Engaging in and Engaging with Research: Teacher Inquiry and Development

Dec. 25, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 6 (December 2009), pages 669 – 681.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The connection between teacher inquiry, professional development and school improvement was recognised 30 years ago by Lawrence Stenhouse.

This paper explores how a group of engaged, enquiring teachers orient themselves towards research.

- How do they see their roles in relation to research?
- Are they active consumers of reports from government or 'the academy' - ‘engaging with' research to inform their practice and their own research projects in school?
- Do they move into the fray to present their findings as part of the wider discussion; are they engaging in' the process as active producers of research evidence?
- Do they switch between these roles?
- How do they develop the critical skills and confidence that will enable them to assess the warrant for action that each new idea carries with it?

The evidence discussed in this paper comes from work undertaken by teachers in the Learning to Learn Phase 3 Evaluation.
This action research project ran from 2003 to 2007 in 33 settings: in primary (age 4-11) and secondary (11-18) in three clusters across England. The teachers who participated in this project completed three cycles of practitioner inquiry to explore tools, pedagogies and other innovations which would promote dispositions of 'learning to learn' (L2L). The paper focuses on identifying those aspects of being involved in L2L that support teachers' learning and the way that the teachers themselves understand the impact on their professional development.

Data from over 60 semi-structured interviews undertaken over the three years of the project, the case study reports compiled by teachers at the end of each year of the project and collaborative workshops involving teachers and university researchers as co-inquirers are used to explore teachers' learning.

Qualitative methods are used to develop a thematic analysis of the interviews, case studies and the teachers' understanding of the relationships between inquiry, research and continuing professional development (CPD) in order to identify categories and generate key concepts that can inform a theoretical understanding of the impact of professional inquiry on teachers' learning.
The findings contribute to our understanding of the role of inquiry and research in schools in supporting professional learning by suggesting how tools and models of working are developed.

Stenhouse, L. (1975) An introduction to curriculum research and development Heinemann , London.
Stenhouse, L. (1981) What counts as research?. British Journal of Education Studies 29:(2),
pp. 103-114.
Stenhouse, L. Stenhouse, L. (ed) (1983) Research as a basis for teaching. Inaugural lecture from University of East Anglia. Authority, education and emancipation p. 178. Heinemann , London.

Updated: Feb. 14, 2010