By Julie Nelson
Tuesday 10 February 2015
Anyone with an interest in evidence-informed teaching will not have failed to notice that it has been a busy few weeks. Busy, exciting and full of potential!
Sir Andrew Carter’s review of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), which argues for higher levels of professional research literacy in ITT and teacher standards, was published on 19 January; the Government’s consultation on a proposed College of Teaching closed on 3 February. And the day before that Claim Your College, a large coalition of organisations and individuals from across the education sector, confirmed plans for a collaborative proposal to set up an independent College of Teaching to take forward this work. NFER has signed up to the Claim Your College proposal. We have also submitted our own statement and consultation response to the Department for Education, outlining how NFER can support the establishment of a College of Teaching through our unique skills and expertise linked to its likely functions as a promoter of evidence-informed practice.
I am lucky enough to have been involved in all of these developments. I gave evidence to the Carter review back in the summer; I submitted NFER’s consultation response on the College of Teaching; and I have had conversations with the Claim Your College coordinating group. On Thursday last week I also presented at a vibrant Westminster Forum event, which considered opportunities, challenges and best practice in using academic research and pupil data in education.
It’s not often that one finds one’s work coming together so nicely. It feels to me as though opinion, effort and action on evidence-informed teaching is truly coalescing. And the reason for this? It could well be to do with this proposed College of Teaching. The passion for a professional representation body, independent from government, leading on evidence-informed professional development is palpable. You only have to follow the hashtag #claimyourcollege to see this. Not everyone agrees that it is the way forward, but the fact that the majority of the teaching and leadership unions have signed up to the campaign illustrates the momentum.
Carter makes a number of references to a future College of Teaching as a potential hub for evidence-based ITT and continuing professional development (CPD), with teachers developing a better grounding in evidence and research literacy throughout their careers. He also suggests that a College of Teaching could develop a ‘central portal of summaries of research evidence on effective teaching’. A similar suggestion is made in the Government’s own consultation document. At the Westminster Forum event last week, I was certainly not alone in suggesting that a future College of Teaching offers great potential for the coordination of effort around evidence use within the profession, although we need to be cautious about what that looks like in practice, and how much is realistic. Potentially, a College of Teaching could:
• Champion the case for the importance of evidence-based approaches and stimulate a debate across the profession.
• Act as a conduit between the teaching profession and research commissioners, identifying the profession’s priorities and ensuring that relevant research is conducted.
• Identify and promote the evidence of ‘what works’ in relation to CPD – this could include pointing teachers towards existing evidence platforms and helping to support their use.
• Translate and broker research evidence for classroom practice – helping to make it relevant and ready for schools.
• Develop a school climate of readiness to receive and act on research evidence – promoting a professional debate about the changes and infrastructures required.
We have to be careful not to get carried away in our expectations of this proposed body that has not yet even been established. But in an increasingly autonomous and fragmented education landscape, it is easy to see that such a body offers the hope of coordination and collaboration. It offers the possibility of a unified voice for the profession; and it offers the scope for stronger professional dialogue on issues such as professional development and evidence-informed practice. It offers, perhaps, the hope of a sea change for the teaching profession.