Shining a light on practitioner research - introducing a new portal

Paul Crisp of CUREE, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, introduces the ETF’s new Practitioner Research and Evidence Portal.

“There’s actually so much research going on in FE that isn’t seen. What isn’t seen, isn’t valued. We, the FE practitioners, need to value ourselves & our work, and speak up and be heard”.

This crie-de-coeur by the Learning and Skills Sector’s Research Network (during the global Covid 19 pandemic) echoes the Foundation’s views about the value to the sector of research and other forms of collaborative enquiry involving practitioners and leaders. We have set out to weave research into the infrastructure of the sector in a number of ways. For instance:

  • “Drawing on research and other evidence” is embedded in the sector professional standards
  • Collaborative enquiry and research is a required element of many of our Continuing Professional Development Programmes
  • We have a long running Practitioner Research Programme, now linked to MPhil and MA short courses, reports of which feature on the Excellence Gateway.

But we came to realise that, with the sheer scale and diversity of the resources on the Excellence Gateway, the practitioner research resources were at risk of fading into the background. So, we are pleased to announce the launch the new Practitioner Research and Evidence Portal (PREP) to help colleagues:

  • find quickly the reports of colleagues’ enquiries that relate most directly to the learning and teaching or professional development challenges they are tackling so they can ensure their work stands on the shoulders of our distinctive community
  • ensure the results of their own enquiries can be found easily and be celebrated
  • understand something about the scale and kind of evidence, tools and resources associated with each practitioner research resource
  • acquire a bird’s eye, cumulative view of research and enquiry activity across the sector

PREP is designed to help you find the practitioner research resources most closely matching your areas of interest but focussing in from the general to the specific. So, the field has been grouped into 5 main categories, each of which is divided into around 6 subcategories. A sub-category (for instance ‘Curriculum – design and development) will offer a list of resources which fit into that category. Each item in the list is a project or programme with a summary of its key features linked to a downloadable set of resources.

This is all designed to be simple, intuitive and efficient so you can browse a large set of materials quickly without having to read everything to see if it is of interest to you. We were assisted during the development by a large group of practitioners from across the sector who commented on the concepts, the categories and general presentation.

PREP is best illustrated with an example of good research into how to strengthen English and Maths learning within vocational programmes from Shipley College. Shipley College colleagues have lots to be proud of. Their work:

  • is a carefully constructed enquiry with a control group
  • pays attention to the detailed process of moving practice forwards
  • focuses on capturing and communicating enough evidence about the practicalities for others to be able to build on it
  • offers clear thinking about what people not involved might want to know about the underpinning rationale so they can adapt what has been learned for their context. (See, for example the table in the power point summary which describes high level activities, what was actually involved and other options that might have been pursued).

If you already knew about this work, you could search for it directly (by name or title) – but you probably don’t. The Portal helps you find it by major and minor category and by browsing a short list of resources with a useful summary (*) of the contents of each.

PREP is a work in progress. There are around 250 summarised projects/programmes on it now (plus around 100 resources without a summary as yet) but this is planned to grow in the future.

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