What images are conjured when we think of ‘research’? A scientist in a white coat and safety glasses experimenting with test tubes and Bunsen burners? A social scientist has no such apparatus; in my field, education, our lab is the classroom and the work we do does not necessarily have any such physical manifestation as a vaccine or drug.
What is a lab anyway? As a former English teacher with a background in Classics, I’m interested in the etymology of the words we take for granted, and ‘laboratory’ is essentially ‘a place to work (labour)’ from the original Latin. Teachers in education settings from Early Years to tertiary training are doing vital work every day to prepare the future generation for their place in what will hopefully be an equitable world. This is also the goal of academics at the Faculty of Education and elsewhere in the University, so could we reclaim the notion of the laboratory as a place where we can work together (collaborate, again from the Latin!) with teachers?
It was at ACRE 2022 that the idea for ‘Research Laboratory’ was first proposed by Professor David Aldridge, Head of Department for Secondary and Further Education here at Edge Hill University, as a forum where teachers and academics could come together in the shared interest of researching for the betterment of education. My PhD focused on the research engagement of teachers, so I was delighted to take on this initiative with Dr Shaun Thompson to organise a monthly get-together where research findings can be disseminated, and future projects proposed.
In the last academic year, we have connected with Bingley Grammar School, where there is a drive for teachers to engage both with existing research and in their own research of their practice. Colleagues from Abbot’s Lea are way ahead with this, presenting posters of their research at ACRE 2023, and ResearchLab aims to provide a platform to spotlight this kind of grassroots work throughout the academic year, forming valuable partnerships with academics along the way. It is also a space to facilitate the research of busy teachers, nurturing interests perhaps to be pursued in one of our MA pathways. This is the goal for Steven Riley, Director of Research & Postgraduate Study at Bingley Grammar, himself an EdD student.
An ongoing experiment
So far, ResearchLab has hosted academics talking about their egalitarian research methods of Lesson Study, Practice Enquiry Circles, bricolage, and Research Circles, as well as teachers from Partner School, Rainford High, presenting the preliminary findings of their longitudinal research into pupil motivation. These practitioner researchers were able to connect with colleagues from the Department of Psychology, which is what ResearchLab is all about. This year, we’ve put together a schedule of talks from teachers and academics throughout the academic year to showcase the research that will make a real difference in schools and colleges. Hope to see you there!