Saturday 14 March 2015

Research Leads Cambridge and What's Love Got to do With It - CUPID and the classification of research activity

On Saturday I attended another great session put on by the research ED dynamic duo of Tom Bennett and Helene Galdin-O’Shea.  There were several great speakers, each of whom made presentations full of opportunities for learning. 
  • Philippa Cordingley told us about whole school approaches to using research within individual school, along with evidence about what works.
  • Clare Hood, Abi Thurgood-Buss and Bethan Morgan shared their perspectives on leading research in schools, supported by the SUPER Partnership and Cambridge University.
  • Vincent Lien made a compelling, and entertaining case for teachers to have free access to research journals.
Unfortunately, due to travel arrangements, I was not able to hear what I’m sure would have stimulating presentations from Caroline Creaby, Jonathan Sharples,  Ffion Eaton and Robert Loe.

Fortunately for me, though probably not for the audience, prior to departure I was able to to squeeze in my own presentation entitled – The School Research Lead and Star Trek:  to boldly go where others have gone before or what the School Research Lead is not Captain Kirk.  The rest of this post will focus one key issue from the presentation: how do you classify research activities. In doing so, I will be aided by the recent BERA-RSA Report on Research and the Teaching Profession. I will then proceed to classify different research activities to help School Research Leads develop a meaningful research agenda for their own school. As such, a sensible place to start is BERA-RSA's definition of the term research 

What do we mean by the term 'research'? 

The BERA-RSA inquiry intentionally devised a general and comprehensive definition of research.

By research, the report’s authors mean any deliberate investigation that is carried out with a view to learning more about a particular educational issue. This might take a variety of forms and be concerned with a range of issues, for example: the secondary analysis of published data on school exclusions, interviewing a range of colleagues about examination performance in the English Department, taking part in a national Randomized Control Trial concerned with the teaching of Mathematics, responding to a survey about teachers’ use of the internet to inform curriculum planning, working with a university department of education on a study into teachers’ use of new technology. 

Setting aside issues arising from the inclusive and wide-ranging nature of this definition of research, there is value in classifying the activities encompassed within the definition. Accordingly, Table 1 classifies different 'research' activities in the following five categories: consume, use, produce, involvement and disseminate .

Table 1 – Classification of Research Activities – The CUPID Model 

Consume –  involves reading texts, searching the Internet, with a critical focus and includes activities such as, the production of critical synopses of texts or discussions at regular Journal Club meetings. Most importantly, this is a state of mind of seeking out research and subsequently engaging in a meaningful and thoughtful critique.

Use –  is where evidence-based practice comes to the fore – where colleagues use the best available evidence from a variety of sources – academic, school, pupils and other stakeholders alongside professional experience – to make judgements to bring about changes in practice for the benefit of pupils, colleagues, and other stakeholders.

Produce – this could involve undertaking action research projects, supported experiments or enrolling on masters or doctoral degree programmes. Alternatively, the collation and presentation of data is also included in this section. However, the main purpose of ‘producing’ research is not the generation of new knowledge, but rather developing the capacity of colleagues to engage in ‘disciplined inquiry’, a topic I will return to in a future post.

Involvement  - this is when a school or individual colleagues engage in a research project either in conjunction with a higher education institution, be a site for a randomised control trial or answer survey requests from various bodies engaged in their own research. This also includes - department, school or college-wide activities designed to look at institution wide issues – where some colleagues are participants rather than active researchers.

Disseminate– an essential part of the research process as evidence, data analysis, discussion and recommendations need to be subject to a process of peer review. This does not mean the ‘research outcomes’ need to be published, but rather there is an open-ness and transparency with allows colleagues and others to explore the assumptions underpinning the research. It is necessary to check- for confirmation bias, and whether the researcher its over-claiming the reliability and validity of the findings.

All classifications, particularly those based on 2x2 boxes, have their limitations. Indeed, the CUPID model does not address the ‘process’ issues associated with creating a research and evidence-based culture (thanks to Lisa Pettifer @Lisa7Pettifer for drawing this to my attention). With that in mind, a future post will explore the process issues associated with creating a research-based school culure.

Nevertheless, the CUPID model provides a simple mechanism for thinking about the range of activities associated with research. If, by allowing colleagues to identify activities fit for their context and school, the model makes research activity more likely to be undertaken, then CUPID will have more than served its purpose.
Finally, for those of you who wish to wish to access today's presentation I am sure this will soon be made available on the researchED website.

Next week I will revisit the PICO question format, and the discussions which took place on this topic.


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