‘Building Confident Research-leads’ – Reflections

6 June 2018

Author: Aimee Hanson, Director of English – Leeds West Academy

Aimee Hanson, Director of English – Leeds West Academy – has Kindly agreed to share her insights and reflections on attending our ‘Building Confident Research-leads Programme’. 

 

As an English teacher who is interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest educational thinking and Senior Leader with responsibility for ensuring that evidence-based approaches are at the forefront of our practice, the Building Confident Research-Leads course was perfect for me. Whilst four days was quite a commitment to be out of school, the strategic staggering over five months meant this impact was spread out and enabled the other key element of the course, the reflection and homework (‘gap tasks’), to take place in between sessions.

This is not a passive, sit down, listen and learn course. This was a course where we were expected (and excited!) to explore, read, share, discuss and present. We were put through our paces with a wide variety of tasks and actions and the days were used to maximum effect and with high challenge…but without cognitive overload! There was lots of opportunity to revisit key details from previous days and there was a clear thread throughout which enabled us to review previous learning and build on this. On reflection, it’s unsurprising that a Research School would structure training in a way to maximise participant understanding, recall and retention but at the time it just felt vibrant, enriching and high impact.

What was immediately obvious was the care, attention and genuine interest all of the course leaders took in delivering their sections and responding to questions or discussions that arose. Something would crop up and later that same session one of the Huntington team would be back with an answer or a useful resource.

By the end of the first day we had been provided with a great ‘starter kit’ for a Research-Lead – establishing a common understanding of the purpose of the role, learning the best places to access reliable research and how to scrutinise evidence claims. On top of this, we were given an incredible USB packed full of well-ordered and organised resources to support work within and outside the course. Within a week I’d been able to make use of this in staff training. In the months since, it’s become one of my most used go-to places for helping other staff with department or whole school training.

The second and third days provided powerful processes for critiquing research claims and how to successfully undertake research projects within school. Permeating throughout these days was the emphasis on implementing plans in a way to suit our schools’ contexts and we were provided with practical and useful tools to go about this in the most effective way. Like Huntington, my school asks all staff to engage in research-based practice via the means of a project which is personal to their own needs and interests. The practical methodology of the course meant that I could replicate the approach at school, confidently taking teaching staff through the design and implementation of their projects and providing access to the most pertinent research. This was so well received by the staff body I’ve been inundated since with enthusiastic updates on projects and queries about where the best evidence on x can be found.

The final day focused on the trickiest and perhaps most easily neglected element of implementing any change in schools: evaluation. For me, this was the game-changer of the course. Whilst the other days helped me refine my knowledge, understanding and processes, this completely transformed my thinking in terms of planning a successful project and when and how evaluation should take place.

In all, outside the great contacts I made in both the course leaders and participants over the four days, my key takeaway from this incredible course was that the Research-Lead doesn’t have to be the font of all knowledge. Knowing how to look, where to look and make best bets to improve pupil outcomes in a particular context is the most important aspect. In my own Academy’s journey to eradicate inconsistency and ensure equality of opportunity for all students, the course has provided me with the long term approaches and tools for what I can do to make sure that decisions we make are underpinned by the best possible research evidence.

Posted on 6 June 2018
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