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Practitioner Research Programme benefits participants, their institutions and the wider FE and Training sector

Paul Kessell-Holland, the ETF’s Head of Curriculum Design Projects

An evaluation of the Education and Training Foundation’s (@E_T_Foundation) Practitioner Research Programme (PRP) has identified benefits for participants, their institutions and the wider FE and Training sector. The evaluation examined the experiences and views of participants on the programme in the academic year 2020–2021.

Among participants the evaluation found an increased capability to adopt research-informed practice, changed behaviours, and increased confidence to undertake research. Eighty-three per cent of the projects had been disseminated in some way – via a combination of the ETF’s Practitioner Research Conference, other conferences, presentations to colleagues at participants’ own institutions and sharing through publications or research networks.

The evaluation also highlighted changes that have been implemented by participants’ organisations. Research conducted on the programme has been reported to have contributed to amendments to the structure of a college’s action research delivery, such as modifying the role of Teaching and Learning Coaches to allow them further time and scope to support action research. It had also led to changes including the implementation of innovative methods for working with ESOL learners, an increased use of music and popular culture to support maths learning, and an adaption to the role of Advanced Practitioners to facilitate more action research.

Paul Kessell-Holland, the ETF’s Head of Curriculum Design Projects, said:

“This report highlights the success of the Practitioner Research Programme in utilising the experiences of FE practitioners to integrate research into practice for the benefit of the FE and Training sector. It is raising awareness of the possibilities of research amongst our professional community and growing the body of research-aware colleagues. In doing so, the programme is helping to achieve the Education and Training Foundation’s vision for a self-improving sector.”

Participants reported that they found a key strength of the programme to be the high-quality team at SUNCETT (The University of Sunderland Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training), which delivers the programme on behalf of the ETF. Participants rated the team’s knowledge – both of pedagogy and of the FE sector on the ground – as excellent. The residential element of the programme was also rated highly, as it allowed participants to immerse themselves in their research and provided them with a protected space to share and discuss ideas.

The evaluation also provided ideas to make the programme even more effective. The highly valued residential parts of the PRP will be reinstated as soon as social distancing guidelines permit, but allowance will also be made for a mixed delivery model to make it easier for those who are not based near North-East England to access the programme, and networking opportunities outside the residential elements will also be developed.

The full evaluation report, along with details of how to apply for the programme, are available on the Practitioner Research Programme page. Applications for the next cohort open on 6 July and must be submitted by 5pm on 17 September 2021.

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