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Pete Mountstephen (Primary Advisor for Wiltshire)

Explains his own perspective on teacher research:

A few words about my vision of a research community in school - this is a response I sometimes hear when I suggest teachers should research

"Research?? You must be kidding, not me. I'm definitely not some boffin in a white coat, I am allergic to clip boards and I do not want a doctorate thank you very much. Neither do I have the time for all that writing. Teaching is a full time job you know! I am just really interested in how children learn and about getting better at my job.... and I am a teacher."

and my response?


This is what a research community is all about; providing a forum for professionals to share with, and learn from, each other. We none of us know it all, but most of us know a great deal more than we would ever admit to, or even realise ourselves. There are two things the teaching profession is really good at

1. educating children

2. denying its unique ability to do so!

We are so self-effacing its amazing anyone takes us seriously at all.  But it is the teaching profession itself that are the custodians of so much of the intellectual and professional capacity that is vital if we are to move forward. In our hearts we suspect that we know far more than anyone else, we have just got used to a passive role; and we all know what a queue there is of folk keen to tell us what to do!

At the first meeting of the new Wiltshire research and development initiative grantees, this was so forcefully brought home to me. All around the room were professionals almost apologetically proffering the fruits of their current thinking! Without a doubt they had absolutely nothing to apologise for! Any one of the projects would have stood the scrutiny of the most stringent of commentators and candidly, I would have felt the outcomes of any of the envisaged projects would have had very wide currency and be crying out for publication. The "researchers" themselves were so clear about their foci and so creative about the dissemination format. Wonderful stuff! Put bluntly these projects were ambitious and exciting and clearly being researched by people who are ideally placed to really move the wider debate forward.

The uniting factor was a reluctance to necessarily become involved in a demanding accreditation programme. It is certainly not my wish to attack accreditation; clearly such a programme is very exciting in its own right and has a tremendous amount to offer, but here were professionals who had so much to say of value to the wider teaching and learning community, but who probably would have been reluctant to get involved if accreditation was the end game.

I kept exchanging glances with Sarah Fletcher from the University of Bath Education Department and I know we shared the view that the collective enterprise that is Primary Education would be a great deal poorer without such "unaccredited" research.

It may seem low key, but its focus is vital and as the saying goes, "if you want something done ask a busy person". Many of our key educational researchers are teachers and consider themselves too busy to engage in formal research. We simply cannot afford to lose the wisdom, creativity, experience and expertise that is locked up in the profession.

That is what a research community in a school could well unlock... and relatively painlessly! Certainly the school would benefit, as would any extended audience we could access. In fact.. surely we would all be the richer... especially the children.

I have heard many teachers say that they feel undervalued, well if you don't like the future invent a new one! Teacher research is one way to reinforce or even reclaim professional self-esteem and to make a new sense of the demand for improved schools and continuous improvement. One we control and can sign up to... because it is (at least in part) ours.

Pete Mountstephen
June 16th 2002



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