Research lensChanging the conversation
Research report by Dr. Murray Fletcher
The conversation in education is changing, and needs to, as we renegotiate and reimagine learning and leading into the future. The challenge is to have ALL stakeholders in the conversation as we make sense of competing perspectives and worldviews. Jackson & Waldman (2011) state “conversation is the fundamental unit of change. If you change the conversation, then there’s every chance you’ll change everything that surrounds it.”
Creating space for these conversations is vital. Knowing how to have these conversations is fundamental and also challenging for leaders. It is a dialogue that occurs in a space that is deliberately created to think through big ideas before these become practices in the classroom, school and centre.
Lesley Murrihy, one of our keynote speakers at the NZEALS Conference in September this year, writes about the sustainability of hybrid-learning. That is a conversation many are having as we seek to take what we have learned (about learning) in these challenging times.
As we explore teaching and learning, there is what happens in the everyday at the interface and then there is research, as an exploration of what might be. Bringing together the everyday with a research aspect can be extremely powerful, whether it be practitioner research or externally-driven research.
The idea that academic literature and research provide a lens on our practice rather than a definitive how-to book tends to sit more respectfullly with teachers (and leaders), and honours their contextual insight.
I have to agree with Wiliam (2016) when he states “those who want to determine what works in education are doomed to fail, because in education, just about everything works somewhere and not everything works everywhere.” He further states “research will never be able to tell teachers (and leaders) what to do, because the contexts in which teachers (leaders) work are so variable. What research can do is identify which directions are likely to be most profitable avenues for teachers (leaders) to explore.”
Goodlad (1990) had a word about practice. “Practice alone is, of course, not enough, without some co-ordinating theory, some inter-connected ideas, purely practical subjects can ossify and degenerate into congeries of rules-of-thumb and obsession with technique. Practice without theory can become basely conservative; theory without practice can become arcane, unintelligable or simply trivial.”
Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) mention best practice and next practice. They say “... there needs to be a mix of committing to best practice (existing practices that already have a good degree of widely agreed effectiveness) and having the freedom, space, and resources to create next practice (innovative approaches that often begin with teachers themselves and that will sometimes turn out to be best practices in the future). Best practice without next practice just drives teachers through implementing and fine-tuning what already exists. Next practice without best practice has no way of sorting out the strong emerging ideas from the weak ones.”
We are in an exciting time of next practice without forgetting what might be our best practice.
Goodlad, J. I. (1990). Teachers for our nation’s schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. London: Routledge.
Jackson, P. & Waldman, J. (2011). Positively speaking: The art of constructive conversations with a solutions focus. St Albans: Solutions Books.
Wiliam, D. (2016). Leadership for Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.