wasting time reinventing wheel, help you develop you s and to develop an understanding of the underpinning rationale behind trying new things. I don;t think teachers should have to wade their way through academic journalese either. Under the previous government CUREE ( Centre for the Use of Research and evidence in Education)created teacher friendly summaries of most of the key articles and papers and you can still find some of these via our web site ( or look at our recent e-news )plus signposts to many more. You could have a look at our research route maps which are interactive, on-line tools designed to help teams in schools engage collaboratively with both academic and teacher research around a school priority. .They also provide Micro enquiry tools to help teachers get started and to wrap collaborative enquiry around the day job. Some schools are now on their second or third route map having found them a very effective way of supporting research rich CPDL. some teachers in these schools do write up their own enquiries and add these to the research route maps. But not everyone does.
    I think that writing up research is a good way of deepening analysis – especially if we do it with meeting the information needs of another teacher in mind .rather than simply telling the story of the project. But the research about effective CPDL is very clear – you and your pupils can benefit deeply from using evidence about how your pupils respond to your own learning on a sustained basis whether or not you write it up. this power point about making research work for teachers I gave in a keynote at Sussex University might be useful.

  3. Pingback: If you can’t stand the research, get out of the classroom…… | From the Sandpit....

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