Paper 4: Teacher engaged research in a performative era: English case studies

Year: 2019

Author: Tereshchenko, Antonina, Mills, Martin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

England suffers from a significant problem with teacher retention. This crisis has been attributed to a number of factors. However, key contributors have been the de-professionalization and increasing intensification of teachers’ work, especially in relation to performative demands. This paper examines the place of teacher-engaged research in this context. Whilst calls to increase opportunities for teachers to engage with research have the potential to contribute to a re-professionalisation of teachers’ labour, they may also contribute to the intensification of workload. In this paper we will argue that in schools where teachers engage in collaborative action research projects as a vehicle for professional development commitments to a school are developed, feelings of being overwhelmed are eased, especially for early career teachers (Ado, 2013), and some of the conditions which contribute to poor retention can be addressed.

This paper reports on research conducted in three different case study sites: a school with designated teacher-researcher positions, a school sponsored by a university where there is a commitment to research; and a loose network of schools where research is coordinated by a key teacher. Though interviews with key personnel in each school we compare and contrast these three different approaches. In particular we consider the ways in which teacher engaged research in these sites is seen as a pathway for professional knowledge building (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993), teacher professional learning and development (Groundwater-Smith & Mockler, 2009), professional renewal (Sachs, 1997), professional, personal and political transformation (Noffke, 1997), and broader democratic and transformational possibilities for schools and teachers (Zipin & Hattam, 2009). We also explore the ways in which the different approaches either address or contribute to the intensification of teachers’ work. Consideration is also given to what constitutes research in these sites.

Our conclusions indicate that whilst teacher research activity (as either consumers or producers) is regarded as a critical component of school life, and something that benefits schools and students, it has to be managed appropriately. Consideration has to be given to diverse factors such as: workloads, appropriate professional development, time, who decides on research questions, the development of a research informed culture, research literacy, and scholarly partnerships.