Getting Started: Top tips

As a group of schools and alliances at various stages of research engagement, we are very conscious of the challenges that schools and teachers face in getting started with R&D.  This page offers some hints and tips on coping with these challenges, drawn from external research as well as our own experiences:


1. Be clear about the difference you want to make

Use rigorous needs analysis to identify strategic priorities for research and development.  Make use of performance and progress data to be clear about pupils’ starting points and establish a clear baseline picture. 


2. Don't be put off by 'research'!

  • If the label 'research' is off-putting to you or your colleagues, try to use language that is more engaging.  Teachers often prefer to think of themselves as 'enquirers' rather than 'researchers', so consider talking about 'enquiry' instead of research, at least at first.  

  • Reassure staff that they already use key research and enquiry skills in their everyday practice, such as observing, using data, asking questions and problem-solving.  Taking part in practitioner enquiry projects will give staff a chance to build upon these skills and use them more systematically.


3. Draw on external expertise – don’t go it alone

Make use of the specialist subject knowledge and research capability that external partners can bring.  Seek support and advice from HEI partners and other external experts who can act as a critical friend, provide a sounding board for ideas and quality assurance for research projects.


4. Make it easy for staff to engage

  • For many members of staff, reading and hearing about research via social media will a much easier place to start than in the pages of an academic journal.  Encourage colleagues to engage with research-informed ideas and outputs via Twitter and educational blogs in the first instance, before gradually introducing a wider range of resources

  • Ask school library staff to help identify relevant research on particular topics and priority areas

  • Start a professional reading group and display research findings in the staffroom

  • Subscribe to a research network which offers an easily accessible research digest or portal


5. Grow your own research leaders

  • Some members of staff are likely to have more recent experience of research, as part of postgraduate study: try to make use of their knowledge and experience to support others embarking on research for the first time, as well as building on their strengths to run projects and activities.   

  • Build confidence and capability over time: for example, by supporting participants in an enquiry project to lead the next cycle of enquiry, making the most of the confidence and research skills they have gained along the way.