I’ve been reading the latest annual report from Ofsted, the schools inspectorate in England and Wales. According to the report, written (ostensibly) by the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman:
“I have been struck by how enthusiastically teachers, lecturers and social workers are discussing and debating how to improve their practice on the back of evidence-based research, including Ofsted reports and surveys.”
Really? This is presented as if it’s a new phenomenon, or at least a phenomenon, but I think it’s a little insulting. And it’s not even a new thing at all.
Why insulting? Because teaching is a profession, and teachers are professionals. Considering how to improve one’s practice or, to use the vernacular, to “up one’s game” is what professionals do. So why would such a thing be striking? Unless of course it’s striking that any teacher actually has the time to look at research given the ridiculous demands made on their time.
Teachers using an evidence-informed approach has been going on for at least as long as I’ve been in education, and I started teaching in 1975.
I could cite several research projects involving and affecting thousands of teachers in Economics, the subject I taught when I started out, but I’ll just confine myself to the world of education technology.
Until recently, we were fortunate to have an organisation called Becta which carried out research in education technology and published its findings. For over 20 years there has been Mirandanet, an organisation devoted to classroom-based research by teachers as well as more formal academic research. The organisation of which I’m a committee member, the Association for Information Technology in Teacher Education, comprises (amongst others) university lecturers and researchers who teach on teacher training courses.
As for using Ofsted reports and surveys to inform teaching, I was using them both as a teacher and as an ICT advisor, and I’m sure I can’t have been the only one in the country doing so. And back in the day (not that long ago really), Ofsted reports were much more useful than they are now because they included ICT subject surveys. There hasn’t been one for ICT or Computing for years.
Even my own humble newsletter, Digital Education, partly bases its existence on my desire to disseminate information about research-informed practice — and most of my subscribers are teachers.
For some time there was a series of seminars at the University College London called What the Research Says, that brought together teachers and academics.
I could cite several more examples, but hopefully I’ve made my point.
I suspect that what Ofsted is picking up on is not so much a new phenomenon, but the following:
First, it’s much easier to spread the news about research and evidence these days, using social media, blogs and digital newsletters.
Secondly, there seems to be more conferences promoting research-informed practice. I’m thinking in particular of ResearchEd.
Thirdly, perhaps Ofsted is picking up on this because they’re actually looking for it. I’m pleased that they are.
I suppose, being charitable, it’s nice of Ofsted to comment on the fact that teachers are interested in research. But it’s lamentable that it’s deemed to be worthy of remark at all.