Practitioner Research: perceptions, practices and products

This paper reports on the initial findings of a PhD study in which the researcher is concerned with the proposal for ‘evidence-based’ education and asks the question: ‘How can practitioner research be developed in the current policy context?’. As part of this strategy, policy makers favour randomised controlled trials (RCTs) (Goldacre, 2013, p.4). Here practitioners implement research findings established by external others, rather than conducting their own enquiry. In addition to this, a series of ‘Research Priorities’ have been published, advocating that teachers ‘themselves must play an increasingly important part in building a common evidence base’ (DfE, 2013, p.4). Whilst it appears, from a policy perspective, that evidence-based practice is desirable for a self-improving education system, it is not clear how this aspiration can be translated into practice.

My paper will report on the results of an online survey (n=100) and semi-structured interviews (n=6) investigating teachers’ perceptions about evidence-based practice working across age phases and in the variety of educational contexts available in England. In particular, it investigates teachers’ experiences, and attitudes to research and related opportunities and constraints. Analysis will explore relationships between type of school, extent of research engagement, enthusiasm for research, and teacher agency.

As well as these initial findings, my paper will consider how this knowledge will inform the next phases of the study. These will include:
(a) an ethnographic study of research practices in order to investigate the socio-cultural influences within an educational organisation that may impact on practitioner enquiry and;
(b) an evaluative study of research activities within a particular school to investigate the products of R&D activity.