Our Research journey
One Sixth Form is a post-sixteen college offering a range of A-level and vocational courses in a largely rural setting in Ipswich, Suffolk. Many of the teaching and support staff have worked at One since its opening in 2011 and have had the unique opportunity to mould the centre into a diverse learning community to meet the needs of local students, in terms of learning and progression.
The ethos from the start has been to work as ‘one’ community (all staff and students) to enable the best outcomes for all students, however over time it has started to become increasingly challenging to effectively sustain a continuous drive for improvement.
“What is the best approach to keep staff motivated to develop their professional practice and maintain an open mind towards change?”
In 2018 we started our journey to involve more staff in evidence-informed practice by appointing a Research Lead. We initially obtained funding from the Ipswich Opportunity Area to work with the Ipswich Research School on two distinct projects, focussing on ‘metacognition’ and ‘developing student wellbeing via tutor support’. Sharing the outcomes of these two pieces (internally and externally) subsequently provided the springboard for us to develop, firstly the Research@ONE programme and this year the Research@ECG programme, which now extends across our academies trust and sister college within the Eastern Colleges Group (ECG).
Our work to-date includes a growing number of staff who engage as Research Champions (and one Research Assistant) to either conduct their own action research projects, take part in our termly journal club or promote dissemination of recent external research findings within their respective curriculum areas. Internally conducted research is communicated across the college (and now the ECG) via ‘sharing of good practice sessions’ spread out across the academic calendar, research conferences (ResearchEd and ResearchMeet), our website and an annual research poster exhibition.
More staff now see the value of getting involved in research as they have an increased awareness of the immediate positive impacts on their practice and professional development and most teachers greatly value the freedom to focus on topics of their own choice, that are of importance to them and to their specific students. Whilst active engagement with the programme has grown, and we are now able to offer small honoraria for the most promising projects, there is still a way to go to develop the ethos further and to incentivise participation. It is our hope that membership of the RCG will encourage more investment into developing the research programme as part of our appraisal system and for outcomes to have more of an influence on decision-making within the college and beyond.
Dr Tanja Hofmann (Director of Curriculum area & Research Lead, One Sixth Form College)