Saturday, 7 May 2016

First steps into research: time to bring back the BPRS ?

It was back to school for me three weeks ago, after the Easter break and I started the term with an INSET day. I led 2 x 45 minute workshops with groups of colleagues from different departments on ideas for using Twitter to support teaching and learning. The materials are below:



There are quite a few ideas and materials I've taken from other people to support that planning.
As part of the preparation for the sessions, I asked people on various networks for their ideas on what the best thing about Twitter was. I'll share the result of that shortly too.

One of the strands of the INSET day is for the recently established 'Teacher learning communities' to meet again, and to consider a small research project to run through the coming academic year. It is an initiative being led by my colleague Claire as part of her role leading Learning development in the school.
It got me thinking about my previous experience of research, in 2003, which was actually one of my first steps in moving beyond the classroom, and getting me to what I'm doing today.

My research experience was through the Best Practice Research Scholarships, which were described in an evaluation report as follows:
The Best Practice Research Scholarship programme (BPRS) was one of a series of initiatives designed by the English Department for Educational Studies (DfES) between 2000 and 2003, to support teachers’ continuing professional development. Each year, around 1,000 Scholarships of up to £3,000 each, were awarded to serving classroom teachers to engage in supported, school‐focused research

Source

I got involved in the scheme in its final year.
Here was the original information that I read in late 2002.
Best Practice Research Scholarship

1,000 Best Practice Research Scholarship (BPRS), each to the value of £2,500, are available from the DfES to support professional development

The application period is from XXX to XXX and following an assessment process, decisions will be announced in May, with one-year research projects beginning next September. Visit TeacherNet to download an application form, and see examples of completed applications and past research.


For application forms contact
0845 XXX XXXXX
or email bprs@XXXXXX

The summary of the evaluation report goes on to conclude that:

It is argued that for most teachers, the primary purpose of the projects was not to contribute to the public stock of knowledge but to improve practice within their own schools. The criteria for evaluating projects, it is argued, should therefore include their impact on teachers’ own professional development, on their teaching practice, on pupils, on parents, and on their colleagues. Evidence is presented to suggest that projects did indeed appear to have considerable impact on all of these factors though only in a minority of cases was the evidence considered to be robust. The paper goes on to raise questions about the problematic nature of quality in teachers’ research and the associated difficulties with ‘dissemination’. The paper concludes by exploring the different factors that might affect the success of teachers’ research including mentoring, finance and their occupational position within their school.


I was indeed one of those teachers who were concerned to inform my own professional development and practice. For that reason, I sought out somebody with a background in educational research, and that meant Liz Taylor. At the time, her office was not in the modern Homerton College building on Hills Road, but behind an anonymous door on a street in Cambridge. I remember travelling there with my idea for my research, and she very kindly and patiently took me through why my ideas were not very good... and how to improve them.
My title was: 
Improving use of the Internet in the Teaching of Geography

I also contacted my former undergraduate tutor Tim Burt, and visited Durham University to share my ideas with him as well.

The end product was a piece of research which was not exactly ground-breaking, but which got me to think about what I was doing in the classroom a little more. It also got me an invitation to attend a national conference on research in education, and I also wrote an article for a GA journal... and all of this led on to other things.

There is now a new focus on research, and a range of conferences for teachers to engage with...
It's an interesting time...

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