01 SES 10 A, Education Reform in Wales: Professional Learning During Systemic Change
Research topic/aim: The Welsh Government’s five-year education strategy (2017) has at its core a fully functioning and effective professional workforce, competent in its use of research to inform practice. The National Professional Enquiry Project (NPEP) was launched in 2018 to support the development of professional enquiry in schools and contribute to the Welsh Government’s aim of building research capacity. Shaped by the work of Stenhouse (1975) and based on the assumption that teachers will become ‘lifelong professional learners that reflect on and enhance their own practice’ (Welsh Government, 2017), NPEP acts as a catalyst for meaningful close-to-practice research. Guided by researchers and supported by regional school improvement services, NPEP recognises the close relationship between curriculum development and self-reflection, and the benefits of creating in schools the conditions by which curiosity is encouraged, developed and sustained (Timperley et al, 2014). This study reflects on lessons learned from NPEP, and offers an interpretation of the opportunities and challenges presented by the adoption of a national approach to professional enquiry. Theoretical framework: Influenced by constructivist theory, in which knowledge is socially constructed, the paper offers a reflective consideration of the ‘transformation’ (Sachs, 2013; Fielding, 2004) required by the education workforce in Wales to become ‘research-engaged’ and/or ‘research active’, and the extent to which NPEP provides a vision or view of professional learning as ‘renewal’ (Grundy and Robison, 2004). Methodological framework: The paper is reflective in nature and draws on the authors’ significant contribution to NPEP and their view of the enquiry development process. This includes both their own personal reflections and those of teachers engaged in the project, using anonymised data and feedback gathered as part of NPEP delivery. Teachers were required to submit mid-term enquiry reports and respond to periodic questionnaires to evidence their learning journeys. The paper presents some of the data collected as part of NPEP’s implementation. Expected outcomes: The paper provides lessons learned from NPEP. It explores the synergies that exist between approaches taken to support teachers’ engagement in research in Wales and England, and provides new insight into the challenges and opportunities presented by the systematic development of professional enquiry on a national scale. Our reflections on the evolution of NPEP will be of interest to the international community, in that it helps policymakers, practitioners and researchers better understand the process through which teachers can become ‘research-engaged’ and/or ‘research active’.
Fielding, M. (2004) Transformative approaches to student voice: Theoretical underpinnings, recalcitrant realities. British Educational Research Journal, 30 (2) p296. Grundy, S. & Robison, J. (2004) Teacher professional development: Themes and trends in the recent Australian experience, in C. Day & J. Sachs, Eds. International Handbook on the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Sachs, J. (2013) Learning to improve or improving learning: The dilemma of teacher continuing professional development [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fm-kp.si/zalozba/ISBN/978-961-6573-65-8/009-020.pdf [Accessed: January 2020]. Stenhouse, L. (1975) An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann. Timperley, H., Kaser, L. & Halbert, J. (2014) A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry, Centre for Strategic Education, Seminar Series Paper No. 234. Welsh Government. (2017) Education in Wales: Our national mission. Cardiff: Welsh Government.
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