Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 425 – 439. (November 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article draws on the experience of undertaking research as part of the reforming process of an undergraduate programme in initial teacher education. The context is a Scottish Government funded initiative, the Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE), based in the University of Aberdeen. The STNE project, as for similar projects worldwide, provided a context for the enactment of people's different beliefs and experiences with regard to educational research and its role in informing the practices of teacher education. As such, it became a context for the experience of these tripartite tensions created by differing perspectives and rationale held by policy, academic research and practice.
The authors' journey through the literature has highlighted the challenges presented by policy-driven research in a global context. These challenges essentially consist of competing views on the purposes of research, the inherent difficulties presented by linguistic interpretations, problems associated with dominant views of research held by different stakeholders and the privileged position given to research at the expense of 'local' or 'practical' knowledge.
In light of the discussions reported in the literature on the culture of evidence and effectiveness populating educational reforms, the authors' experiences and reflections lead them to some conclusions about the nature of research-based practice in a policy-driven initiative.
The authors believe that the philosophy underpinning research needs to be consistent with the philosophy, values and beliefs of the initiative itself, in order to develop an ethos of trust and understanding. This means striving for maintaining the complexity of the system, taking account of the many differing, yet equally legitimate, perspectives that co-exist together within that system.
Of most importance, however, are the psychological and cultural factors. The recognition of the cultural-historical embeddedness of contexts and the requirement of an understanding of that context places immense authority in the hands of those very practitioners to be able to interpret and productively use data gathered for the purpose of reflection and improvement of practice. In this regard, initiatives like STNE can provide an opportunity for both practitioners and researchers alike to interpret policy and create knowledge within a co-constructed research-informed framework.
The authors also argue that there is a need to find new ways of looking at data and displaying them that are collegiate, participative and aimed at disclosing personal perceptions in a non-threatening manner. Most importantly, research for accountability should become a collective effort and a collective story, the account of an experience that is strongly methodologically based and can serve the purpose of self-reflection of our own ways of working.