Monday, 12 January 2009

Action research as professional development

What makes effective professional development for teachers?

Last year, many of the participants on our course 'Practice-based research in educational technology' were using it as a way in to action research. And I think they did so not necessarily because they wanted to end up as educational researchers (although some will), but because they see action research as able to play a key role in their own professional development.

That teachers can be researchers was not always accepted. I remember years ago, as an eager PhD student, being told quite firmly by an eminent professor of education (who didn't know I'd been a schoolteacher) that he didn't object to teachers trying out new strategies and reflecting on them, but that teachers shouldn't be reading the research literature and they certainly shouldn't attempt to do anything called "research".

Luckily times have moved on, and professionals working in schools and universities in many countries are increasingly being actively encouraged to get involved in research as a way of developing practice and moving careers onward.

For example, huge numbers of teachers attend the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). And in the UK, support for teacher research is evident at the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) and in the government sponsored National Teacher Research Panel. There is now also a Special Interest Group in the British Educational Research Association devoted to promoting Practitioner Research.

I'd be interested to hear of the situation in other countries. I hope the view that teachers can't be also be researchers is dying out everywhere.

P.S. Only a couple of weeks to go before registration closes for the 2009 presentation of our course. Full details here.