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Exploring Cultures of Research Engagement at Eight English Secondary Schools

Godfrey, D; (2017) Exploring Cultures of Research Engagement at Eight English Secondary Schools. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This doctoral thesis looks at the phenomenon of schools as sites of research-informed practice. This is framed within the context of significant recent changes to the English school system, notably the self-improving system and the introduction of Teaching Schools. The work of John Dewey and pragmatist thinking is a highly influential strand throughout. The literature traces initiatives in England since the 1990s to promote schools as researching institutions. The relationships between research, knowledge, learning and change are addressed. A mixed methods design used surveys of teachers at eight secondary schools in England; five schools were chosen for follow-up interviews, covering four stages of development. This research has three research questions: 1) What are the features of a research-engaged school? 2) How can research–engaged schools develop educational practice? 3) How can school researching cultures develop over time? The first phase of the research maps out patterns of research development in eight secondary schools and the characteristics of the practitioners’ views and motivations in relation to research engagement. In the second phase of the research, the development of research engagement at five schools was described through an Activity Theory lens. Schools were analysed as activity systems in which learning and development is driven by cultural and historical contradictions. Findings showed that the case study schools had researching cultures at four stages of development but that each context let to unique ways in which research engagement was enacted. Teachers in the case schools had highly nuanced views about what counted as high quality research. Research engaged schools employed a discourse of research to increase the quality of professional dialogue and learning. Where the right structures, spaces and cultures existed to contest and challenge power relations, research activity was able to lead to changes to practice, particularly through teacher leadership. Research provided tools that were able to leverage school development. Development through spirals of change is proposed in which research engagement characteristics combine with changes to the professional learning culture in a dialectic relationship of growth. The extent to which expansive organisational growth occurred partly depended on how much external accountability dominated. The implications for teachers, leaders and policy makers are discussed and possibilities for future research suggested.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Exploring Cultures of Research Engagement at Eight English Secondary Schools
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Research-engaged schools, learning organisations
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1536290
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