Over the past decade, self-published polemic on education topics has become widely disseminated through a burgeoning culture of social media, and has increasingly challenged the products of academic research for the attention of national policy creators. This special issue of the BERA Blog considers how the products of academic research and the voices of individual practitioners can be more clearly differentiated, while nevertheless ensuring that both are fairly represented within the field of education publishing.
The authors reflect further upon how democracy is served in these processes, while ensuring that the distinctions between the dissemination of academic research and commentary upon day-to-day practice – while sometimes running very much in tandem – are not blurred or confused when they are presented for public consumption.
Dr Pam Jarvis poses a range of overarching questions in her blog, ‘The edublogger, the school and the academy’, which takes a closer look at the context of self-published edublogging within a contested landscape of practice and research, exploring issues of validity, peer review and the complex question of what edublogging is for. She concludes that while blogging is a positive new arena for personal and shared reflection, there is a danger that uninformed readers may confuse the validity of conclusions by those who produce meticulous peer-reviewed research with the polemic stance of those who promulgate personal opinion via self-published blogging distributed via social media.
This is followed by four blogs which explore, in very different ways, how the validity of practitioner research can be improved through close relationships with academia.
- Professor Rachel Lofthouse considers how practitioner research can be academically validated in her blog, ‘CollectivED: Curating voices in professional learning’, in which she discusses the significance of publications that position writing by practitioners alongside that of academics. Using examples of papers from her ColletivED project, she explores the creation of an inclusive professional education community through multiple voices, bringing practitioner research more securely into the academic sphere.
- Professor Kate Wall reflects on how quality is judged within the research element of practitioner enquiry in her blog, ‘Pedagogic appropriateness: Judging quality in practitioner enquiry’. She argues that traditional academic notions of research are a questionable fit when the researcher is also practitioner. She explores ways in which the concept of pedagogic appropriateness may be harnessed as a means of contextualising research approaches within teaching and learning settings. Within this frame, she explores the development of a mechanism for drawing upon practitioner expertise about the appropriateness of evidence and relevant approaches within specific settings.
- Dr Louise Kay, writing in a similar vein, introduces a new project in her blog, ‘Synergising research in early childhood education: Creating a collaborative space between close-to-practice research and academia’. She outlines her intention to explore the potential for establishing a collaborative space between practitioner research and universities, arguing that drawing upon the expertise of both teachers and academics will help to establish a close-to-practice research culture that is relevant, rigorous, ethical and trustworthy.
Professor John Leach then firmly grasps the nettle of a critique first raised by classroom practitioners in the mid-1990s: that purely academic educational research may at times put forward claims that are unsupported by contemporary practice evidence, or indulge in ‘academic posturing’ to state the glaringly obvious. John’s blog, ‘Academic or practitioner? Border-crossings and close-to-practice research’, discusses how such a schism might be avoided by creating an inclusive community of researchers and practitioners who jointly aim to develop reliable public knowledge about one practice – teaching in classrooms – and how participants may experience border-crossings between their researcher and practitioner identities in conducting such work.
The final two blogs consider ways in which educational debate may become more inclusive as we move towards the mid-21st century.
- Dr Yinka Olusoga raises the need to champion the importance of listening to a multiplicity of voices in her blog, ‘Unexamined privilege and schools as sites of othering: Towards an ethics of commentary and debate’. She explores social media’s potential to provide a platform upon which marginalised groups can – by blogging and tweeting, for example – challenge unexamined assumptions and highlight divisive practices in the culture of schooling, raising issues around representation and decolonialism. She highlights the ways in which blogging and social media may be effective media through which to create an ethic of respect: one in which marginalised people and groups can be recognised as equals with a voice to disseminate, rather than constructed as ‘objects of study’ viewed through the lens of a more dominant culture.
- Finally, Kay Sidebottom considers how traditional research practice often fails to acknowledge our embodied, entangled and complex roles, with ‘ethics’ becoming a perfunctory tick-sheet, in her blog, ‘Nomadic enquiry: Reimagining research ethics for “posthuman” times’. She explores how deconstructing the researcher as all-seeing, all-knowing observer may avoid the academic ‘god trick’ (Haraway, 1988, p. 575), and introduces new modes of enquiry with the potential to avoid, or at least smooth out, terratorialised, striated spaces.
Haraway, D. (1988). ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’. Feminist Studies, 14, 3, pp. 575–599.