In setting up and running a Journal Club there would appear to be three broad sets of issues to address.
- What are the learning goals of the Journal Club?
- Strategies to support the introduction of the Journal Club?
- How should an individual Journal Club session be conducted?
What are the learning goals of the Journal Club
There are at least three core learning goals for a Journal Club
- Learning about the best evidence available to support the needs of pupils/staff in addressing a particular learning need.
- Learning about important new evidence that may lead to a change in pedagogy, systems or approach to leadership and management
- Developing skills at being better consumers of research in order to become more effective evidence-based practitioners.
Strategies to support the setting up of the Journal Club
There are a number of different strategies and tactics that can be used to make the Journal Club effective and these include:
- Building a coalition of senior colleagues and peers who will help you achieve your aims.
- Securing some appropriate resources to allow the Journal Club - be it a small-budget to access materials, tea, biscuits, a decent room and time slot which is not 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon.
- Be clear that this is a collaborative endeavour which will engage colleagues in group learning activities.
- Preparing some basic materials for the first few sessions e.g. materials which would easily lend themselves to a critical appraisal.
- Developing your own skills in facilitating discussions with colleagues.
Whether all of the following can be accomplished in a single session will depend upon the time and other resources which have been made available. Indeed, it may be possible to run a cycle of meetings which where in any one meeting only two of the three components are covered.
- Part One - establish the learning needs to be covered in the future - be it a specific pedagogic, assessment or leadership and management issue (please note I don't regard research/evidence-based practice the exclusive preserve of front-line teachers). This could involve accessing existing evidence or reviewing new evidence which has been published. Alternatively, a colleague may have specific research/evidence-based practice skill issue which they wish to develop.
- Part Two - this involve the sharing of the outcomes of the search for evidence which was based on the learning need identified in the previous session - this can take the form of photocopies of summaries, original articles or other evidence. Remember, evidence-based practice does not just rely on 'scientific' research evidence, but also draws upon internal school data and the views of stakeholders.
- Part Three - this is the main part of the session and involves the critical appraisal of the evidence presented. As mentioned last week this might involve discussions around:
- Why are we reading this?
- What are the authors trying to do in writing this?
- What are the authors saying that is relevant to what we want to find out?
- How convincing is what the authors are saying?
- What can we make of this? (adapted from Wallace and Wray, 2011)
Of course, this is not a strict menu or template about how to run and conduct a Journal Club. On the other hand, I do hope it provides some food for thought and a useful stimulus in how to run effective sessions. Finally, if I was to offer one piece of advice it is essential to make sure colleagues have sufficient access to articles, evidence or books etc - for without that - all you do is meet with frustration.
Straus, S.E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S. & Haynes, B.R. (2011) Evidence Based Medicine : How to practice and teach it, (4th edition), Churchill Livingston.
Wallace, M. and Wray, A. (2011) Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (2nd edition), Sage, London