Teachers with PhDs carrying out research on their teaching practice
: the experience of participants on the Researchers in Schools Programme

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This project is about a group of teachers carrying out research on their teaching practice. My starting point was that engaging with research can play an important part in teacher learning (BERA-RSA, 2014, p.3). The process of carrying out research on one’s teaching practice can help to build teachers’ morale and sense of professionalism (Mincu, 2015, p.265). There is a great deal of research on teachers carrying out research on their practice, this study offers a new perspective because it focuses on teachers who are on the Researchers in Schools programme. Researchers in Schools is a route into teaching and three-year training programme exclusively for PhD graduates. It is the first programme to gather teachers with PhDs together in this way, and as such it offers an opportunity to study this sub-set of teachers. My research question is ‘How did carrying out a research project on their teaching practice help RIS participants develop their thinking?’

The question may shed light on whether the participants were able to transfer their research skills from the PhD context to research on their teaching practice. I proposed that as participants had engaged in research at PhD level, they were likely to be ‘research literate’ (BERA-RSA, p.40). I reasoned that participants might be able to use these skills to help them reflect on their teaching practice and to inform their thinking. If so, at an individual level they would be able to contribute to creating ‘research-rich’ schools (BERARSA, p.40), where innovation and creativity are encouraged and teachers drive change rather than having it ‘done’ to them (BERA-RSA, 2014, p.40).

The project involved one-hour interviews with 12 participants in the 2016 cohort of the RIS programme. I analysed the interviews using the ‘constant comparative method’ of analysis (Thomas, 2013, p.235).

The findings from the interviews suggest that participants were ‘research literate’ (BERARSA, 2014, p.40) and they were able to transfer some of their research skills to their research on their teaching practice. Participants reported that they were confident in their ability to frame a research question and find relevant academic literature to help them answer the question. They stressed the importance of evaluating the literature and considering the context in which the research had taken place. Participants also appeared to have ‘scholarship-informed dispositions’ (Gewirtz, 2014, p.12) and scholarly habits. They appeared to be ‘comfortable with theory’ and able to ‘think in disciplined ways’ (Gewirtz, 2014, p. 13). Participants exhibited a ‘healthy scepticism’ (BERA-RSA, 2014, p.40) about research. It seems that doing a research project on their teaching practice helped participants to draw on their research expertise and reflect on how it was relevant to their teaching practice.

The data from the interviews suggests that the wider context in which the participants completed their research projects was significant. The participants’ thinking was influenced by the RIS training that they took part in, and the community of their RIS peers. It seems that participants in the cohort helped each other to form their identity as ‘RIS teachers’. When they described what this meant to them, they identified certain characteristics of ‘RIS teachers.’ This included a preference for using data to inform their thinking about their teaching, being reflective about their teaching, and being confident to share their weaknesses with each other. I will argue that it is important that the participants completed their training as a cohort, as it allowed participants to acknowledge both their researcher and teacher identities in the training sessions. The findings from this study may lay the groundwork for further research about how to help teachers with PhDs connect their research experience with their teaching and use it to benefit the pupils that they teach.
Date of Award1 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChristopher Winch (Supervisor) & Simon Gibbons (Supervisor)

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