Teachers as researchers

Fran Dainty has responded to Dylan William’s recent challenge to the notion that teachers can be researchers. Her post adds another patronising twist to the demands that some under-informed policy makers make when they try to insist that “teachers must also be researchers”.

The reality is that we live in the Donaldson era and that means that teachers, like all would-be professionals [1], need clarity of purpose and a defensible position that is responsive to any situation. For me, this means the confidence of evidence. For that, you need to be able to do some kind of research.

I get a bit fed up with the arrogance of some academics towards people that aren’t them. Of course teachers can research: because we don’t publish it in some self-promoted peer-reviewed journal, it doesn’t make it any less valid or useful. I’ve done a lot of reading in these journals recently and frankly much of what I’ve read is as relevant and useful as phlogiston.

If people are doing good work by researching as part of their teaching job – and a minority of teachers are – then the benefits of this ought to be available to the majority to inform their own practice. I’m delighted to see the beginnings of this in the Pedagoo EnquiryMeet coming in November. It’s interesting to note that they shied away from the originally proposed “ResearchMeet” title for this event.

Robert Winston and other academics have taken a patronising view of teachers and their capabilities. Researchers may drop in to a classroom scenario and publish detailed conclusions based upon what can be only described as a passing acquaintance with the nuanced environment in which our children learn. On this basis, they really ought to allow the professional classroom practitioner, who has insight and experience they do not possess, the courtesy of accepting them as capable of research that is every bit as valid as theirs.

Behind it all is one of the fundamental defects with our Scottish education system – the lack of proper time and opportunity for the already fully committed teacher to step back, assess, enquire and develop our education system from within.
[1] We’re not, never have been, but aspire to be regarded as professionals in the same way that engineers and soldiers are.