Background and objectives of Research Alive!
The Research Alive! group was established in 2013. Its initial purpose was to host a one-day event to share the experiences of teachers using evidence in their work, and the results of a national survey on their evidence needs. From this, the Research Alive! group has continued to collaborate to promote the use of research in educational practice and to promote greater sharing by teachers of their experiences of implementing research in their work.
The Research Alive! group is a collaboration between the Teaching Council, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the Centre for Effective Services (CES). As illustrated by the mission and objectives of the three individual organisations outlined below, together they provide a collection of mutually reinforcing objectives to enhance the connections between research, policy and practice in the context of everyday classroom practice, curriculum and assessment. The group’s agreed terms of reference are available here.
Research Alive! Conference
More than 4,000 teachers participated in a survey in January 2013 about their engagement in research. The responses highlighted a strong interest among teachers in having greater involvement with research. Among the key findings:
The reasons for not engaging with or using educational research included lack of time, difficulty in translating empirical research findings to the reality of classrooms, difficulty finding research and difficulty understanding research. Less than 10% of respondents selected the option that research findings were ‘not worth the effort’.
Actions to make research findings more accessible to teachers included more teacher-led research, more research publications especially for teachers, school-support to engage with research and time to reflect with colleagues.
On foot of the survey, the Teaching Council, the NCCA and the CES hosted a conference in May 2013 in Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, Dublin, under the banner Research Alive! The purpose of the conference was to bring together teachers, researchers and other stakeholders to discuss and explore teachers’ experience of, engagement with, and access to, educational research. Planned outcomes of the event included ideas and support for:
teachers on how to access research on education;
researchers and policymakers on how to make research findings more accessible; and,
a broad audience on what research matters and makes a difference in teaching and learning.
A total of 90 delegates attended the conference and feedback from all participants at the event, including teachers, was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers engaged in discussions throughout the day, and in the course of their contributions, articulated two key demands:
Further information on the Research Alive! conference and keynote speeches, including a presentation of survey findings by Professor Mark Morgan are available here.
In subsequent meetings between the Teaching Council, the NCCA and the CES, the feedback from teachers at the Research Alive! conference was carefully analysed and discussed, particularly on the point of critical engagement, and the group agreed that the creation of an online hub to facilitate this critical engagement would be the best “next step”.
The group examined a large number of similar websites across jurisdictions. This audit showed a range of approaches, from sites that simply host research content and facilitate access, to sites that focus on the mediation of research for various educational audiences. Having reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of existing sites, and reflected further on the feedback from the conference, the working group representing the three organisations then sought proposals to develop, launch and support a new website for the Irish education system – www.molfeasa.ie. The Irish term “mol feasa” means “hub of wisdom / knowledge / learning”.
Unfortunately, following two Invitation to Tender processes, no successful tenderer has been identified, and the Council, the NCCA and the CES are now exploring alternative means by which teachers could be most effectively supported to enhance their engagement in research.