Engagement in Practitioner Research

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When a school is failing, requiring intervention and ‘turnaround’, the concerns of leadership are short-term… These conditions are extremely hostile to the fostering of engagement in practitioner research of the conventional kind. Because they don’t know what is one day essay writing company.


The school leadership may, however, be thirsty for certain kinds of data, including quantitative analysis of attainment, reports of lesson observations, and the views of students. There may also be a desire for any suitably robust information indicating a strength of the school or progress that has been made by the new regime. Insofar as the leadership is applying evidence-based practice, the research evidence (for example on effective interventions) is likely to be accessed in indirect and highly processed forms, such as through the guidance of school improvement agencies.

Godfrey related the research-engaged school to the current policy emphasis on the self-improving school system in England. 41 Those leading research engagement in high-performing schools has a responsibility not just to their own schools but to research engagement across their local network of schools. Godfrey also saw research engagement as a much-needed form of professional empowerment at a time when government directives and external accountability were in danger of disempowering teachers and school leaders:

Schools in England need to wrest back some of their own judgment to decide their educational direction… Through a deliberate process of researching and inquiring, a school can create its own criteria by which to judge success and thereby compensate for the pressures of external accountability… Seen in this way, the drive to become a research-engaged school is highly empowering not only to school leaders but also to staff, students, parents and other stakeholders.

NFER has continued to contribute to thinking about the practicalities of leading a research-engaged school and has published a range of support documents relating to different facets of research engagement. In 2015 NFER launched a Self Review Tool for schools wishing to assess their level of research engagement. The tool invites schools to think about specific conditions for successful research engagement such as leadership commitment, staff participation levels and access to research-related resources. The 2015 NFER approach is based on a model of research engagement that places systematic inquiry at the heart of the school’s approach to organizational development. Research is used as the basis for whole-school improvement action. This action is rigorously evaluated for evidence of impact. NFER suggests that any given school development priority should be the subject of an evidence-informed school ‘inquiry’ that includes the following stages:

• Needs are identified

• Baselines are captured

• Research evidence is consulted

• Time for activity, collaboration, and dialogue is scheduled

• Findings are analyzed and interpreted

• Learning is embedded into ongoing practice.


The NFER guidance emphasizes that research engagement has the potential to be an engine that drives substantial beneficial organizational change. The assumptions behind the guidance are very much in keeping with the original concept of Handscomb and MacBeath that research engagement was a way of doing ‘the core business‘ of school improvement. In a school where research engagement and evidence-informed inquiry is well established, the process produces powerful insights that support positive measurable change.

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