We’ve been thinking this term about how we can help members of our school leader service take advantage of research on teaching and learning, so I was keen to pick up ideas at the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) conference in York. The March conference brought together academics, policy-makers, and practitioners to discuss how research can be shared effectively and put to use by those working in schools.
In her keynote speech, Dr Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) called for more help for teachers to benefit from research. She argued that high workloads and the pressure of inspection can hold teachers back and stop them developing the skills that will most help their pupils. It was refreshing to hear her acknowledge the practical challenges of fitting in professional development, but I wanted to hear more on the potential of sharing research across the sector, and the chance it offers school leaders to see what has worked so they can decide what might work in their own setting.
With this in mind, I enjoyed hearing from Professor Peter Tymms of Durham University. He emphasised what research findings can do for schools, and also gave a clear warning – research must be handled with care. Researchers usually look at the effects of a small number of variables, and their careful conclusions can help teachers. But their findings can’t replace the professional judgement of those in schools, who must take into account the countless variables that affect a child’s ability to learn.
I left the conference refreshed and excited about the potential of sharing research, and with a clearer idea of what we can do to help – making sure school leaders can find research that can supplement their professional judgement. We’re working on this as we answer members’ questions and review our articles so they include the latest research. For example, members of the Key for School Leaders can read more about research on ICT and teaching and learning, and members of our governor service can read more about research on effective use of pupil premium funding.