SCaTE: Research Centre for Schools, Colleges and Teacher Education

Aims, challenges, means and organisation

The Research Centre for Schools, Colleges and Teacher Education (SCaTE) aims to encourage the generation of high-quality research, robustly theorized, that benefits students and teaching staff. This aim implies,

  • investigating questions, around schools, colleges and teacher education, that are relevant to practitioners and are situated in problems of public interest
  • framing these questions in a strong theoretical foundation and an existing literature base
  • designing and implementing rigorous enquiry, with due attention to ethical implications
  • communicating findings clearly, accurately and accessibly, to academic and practitioner audiences


SCaTE will need to take an innovative approach to research because relationships between research and educational practice have often been problematic. Despite repeated calls for research which ‘demonstrates conclusively that if teachers change their practice from x to y there will be a significant and enduring improvement in teaching and learning’ (Hargreaves, 1997) conclusive findings of this type have been extremely hard to find, despite many millions of pounds being spent on educational research, not only in the UK but around the world (Pring 2000). In part, this is because the ‘methods’ that teachers employ are only a small part of the complex business of teaching and learning which also involves, inter alia, the personalities, knowledge, skills and attributes of teachers and students, within the cultural milieu of the school or college. In part also it is because,

Teachers will not take up attractive sounding ideas, albeit based on extensive research, if these are presented as general principles which leave entirely to them the task of translating them into everyday practice—their classroom lives are too busy and too fragile for this to be possible for all but an outstanding few. (Black & Wiliam, 1998, 15)

This difficulty of ‘putting research into practice’ is therefore a continuing challenge in education and the ways in which research influences educational practice are often indirect (e.g. through ITT, CPD and local and national policy). For example, a widespread shift from behaviourist models of teaching to constructivist, and later social constructivist teaching, would arguably have been impossible without the seminal work of researchers such as Piaget, Dewey, Vygotsky and Bruner, and a huge number of researchers and teacher educators who developed their thinking and applied it to specific circumstances (Laurillard 2008).

Researching educational practice will involve teachers, not as the objects of research but as research partners, involved in formulating research questions, developing and / or implementing strategies and interventions, collecting and analysing data, and drawing out conclusions from the data. There are well-established models for collaborative research (e.g. Stenhouse 1975; Elliott 2001) which will need to be adapted for present circumstances because the political and social contexts of today are different from those towards the end of the twentieth century. In general, the forms of research undertaken by SCaTE will include,

  • Reviews of research that focus on implications for practice in schools, colleges and teacher education
  • Research, undertaken by academics, with the collaboration of teachers and school and college leaders
  • Joint research by academics and teachers
  • Teacher research, supported by academics

In order to fulfill its aims, SCaTE will:

  • Encourage collaborative research with teachers in schools and colleges
  • Encourage the publication and dissemination of research findings to academic and practitioner audiences
  • Encourage and mentor colleagues in their research careers
  • Bid for external and internal funding for research projects around schools, colleges and teacher education

SCaTE will seek out partners in schools, Colleges and other educational settings (including other universities) and with educational research associations such as the British Educational Research Association and the European Educational Research Association.

SCaTE will draw its membership from across the Faculty of Education and will invite teachers and school leaders to become full members. It will be organized by a Leadership Group which will monitor progress and determine future actions. The Leadership Group will contain the co- directors (Tim Cain & Arthur Chapman) four members of academic staff (e.g. one from each of the Faculty’s Areas) and, when appointed, a Partnership Development Manager (responsible for seeking out new research partners and managing the communications with existing ones), a TRA seconded teacher, a Research Assistant and an FoE research student representative. It will involve a headteacher and at least one teacher and, in recognition of the fact that it is often difficult for such people to get time away from school, some meetings will be held in schools or colleges.

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998b). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. London: School of Education, King’s College.
Elliott (2001): Making Evidence-based Practice Educational, British Educational Research Journal, 27:5, 555-574
James, M., and A. Pollard. 2011. TLRP’s ten principles for effective pedagogy: Rationale, development, evidence, argument and impact. Research Papers in Education 26, no. 3: 275–326.
Hargreaves, D. (1996). Teaching as a research-based profession; possibilities and prospects. The Teacher Training Agency lecture. 1996, London: Teachers Training Agency.
Laurillard (2008) Laurillard D: Digital technologies and their role in achieving our ambitions for education. London: Institute of Education.
Pring, R. (2000) Philosophy of Educational Research. London: Continuum.
Stenhouse, L. (1975) An introduction to Curriculum Research and Development., London: Heineman.

Recent policy in teacher education

Recent policy on teacher education in England is being implemented at a fast-changing rate, and may lead to huge changes in the field. Academic Reading Group will discuss teacher education policy on Friday in the Library meeting room at 3.00-4.00. Damien Shortt will lead the discussion; all are welcome.

School league tables

Should school league tables be abandoned? Based on an analysis of data from the National Pupil Database, Harvey Goldstein argues that they should. His paper (3 pages long) is available here:

Academic Reading Group will discuss school league tables on Friday in the Library meeting room at 3.00-4.00 (after CLIS).  You are very welcome to participate, whether or not you have read the paper.

Teachers’ professional identity

Our next Academic Reading Group discussion will be based around a highly-cited article, dealing with teachers’ identities:

Beijaard D., Paulien, C. Meijer, & Verloop, N. (2004) Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity, Teaching and Teacher Education, 20 (2) 107-128. 

We meet on Friday in the Library meeting room at 2.00-3.00. I anticipate a lively discussion around the nature of teachers’ identities. All are welcome!


Identity as an analytic lens

“In modern capitalist societies, non-elites are “encouraged” to accept the inferior identities elites ascribe to them in talk and interaction … as if they were the actual achieved identities of these non-elite people, achieved on the basis of their lack of skill, intelligence, morality, or sufficient effort in comparison with the elites …non-elites accept the perspectives of the elites, internalize them, and use them to judge themselves in negative ways. There is no need, as there was in “premodern” conditions, for overt force or direct institutional backing for the social hierarchy.” (Gee, 2000: 113)

‘What is identity and how can it be understood?’  This question was uppermost in my mind, wwhen I attended the CLIS conference, last year. Gee (2000) formed a useful starting point to my (still on-going) exploration. Gee’s four ways of concpetualising identity seem helpful and I was particularly struck (and angered) by his example on pages 116-119. I don’t think it could happen here (i.e. in England) but I’m not absolutely sure!

The Academic Reading Group is for any academic member of staff who would like to participate (mentally and/or vocally!) in debate around the significant issues that are raised in academic papers. We meet next on Friday, Nov 18, at 2.00 in the Library study room. All academic members of staff are welcome. The paper for discussion can be downloaded here:

Gee, J. P. (2000) Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education, Review of Research in Education, 25 (1), 99-125.

… and the three most motivating factors are …

Not many people were able to discuss Ryan & Deci, which is a pity because it is, in my opinion, a good example of an educational theory. It starts by remarking on evidence that human beings are, more or less from birth, inquisitive creatures. We have an instinct to learn which can be supported or twarted by environmental factors. What supports the inquisitive instinct is intrinsic motivation, which brings with it interest, excitement, confidence, persistence and creativity (among other matters). A lack of intrinsic motivation leads to depression and poor mental health.

A key question therefore, is ‘what supports intrinsic motivation’? Deci & Ryan argue that the most important factors are a) feedback which enhances feelings of competence, b) a perceived sense of autonomy and c) secure relationships with people who are valued. This point is argued with reference to various empirical studies.

Deci & Ryan also recognise that, for any human being, intrinsic motivation is not always possible: ‘In nearly every setting people enter, certain behaviours and values are prescribed, behaviours that are not interesting and values that are not spontaneously adopted’ (p. 71). In such instances, motivation is inevitably extrinsic. However, they argue that there are various types of extrinsic motivation, ranging from ‘external’ to ‘integrated’ regulation. Here too, feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness can assist the move from ‘external’ to ‘integrated’ regulation.

For me, this theory has the power to change the way I think about education. It is coherent and carries some predictive ability. In the discussion, Damien pointed out that, in the absence of a Standard International unit of measurement for motivation (or competence, autonomy & relatedness) it lacks the precision that might make it scientific. This is a fair point, which might mark one of the differences between an educational theory and a scientific one.

Anyway – please read it and decide for yourself. Next time, we discuss the issue of ‘identity’ as an analytic lens for educational research. It’s at 2.00 on Nov 18. (Please note the change of time.)

The three most motivational factors

“Inductively, using the empirical process, we have identified three [such] needs – the needs for competence … relatedness … and autonomy – that appear to be essential for facilitating optimal functioning of the natural propensities for growth and integration, as well as for constructive social development and personal well-being.”

According to Deci & Ryan (quoted above) the satisfaction of these three needs provides intrinsic motivation to act. “Self-determination theory” might be valuable for educational practice: in accordance with this theory, teachers generate intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being for their students to the extent that the students experience competence, relatedness and autonomy.

But does Self-determination theory meet the criteria we would expect, from a theory? How might Deci & Ryan respond to Wilf Carr’s argument, discussed last week?

Discuss these questions and more at next week’s Academic Reading Group. We meet in the library group meeting room at 2.00 on November 4  (note the change of time).

The paper can be downloaded here:

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being, American Psychologist, 55 (1), 68-78. 


Food for thought, this autumn

Is educational theory dead?

Wilf Carr argues that it is, here (follow the links): Carr, W. (2006) Education without theory, British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(2) 136-159.

For future sessions, please nominate texts so we have a variety of stimuli to set us thinking, discussing and generally disturbing the brain cells. The ‘default’ texts for the remainder of this term are (click on the titles and follow links):

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being, American Psychologist, 55 (1), 68-78. 

Gee, J. P. (2000) Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education, Review of Research in Education, 25 (1), 99-125.

Beijaard D., Paulien, C. Meijer, & Verloop, N. (2004) Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity, Teaching and Teacher Education, 20 (2) 107-128. 

Anderson, G. L. and Herr, K. The New Paradigm Wars: Is There Room for Rigorous Practitioner Knowledge in Schools and Universities?, Educational Researcher, 28 (5) 12-40.

Heron, J., & Reason, P. (1997). A Participatory Inquiry Paradigm, Qualitative Inquiry, 3(3), 274-294. 

I look forward to seeing you on Friday afternoons in the library and reading your comments on this blog.

Tim Cain