So what does a Research Lead do? #REdRugby 2018

11 June 2018

Author: Vicki Barnett and Niki Kaiser

This is a brief summary of the ResearchEd talk by Vicki Barnett and Niki Kaiser from the Norwich Research School at Notre Dame.

You can access a pdf of their slides here.

Niki started off by explaining that she had no idea that there was such a thing as a Research Lead when she first started to increase her reading and use of research to inform her practice. During her 3rd maternity leave, she started to read more and share ideas on Twitter, and that’s where it all stemmed from. You can read more about this here, and find out more about the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher Project here.

In the early days, Niki was really inspired by Durrington High School’s Class Teaching website, and particularly by this post about effective revision techniques, based on a paper by Dunlosky. This inspired her to create a website to help her students space and interleave their revision as part of their homework.

Her next step was to start a Journal Club as part of the whole-school CPD programme. She emphasised firstly how lucky she was that the school leadership team were willing to listen and trial this idea, and also how revolutionary some of the ideas she was reading at the time felt. David Didau’s blog site was particularly good at questioning widely-held beliefs over marking (and feedback), lesson observations and what we actually mean by learning.

Other ways that Niki began to raise the profile of research in the school included putting links to blog posts in the weekly whole-school bulletin and starting a Blog Site to collect and share ideas.

She also asked for some money from the CPD budge to start a Research Library in the staffroom, got involved in working groups (like the one to inform the school feedback policy), and presented ideas at meetings when she could. Again, Niki emphasised that she would’ve just been shouting into the ether if she hadn’t worked in a school were the leadership were willing to listen and to evaluate their ideas and beliefs. Finally, she approached the Headteacher and asked him to create a Research Lead role, as she’d begun to find out about schools that had done this previously (see this report by Tom Bennett as an example).

Vicki explained how research-informed practice had been embedded into whole-school CPD. The CPD programme is based around Teaching and Learning groups, who reflect on a particular area of their practice, receive support via peer-observations and build evaluation and action planning into their year. You can read more about the CPD system here, and download the resources we use from the bottom of the page.

A central research team of 6 people search for resources, and collate them into packs for each group. In the first year, each group was formed around a central question, and comprised teachers from a range of departments. You can find the questions and reading lists here. This year, we have moved to a system of Departmental groups, so that we can include co-planning sessions.

Vicki explained that Journal Club is still running, and explained how she had worked to increase participation from across the school and to hone the invitations and topic choices to complement the CPD programme and departmental aims. She wrote more about this here.

Vicki explained how she’d produced a Research Bulletin, with summaries of key research ideas and (most importantly) examples of how colleagues across the school had implemented them. She outlined how important it was to put these things on paper, so that people read them as they’re walking back from the staff room. This kind of thing is summarised in the EAST report from the Behavioural Insights team. You need to make things Easy, Accessible, Social and Timely.

Finally, Vicki and Niki talked about the Research School network, and the network of research-informed practitioners they are building within schools in Norwich. A key aspect of the Research School Network is also training courses, which you can read about here.

The ethos behind Research Schools is that “teachers listen to teachers and schools listen to schools”. It’s all very well being told that there is strong evidence that something works (or is promising), but unless you know how to implement it, and what this means when you’re faced with 30 tired children on a Tuesday afternoon, it’s of little use to the average teacher! This is why one of Vicki and Niki’s favourite books is “What does this look like in the Classroom“.

The joy of ResearchEd is that one of the authors (Robin Macpherson) was at the meeting, and actually attended their session. After getting over feeling rather start-struck, they were able to discuss and share ideas, which is a key aspect of the day. They were also really grateful to the other teachers who attended, shared ideas and stayed behind at the end to chat or have been in touch since. Please do get in touch if they can help further.

Posted on 11 June 2018
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