This post is the third in a series of outcomes from my MA in Education work. It’s a brief discussion – and I welcome all thoughts & ideas from it! It’s highly tentative, and comes with disclaimers and context as described.
Having shown some analysis of how teaching and learning cultures are created, and explored some of the different structural components, this section of analysis now turns to focus on the relative attitudes to the use of educational research.
Reflecting on the research questions, some of this analysis will be further broken down by intrinsic and extrinsic variables: focusing on the self-described Ofsted/ISI judgement, the perception of school’s exam results, and the self-described teaching & learning culture of the school. While all of these are potential insights into the motivations and processes, there is the caveat that they are all self-described, and without triangulation, the significance and veracity of these results are potentially limited to inferences only.
First, respondents were asked their relative opinions on different statements about the nature of educational research, and able to offer choices within a Likert scale. A summary is shown here. The highest positive responses are associated with intrinsic judgements of self: I am confident in using research; I enjoy engagement with education research, I would like to do more, and it makes me a better teacher, which are the top four positive responses overall. The context of the study – self-selected via networks – is very likely to cause a skew towards this kind of teacher in the first instance; but it is also likely that a modified version of halo effect (presenting oneself in the best light) is part of the explanation of this particularly high intrinsic response. This is, perhaps, in direct contrast to the experience and training of participants; most of whom have not had post-graduate contact with research approaches outside of their subject (only 11.25% have postgraduate qualifications in education research), show a considerable range of confidences in their research training, and the majority of whom will have trained via a PGCE route way. Further statements (e.g. we use research a lot) may indicate the role of SLE/ELE in schools as the mediator of this research in to teaching practice.
In terms of the purpose of research, the highest response is the extrinsic motivator of student results, with a dominant positive outcome, and small deviation. Whilst workload generates some positive responses, it also has perhaps the highest spread of outcomes, with a significant disagreement and neutrality compared to other factors.
By contrast, the relative importance of various components in the construction of teaching and learning culture are specifically interrogated. The dominant response is to get better results for students (extrinsic), with high positive response, and almost no neutral/negative. The next responses are the interests of Senior Leaders, closely followed by the use of educational research, the experience levels and interests of staff (intrinsic), and the need to satisfy external inspectors (extrinsic). Other external motivators (e.g. parents and governors) show little positive response, but a relatively clustered distribution, while the greatest range of response appears to be over the complex issue of workload (intrinsic).
On reflection, I think the “interest of Senior Leaders” is awkwardly worded: and could well encompass their motivation/drive to create a culture, as well as their personal preferences on the other hand. These have clearly different connotations, but cannot now be easily disentangled from the data that is presented here. Given the high importance of “school culture” in the drivers of positive engagement, it seems likely that at least some respondents have answered this question in this way, too.
Having given an initial indicator of the relative importance of education research by comparison to other factors, it seems to be engaging with a range of cultural contexts. It’s interesting to explore how research is used differently in different types of school, by either intrinsic motivation factors (e.g. the culture of the school, intent to develop staff or retain staff through workload management) or extrinsic motivation factors (results, external judgement by inspectors, responses to stakeholder perceptions).
In the next section of analysis, I explore some of these questions broken down by category of motivation, to investigate the extent to which we can see this in the data.