The Power of Research for teachers
22 November 2017
I have been teaching for 20 years, in KS 1 and mainly specialising in Early Years. During that time it has often felt as though we were on the verge of an education revolution particularly in the Early Years but it doesn’t quite gain momentum! It is easy for teachers to become disheartened and disillusioned by constant policy changes and top down initiatives that don’t appear to be grounded in sound research or that are rolled out without sharing the research with the teaching profession.
Research and teachers reading research has the power to reignite a passion for teaching!
I believe that the discussion and reflection that takes place amongst staff as a result of reading a piece of research, a journal or a blog can drive quality within a setting.
It can reignite a desire to learn and as we all know the most effective teachers see themselves as learners.
My journey of enquiry began as a result of being a mentor to students during their final year of their degree course. They were required to carry out several pieces of research whilst on placement with me and this meant that I became aware of articles they were reading and had to look closely at aspects of the education, learning experiences and opportunities available within my class. Their studies interested me and got me reading!
Reading research then inspired me to try new ways of working and to become a researcher in my own classroom. It has certainly driven me to want to carry out action research in my class and I now regularly look for opportunities to take part in studies or to pilot new research based initiatives. It is thrilling to feel that you might be cutting edge! As Alistair Bryce Clegg says in his frequent and informative blogs ‘ thrill, will, skill’ and this surely applies to adults and children alike.
Recent reading within my setting has been based around children’s physical development and previously around the power of learning through play, risky play and children’s levels of well-being.
As a result of this research we have introduced a more informed way of working in our EYFS setting and colleagues have commented that they feel they are ‘ really teaching again’. We feel empowered to use our professional judgement and do not need to fall into the trap of following a prescriptive program that shuts down our creativity and our professional initiative. Understanding research findings sheds light on common behaviours that children display and allows teachers to confidently know the children’s next steps in development. This is particularly important at the moment when children are entering school with what appear to be gaps in their physical development, often meaning that many of them entering a Reception class still have a palmer grip as a result of having not yet lost their baby grip reflex and have not developed a good sense of balance or coordination. They lack core strength and stability and are therefore not yet ready to hold a pencil in an effective tripod grip, to track text from left to right with their eyes or to discriminate between sounds and therefore begin their phonics teaching. It is clear that technology has a part to play in this lack of children’s physical development and the associated speech and language problems seen frequently as children enter school at 4 or 5. We’ve all seen very young children quietly occupied using tablets and phones, but at what cost to their physical, social, emotional and language development? Research has shown that all learning is linked with movement and physical development and for that reason it is of course one of the prime areas in the EYFS. However, teachers need access to research and medical findings related to children’s physical development in order to be able to address the problems that children currently present with. Professor Pat Preedy has developed a daily intervention programme the ‘ Movement for Learning’ project with Loughborough university that effectively takes children back through the physical development stages and Sally Goddard Blythe has written many books about the fact that children need to develop their attention, balance, coordination and sensory systems to be able to learn. Such research fascinates me as a teacher and is in many ways just the beginning of my journey of enquiry.
I strongly feel that all teaching professionals should embark on that journey too. The buzz created in a learning environment as a result is fantastic. We as a profession need to make sure that we have access to the information we need.
I believe that teachers reading research makes for an informed and powerful profession.