The role of research in the professional development of graduate teachers

The role of research in the professional development of graduate teachers

Keeping up to date with new research is a powerful way for teachers to support their continuous professional development. However, studies suggest that many university students and practising teachers do not always take advantage of this.

In the latest episode of Monash Education’s Talking Teaching podcast, Blake Cutler, Rebecca Cooper and Maria Gindidis discuss the role of research in graduate teachers’ professional development.

Research is key to being a curious and effective professional

Research can play an important role in supporting teachers to:

  • identify and understand practice problems;
  • advocate for change;
  • demonstrate their impact in the classroom.

This is especially important as graduate teachers step out of their comfort zone and begin teaching in an unfamiliar setting. For graduate teacher Blake Cutler, discussing research-informed strategies with his colleagues allowed him to step into the classroom with more confidence and a sense of agency.

Developing knowledge about teaching and learning doesn’t stop after graduation. Research can help tackle specific practice problems and give a strong reference point to guide teaching. Engaging with research is key to a teacher’s ongoing development as a curious and effective educator.

Episode 1: What role can research play in graduate teachers' professional development?

How using research in practice is different from university study

When moving from university to the classroom, teachers need to consider how research translates into their context. This can be assessed by considering whether research addresses their students’ needs and examining whether it aligns with their school’s vision for effective learning.

Research also has many more uses in teaching practice compared to supporting an argument for a university assignment. Teachers can discuss practice with colleagues, improve their knowledge, better understand a problem, or design an initiative in the classroom.

Episode 2: How is using research in the classroom different to using it at university?

Research tips for graduates

If you’re interested in using research in practice, here are some tips and resources to get you started:

1. Research can be a shared activity

Teachers do not have to tackle research on their own. Collaborating with colleagues can help ease the load when it comes to finding, unpacking, and critiquing research. These collaborative processes can also play a powerful role in supporting teachers and their colleagues to develop a common language and shared ways of working with research.

2. Link in with existing evidence structures in your school

Incorporate research into your existing processes. For example, the action plan that you develop for your Victorian Institute of Teaching Inquiry Project can be a useful guide on how to approach using research in a clear and systematic way.

3. Exercise a critical eye

Using research well involves critically appraising research-based items to determine if they are credible sources of information. Teachers must also decide if they are relevant for their intended use.

Exercise a critical eye when you come across the terms "research-based" or "evidence-based". Find out what research and evidence backs them up.

Episode 3: What tips would you give to graduate teachers looking to use research in their practice?

Resources

Using Research Well in Australian Schools’ provides a discussion of educators’ views about how using research is curiosity-driven and linked to teacher professionalism.

How teachers can use research effectively in their classroom’ gives some resources and case studies to help you think about how you can use research in practice.

The Monash Q Project’s education resources around the collaborative use of research provide some ideas about working with others to engage with research.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching's Action Plan and other common evidence implementation guides such as Evidence for Learning's ‘Guide to Implementation’ can be good scaffolds for research use processes.

AITSL’s ‘Informing Teaching Spotlight’ provides some guiding questions to ask when considering whether research is relevant to your school context or practice.

Acknowledgement: Blake Cutler acknowledges Mark Rickinson, Lucas Walsh and Jo Gleeson who informed his thinking for this TeachSpace article.