Lancaster University: New project to examine how primary educators access research to inform teaching

A new major project to examine how primary teachers access and engage with literacy research to inform teaching is underway at Lancaster University.

Research Mobilities in Primary Literacy Education (REMPLE) has been funded through a £376,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

The project, led by Sheffield Hallam University, aims to understand how literacy research reaches primary teachers and what happens to it as it does so. It will explore teachers’ experiences of accessing research as well as the individual, organisational and technological brokers such as literacy charities, social media influencers, algorithms and hashtags, that facilitate dissemination.

The project team is seeking primary teachers with an interest in literacy to get involved in the project to find out about their experiences of accessing research.

The ESRC grant will enable researchers to produce new understandings of the impact of movement on what is ‘received’ as research by teachers, and reinvigorate debate about the relationship between research and practice amongst educators, school leaders, policy-makers, literacy charities, teacher educators and other educational organisations.

The researchers will also look at any shifts in key messages as the research moves to practitioners.

The project is a collaboration between Professor Cathy Burnett and Professor Bronwen Maxwell from the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Julia Gillen from Lancaster University and Dr Terrie Lynn Thompson from Stirling University. The team draws on wide-ranging expertise in researching educational contexts and communications.

Professor Cathy Burnett said: “It is important for primary teachers to be able to draw on a range of research to inform their practice. The way teachers access that research has evolved in recent years due to changes in the educational landscape and communication channels.

“We also want to find out whether some kinds of research move more easily than others, and if so, how the key messages from research studies change as they move between researchers and teachers.

“The project’s findings will be valuable to all those with interest in the relationship between research and literacy education.”

Professor Julia Gillen said: “Recent upheavals in our education system, not least those caused by the pandemic, have disrupted traditional routes of accessing research. We know that teachers in England display ingenuity and creativity in accessing good ideas and advice to help them improve their practice.

“In this project we’ll be exploring their networks and strategies, from Twitter accessed at home to research disseminated in their schools.

Dr Terrie Lynn Thompson said: “Examining the ways research moves (or not) is important given the complex array of digital platforms, increasing digitization and datafication of research, and number of new influential actors.

“This study is an opportunity to explore the dynamic nature of the mobilities of research using innovative methodologies and will help educational professionals and researchers better understand what is needed to encourage research movement.”

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