🔬 The 7 Hallmarks of a Research-Informed School

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Are you working in a research-informed school?

There has been an explosion of academic research filtering through and having an impact on teachers.

Despite the complex language and theory, organisations, academics and teachers are working hard to make it meaningful and pragmatic. What teachers must do with the findings is learn how to interrogate the research as well as translate them back into their place of work.

Translating context is essential …

Those engaging with research who are wanting to help other teachers must filter through any research findings, offer a synopsis and then provide a range of ideas for other teachers to use in various contexts. For example, what works in a classroom full of 16-year-olds won’t necessarily translate and transfer into an early years setting. Context is key.

Next week I am working with a school that has organised an event where teachers and support staff come together to report on their proposed action research project for the year ahead. Something I am a huge advocate for!

I’ve outlined how schools can reshape research-informed appraisal so that targets are designed bottom-up rather than top-down, critiqued with a researcher’s eye and using a range techniques to suit the busy nature of classroom life.

Are you working in a research-engaged school?

Inspired by a research paper published by the Department for Education (2017), here are some signals to spot if you are working in a research-informed school:

  1. Evidence engagement embedded within time allocated for school improvement practices
  2. Open learning culture, focus on longer-term goals
  3. Senior leaders filter research evidence, staff engage with this critically
  4. Majority of staff are motivated, skilled and confident in engaging with evidence; staff expect to engage with research to improve practice
  5. Research evidence is part of routine processes, meetings, CPD and school improvement practices of the school
  6. Some informal policies and guidance on engaging with research evidence
  7. Research-related relationships with other schools and external organisations beyond the school leadership team.

If you are not working in a research-informed school, don’t despair! There are ways that you can help to change the culture.

Are you NOT working in a research-engaged school?

Start by talking to your colleagues about the importance of evidence-based practice and why it is essential for improving student outcomes. Organise informal lunchtime sessions or after-school clubs where you can share research findings and discuss how they can be applied in your school context.

Encourage your colleagues to read research papers and to think critically about the findings. Finally, work with your school leadership team to develop a research-informed culture in your school.

If you think you may be in a school not top of its game, here are the possible signals:

  1. No dedicated time to engage with research
  2. Narrow culture focused on immediate goals
  3. Inconsistent and/or low level of engagement with research evidence across the school
  4. Few staff are motivated
  5. Support structures – reading groups, research projects, learning communities – limited or unavailable
  6. No or very limited guidance on engaging with research evidence
  7. No research-related relationships with external organisations.

Lots of teachers tell me ‘What can I do? I’m just a teacher’.  My response? Know the must stuff …

If you need help on how to get started or how to propose kickstarting a research culture with your leadership team, get in touch.

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