All schools that wish to become full or associate members of the Deanery are required to nominate a teacher who will act as the main point of liaison between the school and the University Department of Education. The role of this ‘Research Champion’ is vital in ensuring effective two-way communication: helping the Department of Education to understand the research needs and interests of schools as well as supporting their school in making effective use of research.
The role of Research Champions
The work of the Research Champion may include the following activities – in collaboration with academics from the University, Department of Education:
- supporting teachers within the school who are engaging in small-scale research projects, tackling priority issues (through the Action research Fellowship scheme);
- accessing the University’s library resources, including current online publications, and academics’ expertise to identify and engage with relevant research that addresses the school’s current concerns;
- developing effective ways to trial, implement and embed research-based approaches to teaching across your school;
- networking and collaborating with other local schools to exchange knowledge;
- creating opportunities for all staff to share and make effective use of relevant research;
- advertising opportunities offered to schools through the Deanery, identifying staff who might benefit from engagement in them and encouraging them to apply; and
- contributing to the direction of the Deanery and shaping new research projects in partnership with the Department of Education and other local Research Champions.
Research Champions within the Deanery meet five times a year, with a variety of different kinds of focus: presenting the findings of collaborative projects carried out within the Deanery; workshops looking at the implication of recent University-led research of relevance to schools; planning future research collaborations, developing materials to support schools/teachers engaging in their own research studies. The group of Research Champions also elect three members to represent them on the Deanery and Partnership Committee, which has strategic oversight of the whole partnership
Who should be a Research Champion?
Schools have seen the role of Research Champion in different ways – some have nominated members of the Senior Leadership Team, recognising the valuable links between research engagement and responsibility for leading/improving teaching and learning. Others have recognised the strong link between research engagement and continuing professional development and have assigned the role to their Professional Tutor or CPD Coordinator. Some schools have entrusted the role to a main-scale teacher who is looking to move into leadership roles or to someone who is simply passionate about research. There are no fixed rules about it, but the Deanery would urge schools to allocate some time allowance to the teacher taking on the role.
Research into the work of Research Champions
The Deanery provides the Research Champion and those they support with expert guidance in using research to improve their own teaching and pupils’ learning. During the course of 2017-18 the Deanery has been conducting a participatory research project into the work of Research Champions (led by Anne Edwards & Katharine Burn from the University and Robin Conway & Eluned Harries from partner schools). This has resulted in:
- a practical guide for Research Champions themselves;
- a briefing for Headteachers and Senior Leaders about the role of research Champions and ways to use their expertise; and
- an academic article in British Educational Research Journal about the work of Research Champions