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Researching What for Why?

I enjoy research. I spend much of my time reading it. I also often find myself in sustained and vigorous conversations with colleagues from some of the leading research institutions from around the world...and it's time that I value very much. Indeed, the Foundation maintains a register of some of the leading research around 1-to-1 on our site....however, I am also sick and tried of the unrelenting practice of political leaders and educational policy makers who continually seek to justify inaction and limit the scope for innovation in the name of research.

One only has to review the mountains of literature around the most effective ways to teach reading and the efficacy of small classes to conclude that too much educational research is based on loose assumptions, inappropriate methodologies, a blatant lack of rigor and ideological bias. Too often the funding base for educational research creates preconceptions about the outcomes, real or perceived, and the volume of research that swamps the education market seems to be more related to tenure or the attraction for doctoral topics, than a genuine need. It really is about time we took stock of the situation.

For more than three decades we have seen an increasing stream of research that has targeted our use of technology in schools. What purpose has much of it served, other than to often significantly distract educators from continuing to develop innovative practice, and seek new ways to engage young learners.

How can we support innovative teachers taking risks, if every move is covered by a researcher measuring outcomes? Where was the research to back so many of our current, dubious, practices in education? How indeed did all the mountains of research around computer use in schools in the 80's and 90's not condemn the grossly ineffective use of computer labs, instead of working on the assumption they were inevitable? Where is the parallel to our leading corporations, where good ideas, are keenly sought, encouraged, incubated, and then reviewed for their effectiveness and impact? When we are in midst of a time of potentially enormous transformation in our schools, not least through the integration of technology, it is time that we reflected more closely on the purpose, effectiveness and impact of much of the research that is being carried out.

Why don't we start by working on the culture of our schools, and encourage those that are seeking to create a culture of innovation. Why don't we start thinking carefully about what it really means to support risk-taking in our schools; it seems the only risks people are interested in are about the evils of the net and beyond...how about we support our educational leaders who are creating new agendas for learning within their schools and seeking to genuinely leverage technology within an immersive environment to truly create worthwhile, authentic learning opportunities.

To do this, they must make mistakes, and we don't need research to identify every single one of them. What we need is a dynamic, constructive culture in our schools that builds reflective practice into innovation; that sets action research that is embedded into daily practice, and that seeks to continually improve the opportunities offered to young people.

With that sort of confidence in the teaching profession, with the sort of freedom that truly reflects the professional teacher, the research that will follow will at last be of real value to the lives of the students in our classrooms.

Interested in your thoughts...regards.
November 9th, 2011 @ 11:57AM