Building educational bridges: the importance of interconnections in contemporary education research, policy and practice

Sutherland, Margaret Julia (2013) Building educational bridges: the importance of interconnections in contemporary education research, policy and practice. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The arguments presented in this thesis extend the existing discourse in the field of educational research. With support from empirical evidence and conceptual argument I will contend that the role of the teacher, and teacher beliefs, are central to changing practice and that a fine-grained understanding of teachers’ attitudes is crucial if we are to bridge the disjunction between research, policy and practice. The papers presented in this submission make a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex nature of learning and teaching.
Empirical research to date has tended to be carried out in discrete disciplines within education such as psychology, sociology or early years. In contrast the portfolio of work presented here extends this knowledge by innovatively synthesising different fields of research and knowledge and challenges traditional practices where evidence was often restricted within a distinct field of study. There are increasingly nuanced debates in the academic literature about interconnectedness and the research/policy/practice nexus. The work presented here is located within this nexus.
This portfolio of publications brings together work I have completed in the field since 2000. The publications are empirical and conceptual and progress knowledge related to teacher beliefs, classroom organisation, curriculum, early years and gifted and talented education. This submission provides a unique contribution to understanding the complex processes of learning and teaching by means of synthesising existing evidence and generating new evidence that not only contributes to the discourse but crucially is disseminated in a way that is accessible and practical in nature.
The central claim underlying the work in this research portfolio is that providing for children can best be understood as resulting from three connected perspectives:
1. The complex interactions between teachers’ universal understandings about learning, teaching and ability;
2. The synthesis of previously discrete fields of research;
3. The policy context teachers find themselves working in and practical application in the classroom.
This submission includes four jointly authored and four single authored peer-reviewed published papers together with two systematic reviews of literature. A range of work will be presented as evidence of knowledge exchange outputs emanating from the empirical and conceptual work. The submission will be organised under three key themes, each of which contributes to the intellectual development of knowledge and understanding about learning and teaching.
Theme 1: Teachers, Learning and Learners
The three papers presented in this theme directly address the teachers’ role and interrogate through: a literature review; the development of a model and an empirical study; how teachers might understand their role within the process. The first paper (1) reports the findings of a systematic review of literature about motivation to learn. Paper two (2) reports on a two-dimensional model for motivation. Paper (3) presents findings from a study carried out with teachers undertaking postgraduate qualifications in Special Educational Needs. Synthesising the findings from these papers contributes to discourse in the field by generating overarching patterns that relate to learners and effective learning regardless of their age.
Theme 2: Classroom Organisation
The four papers in this theme focus on curriculum and the mediation of the curriculum for learners. They demonstrate how the research undertaken reveals similar concerns within the field of gifted education and education generally, thus strengthening the thesis that greater synthesis of discrete fields of research is required. Paper four (4) critiques the current curricular framework being implemented in Scottish schools in relation to pupils who demonstrate high ability. Paper five (5) examines findings from a pilot study in one Education Authority in Scotland. Papers six (6) and seven (7) present findings from a study that examined classroom organisation from the perspectives of both teachers and pupils. Evidence is presented through knowledge exchange outputs in the form of a national staff development pack. Intellectually the papers contribute to the theoretical debates that exist around the organisation of pupils for learning and teaching. The findings corroborate the thesis that no one approach will meet the needs of all pupils.
Theme 3: High ability
Each of the three papers in this theme provides a unique contribution to the contentious debate around the most appropriate way to educate gifted and talented learners. The field is dominated by arguments for the need for specialised education for this cohort. The papers in this submission challenge this position arguing for the benefits of a more inclusive approach. Paper eight (8) is a literature review of interventions aimed at improving the educational achievement of gifted and talented pupils. Paper nine (9) explores parents’ views about high ability. Paper ten (10) presents initial findings from a study of staff working in one Education Authority in Scotland. Further evidence will be presented indicating how my empirical and conceptual work translates into accessible books and reports for use by teachers, students and Education Authorities, thus demonstrating impact “on the ground” and extending my work to include both an academic and practitioner audience. Conceptually the work submitted in this section evidences the central thesis that it is the implementation of a variety of methodological and pedagogical approaches by a knowledgeable educator that will best support gifted and talented learners.
It is important that the individuality, personal knowledge, beliefs and understanding teachers bring to the learning and teaching processes are explored, challenged and enhanced from a theoretical and methodological base. The syntheses of findings that are presented in this portfolio provide a critical and fine-grained understanding of teaching and learning across rarely connected disparate and discrete elements within education. It is this critical interrogation of existing practice that offers a unique contribution to the field. Explicitly such insights have yet to pass down into educational practice to produce more critically informed forms of educational praxis. The work presented in this submission offers a distinctive empirical and conceptual base from which to move forward.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Ph.D. thesis awarded by published work. The electronic version of this thesis has been edited, the journal articles have been removed due to third party copyright material restrictions.
Keywords: Teaching and learning, gifted education, early years education, pedagogy, inclusion, curriculum
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Menter, Professor Ian
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mrs Margaret Sutherland
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4188
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2013 08:09
Last Modified: 18 May 2022 11:02

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