Describing the role of a research co-ordinator

Written by: HTU | Published:

What does being a research co-ordinator actually look like? We speak to Alex Wright to find out about his experiences when he took on this role at Latchmere Primary, a Teaching School

Describe your role in the Teaching School Alliance

Latchmere School is in the second cohort of National Teaching Schools and has been a Teaching School for almost two years. In this time the alliance has grown both in terms of membership and scope of the work it does to improve the quality of education. I co-ordinate and facilitate the research and development projects that we are involved in.

What are your main responsibilities?

The role of research and development co-ordinator is broad and varied. One aspect is to aid the progression of research projects across our alliance, these could be cross-phase or involve researchers from different schools pooling their resources and sharing information. Ultimately, we are creating opportunities for joint practice development and the longer term strategic goal of a self-improving school system, without losing sight of the benefits of research evidence and its practical applications in the classroom.

And your biggest achievements to date?

We are very proud of the relationships being forged between educational organisations within and beyond the alliance – in particular the way a research project can help to uncover a wealth of information that can be beneficial for a range of schools.

We are currently completing a project looking at pupils’ and teachers’ responses to feedback from formative assessments. This has helped to raise the profile of the importance of the feedback cycle for teachers and pupils and helped us to refine the most effective ways to move children forward in their learning.

What have you found most difficult?

As we know, a teacher’s to-do list is never empty – time is always a crucial factor in determining the success and insuring the rigour of sound research.  Part of my role is to plan the overall timescales for a particular project, with an emphasis on being flexible. 

Another challenge is designing a project that can appeal to as many schools as possible – every school has its own contexts and priorities, so it is important to incorporate themes that are valued by all teachers – hence the interest in our feedback project.

Which projects have been really beneficial?

The feedback project was a really powerful way to examine the children’s perspectives of marking and responding to marking, especially in terms of how they know if they are making progress and at what rate. In addition, teachers are embedding practice that allows for “directed improvement and reflection time” and to examine the cycle of pupil-to-teacher feedback, whether in one lesson, across a unit of work, or over the course of a term.

How would you like to take things forward?

We are very lucky that we have such enthusiastic and dedicated teachers at Latchmere who are happy to engage with research on many levels. It is often included in our CPD priorities and the senior leadership team actively encourages staff to pursue enquiry-based projects. We are also on the journey of applying for the NFER Research Mark to publicly acknowledge the involvement with research that the school and wider alliance have developed. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead?

It seems that anything and everything is possible in this new educational landscape that we find ourselves in – the challenge remains: “To stay at the forefront of educational innovation whilst keeping pupil wellbeing at our heart” (Latchmere’s mission statement). 

It is also important to ensure that the hard work and research evidence isn’t lost or forgotten, but is used to inspire others to engage with research and see its value in improving teaching and learning. 

Have you any recommendations for others?

The opportunity to carry out research and development that can make a difference to children’s experiences can be inspirational and exciting for any teacher interested in practitioner enquiry and evidence-based teaching. 

You might have your whole school at your disposal – a rich and diverse treasure trove of potential sample groups, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, quantitative and qualitative data collection all waiting to be unleashed onto parents, teachers and children alike. 

However, in an alliance, with many schools all having their own contexts and priorities, what might at first seem like an interesting journey of educational discovery can be full of wrong turns, dead ends and unexpected detours. So my handy tips for those in a similar situation are: 

  • Create buy-in – why would your school want to be involved?
  • Find a common need – what would encourage other schools to become involved?
  • Avoid group emails – recipients may presume others will reply, i.e. no-one replies. Find out who you need to contact and send a warm, personable request.
  • When creating data collection methods, be specific and keep it simple. Avoid drowning in data.
  • Build good relationships with the staff from other schools, you never know when your paths may cross in the future.
  • A healthy work ethic of distributed workload will keep the project manageable and within timescales.

This is by no means exhaustive, but might help keep the facilitator from becoming exhausted!

Further information 

The NFER Research Mark:

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