To encourage and help teachers become more involved and enthusiastic about "inclusive teaching", the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recently funded an action research based project. Action research can be explained as making changes and studying the impact of those changes in order to bring about an environment where students feel included in their learning process.
According to the project's Co-director Dr Susan Davies, of Trinity College, Carmarthen, "Action research is an opportunity for teachers to look at their practice, reflect on it, and improve on it."
Dr Davies explained "Good action research can enable teachers to see their pupils differently and be a step towards creating a richer pupil–teacher relationship, which challenges the limitations of current teaching methods. For this to happen, there needs to be a model of action research which involves teachers developing shared ownership of an issue, taking action and paying attention to the consequences for pupils' engagement."
As part of the ESRC's Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP), the project sought to explore how this approach could be used to assist teachers to put into practice the principle of 'inclusion' i.e. to increase the participation and achievement of pupils who may be marginalised as a result of circumstances such as disability, ethnicity, gender and social disadvantage.
The starting point for the TLRP project is that many secondary school teachers are unfamiliar with action research, and may be reluctant to become involved because it can be perceived as unfamiliar and too difficult. The researchers found that, unless teachers were given a real sense of ownership, action research became just another imposition on their time and energy. However, if that ownership was successfully developed, then teachers' energy and creativity was released.
Working with seven schools in Wales and England, the outcomes revealed that:
The project involved asking questions about the engagement of young people in their learning and then taking appropriate action in terms of the organisation of schools, subjects and lessons. This includes:
Dr Davies continued: "Conceived in this way, inclusion is not a quick fix that can be bolted on, but requires ongoing dialogue between teachers and learners. It requires teachers' active engagement, because inclusion and exclusion are processes that happen minute by minute and lesson by lesson. Also, crucially, senior management needs to appreciate this is a practice that needs to be given space to happen."
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Susan Davies (Tel 01267 676622, e-mail: email@example.com Andy Howes (Tel 0161 275 3444, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
ESRC Press Office:
Kelly Barnett (Tel: 01793 413032, e-mail: email@example.com) Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1.The research project "Prosiect Dysgu Cydradd: Facilitating teacher engagement in more inclusive practice" is part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Teaching and Learning Research programme. It was led by Dr Sue Davies of Trinity College, Carmarthen and Dr Andrew Howes of the Faculty of Education, Manchester University.
2.Methodology: The research was based in five secondary schools in Wales and two in England. In each school, a group of teachers worked together to develop a piece of action research to enhance pupils' attitude to and engagement with learning. Educational psychologists (EPs) facilitated the process by regular meetings with the teacher group.
3.Questionnaires were developed to investigate teacher, pupil and EP opinions before and after the process; focus group discussions were held with teachers (see Figure 1) and pupils to further develop an understanding of their perspectives; head teachers were interviewed at the beginning and the end of the project; and EPs contributed their views about the development of the process in regular project meetings.
4.The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
5.ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
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