A case study of the meanings and values of educational research for participants in a Shanghai primary school and a Yorkshire primary school

Gu, Yuan

February 2017

Thesis or dissertation

© 2017 Yuan Gu. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This is a case study of teaching practitioners in two school settings, one in Shanghai and the other in the Yorkshire region of England. Its focus is on their views and values regarding the use of educational research in relation to their own practice and how their social practices as well as cultural orientations influence their use of different kinds of knowledge. The research problem addressed is the one identified in the 1990s’ policy debate about why much educational research does not seem to be directly helping teachers in improving their practice. Although the situation might have changed more recently with the greater development of evidence-based practice and some teachers’ active engagement in research, how practitioners make research meaningful to them remains unclear. This study aims to clarify how these teachers regard the idea of research-informed practice. The principal method of data collection was semi-structured interviewing. Other methods were used only to support the validity of interpretations in the analysis of interview data. This analysis shows that with respect to published research produced elsewhere and to their own research activities, the use, if any, that these practitioners make of research is likely to depend on whether they can appropriately recontextualize it according to the professional knowledge they value in their own networks or communities of practice. That process of recontextualization is one with which they are familiar from their social practice of transforming explicit codified knowledge embedded in curriculum documents, textbooks and other context-independent learning resources into pedagogic activities according to their tacit experiential understanding of what works in their particular situation. The high value placed on tacit situated knowledge as an essential component of professional knowledge and development is maintained when these practitioners extend recontextualization to research knowledge and evidence. It is present in the sense of agency and professional identity that is a priority for practitioners in each setting, although the respective cultural orientations towards it are different. A relational model is developed from the case study findings, with implications for revising the aims of educational research towards working with teachers to understand better their recontextualizing practice rather than seeking transferable prescriptions of pedagogy as a technical instrument.

Department of Education Studies, The University of Hull
Jolliffe, Wendy; Montgomery, Catherine, 1962-; Opie, Clive, 1953-
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