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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

From tiny acorns: a co-produced research project between Chinese teacher researchers and UK-based international initial teacher training academics.

Hidson, Elizabeth (2023) From tiny acorns: a co-produced research project between Chinese teacher researchers and UK-based international initial teacher training academics. In: BERA Annual Conference 2023, 12-14 September 2023, Aston University, UK..

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Initial teacher education (ITE) providers embed school-based research assignments into their teacher training curricula. Tutors and mentors supporting trainees and early career teachers work within the initial teacher training (ITT) Core Curriculum (CCF) and Early Career (ECF) frameworks, where ‘learn that’ statements are coupled with an evidence-informed ‘learn how to’ approach to reflective practice (DfE, 2019a, 2019b). Teacher professional development is both necessary for ongoing compliance with the teachers’ standards (DfE, 2011) and a requirement in annual appraisal systems, with action research a common approach in schools (Hidson, 2021). Many teachers complete further postgraduate study part-time while in post, turning a lens on their own schools to explore theory in practice. School leaders embrace research in schools (Chisnell, 2021) and are governmentally mandated to engage with research evidence and implement promising findings into their plans, especially in terms of addressing educational disadvantage. The sector seems geared towards developing a research-rich and self-improving educational system predicated on the capacity for teachers to engage with research.
The Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) undertaken for the BERA Close-to-Practice (CtP) report of 2018 highlighted an absence of high-quality studies that ‘addressed the research of academics with responsibilities for initial teacher education (ITE)’ (Wyse et al, 2021, p. 1480). Put simply, no relevant studies were found that reported on CtP research done by teacher educators. Despite these academics being in a symbiotic relationship with schools, and despite them initiating, supervising, and assessing school-based research assignments on undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research courses, this uniquely positioned group of practitioner researchers does not produce CtP outputs that are recognised in terms of national or international reach and significance: their innovations are ‘below the radar’ (Perry et al. 2017, p. 28).
Addressing problems at a classroom or school level tends to remain internal to the school, perhaps an echo of schools being seen historically as closed systems (Griffin & Barnes, 1984), but in this case not disseminating CtP impact widely enough rather than external research findings not finding their way into schools. What is required is a shift in practice so that ITE academics and teacher researchers can collaborate on practitioner-led research that influences practice and creates impact in schools at the micro (classroom), meso (institutional) and macro (school group/regional) level. An additional anticipated benefit from this is that new knowledge can be fed back and contribute to research-rich initial teacher education.
This paper reports on CtP work in progress, presenting in this instance a collaborative pilot project between UK-based ITE academics and an international school in Shanghai, the first phase in a larger umbrella project. The larger project’s research question asks, ‘To what extent can research co-created between schools and HE impact at the micro, meso and macro level?’ The co-created research project stemmed from the professionally curious iGCSE science teachers’ frustration that learners must be able to master, communicate and be assessed on their scientific capability through reading, listening, writing, and speaking solely in English despite their native Mandarin fluency. The teachers’ research question asked the extent to which developing bespoke translanguaging resources could support Grade 9 students’ science subject competency in English, inspired by Littlewood’s (2007) communicative framework. Teachers trialled an ‘English for Science’ intervention with worksheets and vocabulary booklets to support students’ content processing between Mandarin and English, with promising results demonstrated through formative and summative assessments.
Working with the ITE academics allowed for a sharing of research skills and knowledge to develop a project that followed an action research methodology. Rather than fixing one problem for one group of students, the academics, in line with Hordern’s (2021) call to consider the impact on education rather than practice in isolation, were conscious of the potential to demonstrate impact beyond the initial intervention, so a wider scope was established, where practice could be shared within and beyond this school to the wider group of affiliated schools.
Using an expanded version of Elliot’s (1991) action research model, the presentation will conclude by sharing a framework currently under construction that systematises planning for impact at the micro (classroom), meso and macro levels. It will also outline progress on additional phases in the overarching project and encourage discussion on the themes of practitioner research and the CtP debate.

Chisnell, G. (2021). Irresistible learning: Embedding a culture of research in schools. Melton: John Catt.
Department for Education (DfE), (2011). Teachers’ standards. London: DfE.
Department for Education (DfE), (2019a). Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework. London: DfE.
Department for Education (DfE), (2019b). Early Career Framework. London: DfE.
Elliot, J., (1991). Action research for educational change. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Griffin, G. A., and Barnes, S. (1984). ‘School Change: A Craft-Derived and Research-Based Strategy’. Teachers College Record, 86(1), 103–123.
Hidson, E. (2021). ‘Video-Enhanced Lesson Observation: Moving from Performance Management to Continuous Teacher Development’. In: Video Enhanced Observation for Language Teaching, Reflection and Professional Development. Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching. Bloomsbury, New York.
Hordern, J. (2021). Why close to practice is not enough: Neglecting practice in educational research. British Educational Research Journal. 47(6), pp. 1451-1465. DOI: 10.1002/berj.3622.
Littlewood, W. (2007). ‘Communicative and task­based language teaching in East Asian classrooms’. Language Teaching, 40, pp 243­249 doi:10.1017/S0261444807004363
Perry, E, Boylan, M., Booth, J. and Coldwell, M. (2017). ‘Connecting research and teacher education: quality enhancement for ITE Partnerships’. Cardiff: Welsh Government.

Wyse, D., Brown, C., Oliver, S. & Poblete, X. (2018) The BERA close-to-practice research project: Research report (London, British Educational Research Association).
Wyse, D., Brown, C., Oliver, S. & Poblete, X. (2020) ‘Education research and educational practice: The qualities of a close relationship’, British Educational Research Journal,

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Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2023 10:22
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2023 10:22


Author: Elizabeth Hidson ORCID iD

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Faculty of Education and Society > School of Education


Education > Educational Research

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