10 Tips How To Start Engaging With Research

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Helen Woodley

Helen Woodley is a primary trained SENDCo currently working in a large KS1-4 Pupil Referral Unit in the North East of England. She spent 3 years studying Theology in Durham; Helen has worked in a wide variety of special school settings, including all age schools....
Read more about Helen Woodley

Is your practice research-informed?

Engaging with current academic research is a great way of keeping things fresh and current in the classroom. Plus you know that your practice is built upon firm foundations which have known positive outcomes.

Yet this can be a scary prospect especially for teachers who have been away from an academic setting for a long period of time. Here are my top 10 tips for how you can get started along the path towards research-informed practice.

1. Don’t be scared

Research is not there to frighten you but to stimulate debate, challenge you and benefit classroom practice. Approach it in a positive way rather than assuming it is out to get you or trip you up.

2. Use social media

Many people, both teachers and researchers, share links to academic papers. Get advice from people about who to follow and see what topics they post. There are also some great chats on Twitter which focus on research and current education topics such as #researchEd and #debatED.

3. Learn to use Google Scholar

This is a great tool for finding research papers. Whilst many are paid access only, you can find a significant number of articles which are available to download straight away as a PDF.

4. Join an education group that publishes academic papers

Choose an education group that you are interested in. For example, for a general teaching and access to an online data base try the Chartered College of Teaching, for SEND topics try NASEN and for SEMH try SEBDA.

5. Don’t worry if you don’t ‘get’ an article the first time you read it

Some papers are tough to read and need a while to digest. You many want to read some a few times till you get the gist if what they are saying.

6. Learn to read savvy

You don’t need to wade through a full article every time especially if you are just reading it to see if it is of interest to you. Learn to read the abstract and the conclusions first then return to the middle if you find yourself wanting more.

7. Join a university library

If you live close by, many libraries let non-students join for a fee especially if they are former students. You will have to accept that there are times the library is off limits, such as exam season, or that you are not allowed to take out short loan books. But joining one can often allow you access to fee paying journal sites.

8. Read the bibliography section of education books you enjoy

This will point you towards books and articles the author has used so that you can delve deeper yourself.

9. See if your school will set up research ‘library’

This can be a place where people share articles they have read or you can borrow an education book. It could be in the staff room, next to the photocopier or even in the staff toilets!

10. Start with research that is based on classroom practice

If you read something and try it in your classroom then this can be a great way of getting the point of research and wanting to read further afield. Look into some of the research on current education topics such as phonics or learning times tables and see what you find that you can try out.

I believe that, as teachers, we are all involved in research in the classroom. So dust of your jackets with elbow patches and hunt out your bicycle with a basket and embrace your inner researcher!

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