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    Establishing sustainable school-based teacher research activity as a mechanism to support teachers’ career-long professional development

    O'Sullivan, Rachel Ann Sarah (2017) Establishing sustainable school-based teacher research activity as a mechanism to support teachers’ career-long professional development. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Upon election, the coalition government in England (2010 – 2015) were swift to introduce reforms intent on improving standards of education in England. Central to the reforms were measures designed to improve the quality of both teaching and teachers, factors widely recognised as lying at the heart of educational improvement. A national network of Teaching Schools was announced, outstanding schools that would lead and develop career long teacher development. The work of all Teaching Schools would be underpinned by six core strands of professional development including a requirement to engage in research and development activity. This thesis reports on the extent and nature of research activity occurring at six Teaching Schools in the North West of England. The research findings offer insight into the potential for school-based teacher-research activity to support meaningful professional development within the teaching profession. Furthermore, findings indicate the conditions required to facilitate teachers in their research endeavours such that research activity may become established as a meaningful and sustainable expectation of practice. Analysis of the data makes clear the real potential for school-based teacher-research activity to underpin career-long professional development and learning. However, the results indicate that existing levels of teacher research literacy are low and teachers require support, guidance and access to research resources and expertise. School leadership emerged as a highly significant factor in creating a research-rich environment in which research is valued and celebrated. However, the strongly ‘top-down’ model of organisation evident in each research-active school has implications for the long-term future of a research agenda. An absence of ‘bottom-up’ momentum is likely to leave the research agenda vulnerable to staff change or shifting priorities either of which may cause the agenda to collapse, a factor that was not acknowledged by participants. This research adds to existing knowledge on the benefits of teacher-research activity and provides robust evidence for politicians, policy makers and practitioners that a blend of ‘bottom-up’/‘top-down’ organisation is required to build a self-sustaining model. A blended approach existing within a research-rich school culture and supported by research expertise offers the potential to establish a sustainable model of teacher research activity. This research indicates that research active teachers are enabled to effectively interrogate their practice and find answers to their professional questions and problems. Research offers teachers the means to become empowered, agentic professionals who through ongoing inquiry, learning and professional development are positioned to become more effective in their practice.

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