Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 37, No. 5, November 2011, 817–835.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In 2006 the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Ministerie van OCW) invited schools in primary and secondary education to apply to take part in a pilot programme as a training school or as an academic training school.
Three secondary schools in Amsterdam decided to facilitate teachers in their schools to engage in practice research.
These schools participated in a pilot programme called the Academische Opleidingsschool Amsterdam.
The overall aim of the pilot programme was to connect the three elements of teaching, development and research to each other and to embed them in the schools’ practice in such a way as to increase their capacity for innovation.
This was based on the assumption that research conducted by teachers contributes both to the learning of the teacher researcher and to the learning and development of the school as a whole.
This led to the design of a parallel study looking at the actual contribution of the teachers’ research to individual and collective learning within the school and into the question of which factors encouraged or inhibited this.
The study focused on the research question ‘What does teachers’ research contribute to individual and collective learning within the school?’
As a result, the research question was divided into three sub-questions:
What do the teacher researchers learn from conducting research?
What and how do they learn as a team?
What contribution do they make in their own view to learning in the school as a whole?
The findings reveal that the teachers in this study indicate that indicate that learning is more effective if it occurs in a group in which teachers develop things together, can take advantage of each other’s skills and feel that they really need each other.
Furthermore, the results show that it is important to avoid too rigid a structure and to carefully consider what suits the particular school at that time.
In addition, all of the schools highlighted that conducting research in the school provides a counterbalance to the dominant culture of action and of ‘doing’ in which little time is taken to reflect.
Finally, the school management plays a crucial role in this.
In all of the schools, the teacher researchers said that they now had a greater understanding of and, in some cases, more trust in school management.
The authors conclude that this research shows the importance of teamwork, and the teacher researchers stress the need for equality within this process.
Furthermore, teacher researchers need to be given a clear position and status within the school.
Finally, the school management can also help ensure that the results of the research are actually used within the school by giving the teacher researchers a leading role in team meetings and study days.
This can help intensify the link between professional development, educational innovation and school development achieved by means of research.