what you will try to do differently in your practice as a result,” Gregson says. “Try your idea out in practice, with other teachers if you can. Collect some evidence about what happened when you tried to put the idea into practice.” Gregson says practitioners must then evaluate the

evidence to decide whether anything was improved. But don’t be surprised if it made no difference, or even had an adverse effect. “No-one believes a researcher who claims that

every piece of research they have carried out is an immediate and runaway success,” Gregson says. “Practitioner research is most open to criticism when it is not conducted in a systematic way, not informed by peer-reviewed research and when the evidence does not support the claims made.” This might sound daunting to any FE teacher considering research, but Gregson suggests that all teachers and trainers are effectively engaged in research already. “If you accept the argument that putting any idea

into educational practice is a process of inquiry, then every teacher or trainer could be considered to be a researcher,” she says.

However, Gregson says that practitioners do need the time and the support to ensure their research is systematic and credible – which is precisely what the ETF’s Practitioner Research Programme offers. She believes that FE employers also have a role

to play, and suggests that they devote more of their continuing professional development (CPD) budgets to supporting practitioner research. “Teachers need time away from their day-to-day

work to talk about what is really happening in practice,” she says. “Employers also need to be prepared to listen to what they say.” Gregson will celebrate a major achievement next

year when the annual, one-day ETF Practitioner Research Conference, which has been run for the past three years with support from SUNCETT, is reinvented as a three-day international research event running from 6 to 9 July at the University of Sunderland. “It signals the extent to which the status of research

into educational practice in the sector has been raised, and how the Practitioner Research Programme can begin to contribute to international debates in educational research,” she says. Gregson, who hails from Lanarkshire, is quick to

pay tribute to fellow academics who, over the years, have contributed to the development of practitioner research in FE, including Frank Coffield, Terry Hyland and Gert Biesta.

And her own contribution? All Gregson can be persuaded to add is: “I hope that

I have also made a modest contribution to opening up discussion of the understandings of research and practice in the sector.”

Alan Thomson is editor of inTuition


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