Toolkit: Getting started as a CCT Research Champion
This toolkit is presented as a bitesize CPD unit, incorporating key reading, video content and accompanying tools and resources to support you in getting started as a Chartered College of Teaching Research Champion. It should take approximately one hour to complete.
This has been designed to support you to:
- develop your understanding of the benefits of supporting research engagement in schools and become familiar with some of the evidence-base in this area
- increase your awareness of some of the Chartered College of Teaching resources that are available to you and your colleagues through Chartered College of Teaching membership
- understand how you might support research engagement effectively in your context, through your role as a research champion.
You will also:
- reflect on your current knowledge and expertise and how you might develop this further
- develop a plan for supporting research engagement in your school or trust.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the evidence-base on this theme. In this article, Vic Cook, Education and Research Project Specialist, summarises some of the key research around research engagement in schools.
As you read this summary, consider its relevance to you, specifically, how you might draw on these ideas to support research engagement effectively through your role as a research champion in your school or trust.
Supporting research engagement in schools
The term ‘research engagement’ refers to both engagement in research (i.e. by doing it) and engagement with research (i.e. by reading and using it). Research can be used by teachers and school leaders to improve teaching, decision-making, leadership or professional learning (Walker, 2017; Brown, 2020).
Godfrey (2014, 5) defines a research-engaged school as one that:
- promotes practitioner research among its staff;
- encourages its staff to read and be responsive to published research;
- welcomes (as a learning opportunity as well as a responsibility to the wider educational community) being the subject of research by outside organisations;
- uses research to inform its decision making at every level;
- has ‘an outward looking orientation’ (Wilkins, 2011), including research-based links with other schools and universities.
There is no single blueprint for schools to follow as they explore research engagement (Bennett, 2015) and the precise level of research engagement will vary between schools according to their individual circumstances and contexts (McAleavy, 2016). Whilst many schools may have a key individual who takes a whole school view of the use of evidence, extending the responsibility for research engagement and evidence-led practices more widely among staff may help to support sustainability (Riggall and Singer, 2016). However, central to any approach that is adopted is the need to develop a school-wide culture of research engagement.
Developing a culture of research-engagement
Godfrey (2014) describes a culture of research engagement as a long-term, sustainable improvement strategy that involves four key ingredients:
- systemic connectedness (the formation of collaborative partnerships and networks between teachers and schools)
- leadership for knowledge creation (rather than it being viewed as the sole purpose of senior leadership to implement research findings, a distributed leadership framework supports research engagement by staff at all levels of seniority)
- teaching as a research-informed practice (where academic research, professional experience and judgement, and evidence and data from individual contexts are brought together)
- the school as a learning organisation (a professional learning community that centralises an enquiry focus and stresses the importance of sharing, collaboration and collective learning).
Research engagement therefore involves both formal research findings and more informal modes of enquiry and reflection that value professional judgement and experience:
The research-engaged school uses the best available external evidence while also seeking to build the school as a single professional learning community. It understands the importance of personal insights derived from experience and good analysis of other forms of management information such as test results and feedback from students and parents (McAleavy, 2016 p. 30).
In this sense, McAleavy argues that a research-engaged school may be ‘evidence-informed’ but can never be totally ‘evidence-based’.
It would also appear that developing a culture of trust among colleagues is central to developing research-informed educational practice (Brown et al., 2016; Groß Opho et al., 2023). Analysis of survey data from 73 English primary schools found that schools with a higher average value of trust among colleagues reported more organisational and research-informed activities (Groß Opho et al., 2023).
Continuing Professional Development
The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of teaching staff is central to supporting research engagement in any school. However, “[L]ayering of additional research duties on top of existing demands placed on hard-pressed school staff is unlikely to yield benefits in the long term” (Godfrey 2014, 12). Research activity therefore needs to be integrated into existing systems. Central to supporting research engagement is a shift towards a more empowering model of professional learning that promotes enquiry and reflective practice through collaboration in communities of practice (Godfrey, 2014). Sharing, collaboration and collective learning are key to such an endeavour. This could involve making space for professional dialogue in staff meetings or encouraging staff to share and critically reflect on their practice through observation and mentoring (Sharp et al., 2006).
Consideration also needs to be given to the types of support that teachers will need to engage with and conduct practitioner research. Godfrey (2014) suggests conducting an audit of the existing skills and expertise at the school to identify strengths and areas of development. Various tools can help support this endeavour, including the NFER’s ‘Self Review Tool’ (2015) which helps to measure your school’s level of research engagement, or the ‘Self Assessment Tool for Teachers’ (Stoll et al., 2018a) and the ‘Self Assessment Tool for Schools’ (Stoll et al., 2018b).
- Research engagement includes both engagement in and with research.
- Extending the responsibility for research engagement and evidence-led practices more widely among staff may help to support sustainability.
- Supporting research engagement in schools is a multilayered, iterative process that involves developing a culture of research-engagement.
- Continuing Professional Development of teaching staff is a key aspect of supporting research engagement.
Before you move forward, take a moment to reflect on what you have read. Make a note of any specific points, implications, actions or questions that have been raised for you. You can then refer back to these later on when planning and implementing your next steps.
A three-phase approach to research engagement
To help you get started in your role as a Chartered College of Teaching Research Champion, we’ve identified three phases of research engagement that might inform your approach.
Phase 1. Starting out: This phase focuses on raising awareness of Chartered College of Teaching (and wider) resources, so that colleagues know how and where to access content that helps build their understanding of education research.
Phase 2. Deepening: This phase is about deepening research engagement in your school; supporting colleagues to apply learning from research and evidence in order to develop practice, and implement evidence-informed approaches in your context.
Phase 3. Embedding: As the name suggests, this phase is about embedding and sustaining research engagement as part of the culture of the organisation.
In the short video below, the Chartered College of Teaching’s Charlie Meyrick, explores the three-phase approach in more detail, and offers some practical suggestions as to how you might work with colleagues to facilitate research engagement at each phase.
We’ve brought together some of the ideas explored above as part of a self-evaluation activity. This activity focuses on research engagement within the context of your role as a Chartered College of Teaching research champion. You will consider
- Current levels of research engagement in your setting
- Your own knowledge and understanding of how you might support research engagement as a research champion
You should now pause and complete the self evaluation activity (estimated time: 15 minutes). A downloadable copy can be found at the bottom of this page.
You may also find it interesting to evaluate your school’s wider research engagement using the Evidence-informed teaching self-assessment tool for schools. Where possible, we recommend completing this with the senior leadership team to ensure you gain a collective understanding of existing strengths and priorities.
Planning your next steps
With your self-evaluation complete, it’s now time to think about how you want to take your work forward, depending on which phase you feel your school is currently at.
If you and your school are just starting out, it’s likely that your focus will be on raising colleagues’ awareness of the Chartered College of Teaching. Depending on how research-informed your school is already, you may also feel that it would be beneficial to raise awareness of evidence-informed practice more generally within your school or trust.
If you and your school are in the developing phase, there may be areas of your work that you could further enhance – the self-evaluation should give you a good indication of where you might focus your attention.
Similarly, if you and your school are in the embedding phase, you are already in a strong position. However you may have found there to be areas of your work that you could further enhance to embed and sustain the work you are already doing.
You should now use what you have learnt from the self-evaluation to plan your next steps. You may find it helpful to develop an action plan outlining the key areas of work you want to focus on, and the specific action steps that you will take to progress in these areas. When developing your action plan, try to think about
- Any specific areas of focus for your school, and actions you will take in light of this.
- Any specific areas that you would like to develop your own knowledge and skills as a research champion – and actions you will take to enable you to achieve these.
To support you with taking this forward, we’ve collated some key resources below, linked to each of the three phases. Take a few minutes to browse the resources available to you before you begin developing your action plan. You’ll also find an optional action plan template which you can use to capture your actions and next steps. A downloadable copy can be found at the bottom of this page
Resources to support schools in the starting out phase
- A short (4 mins) member benefits video giving an overview of the benefits available to members, including how to login to our member platform, MyCollege.
- Some step-by-step printable instructions for how to login to MyCollege (see downloadable documents at the bottom of this page).
- A clip from the Chartered College of Teaching Podcast (10 mins) where Dame Alison Peacock provides an introduction to the College and its work in supporting teachers to deliver excellent teaching through access to research.
- For trainee teachers, early career teachers and mentors, a student and ECT workbook to support their engagement with College resources (see downloadable documents at the bottom of this page) – and don’t forget to signpost them to all of the great content on the Early Career Hub which we’ve helpfully linked to the strands of the Early Career Framework.
- A short (2 mins) introduction to Chartered Status video which gives a helpful overview of what Chartered Status is and the different pathways available to teachers, mentors and school leaders.
Resources to support schools in in the developing phase
- A selection of bitesize CPD units and themed collections, covering a range of areas. These collections can be used as the basis for individual or team CPD and will be added to regularly over the year.
- A certified online course, the Certificate in Evidence-Informed Practice which is designed to support teachers to engage critically with research and evidence, and explores a range of key areas of education research and how this might be applied in practice. This course includes credits towards Chartered Status.
- A certified online course, the Development of Teaching Practice Award (Leadership) which is ideal for anyone leading CPD in schools. This course includes credits towards Chartered Status.
- A page where we list any relevant research opportunities that you or your colleagues can get involved with.
Resources to support schools in the embedding phase
- A Research Literacy and engagement webinar in which we hear the model Graham Chisnell uses in their school to support teachers’ research engagement
- A certified online course, the Education Research and Inquiry Certificate which guides teachers through the process of engaging in action research / practitioner inquiry in their classroom. This course includes credits towards Chartered Status.
- A certified online course, the Education Research and Inquiry Certificate (Leadership) which guides school leaders through the process of using enquiry to support school development and evaluate the impact of school practices. This course includes credits towards Chartered Status.
- A bitesize CPD unit that provides an introduction to Journal Clubs for anyone interested in rolling these out in their school.