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Early career research

Ian Matheson, Educational Planning and Research Officer at the General Teaching Council for Scotland, discusses the benefits of research in the early stages of a teaching career.

Educational Planning and Research Officer, General Teaching Council for Scotland

Life for the new teacher is filled with demands, challenges and exciting opportunities. There is so much to do and consider. So why would I argue that somewhere in that mix you owe it to yourself to find a space for research?

Constant self-evaluation

It's actually quite easy to argue that all teachers are researchers, often without being conscious of it. It's part of your instinct to want to know how well you're doing - to reflect on your own practice with a view to self improvement.  

Every time you evaluate a course or a lesson, reflect on how effectively a new approach to learning worked with your class or try out a new piece of assessment, you're conducting action research.

You're gaining evidence to influence the ways in which you plan and deliver learning to your pupils.

This research may lead you to change your classroom practice, even influencing colleagues to do so. If it worked for you, it may work for them.

Research can guide you in your own professional development as a reflective practitioner, making a vital difference to the learning experiences you offer your pupils.

Raising your Standards

Research skills are now part of all of the professional Standards, including the Standard for Full Registration. Seeing research as an integral part of a teacher's work is also implicit in the twin requirement and entitlement for teachers to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

For maximum results it's important to take research beyond the informal style described above and to use it deliberately to contribute to your CPD. Your research should be systematic and planned, gathering and evaluating evidence using sound research methods to:

  • improve practice in the classroom
  • develop new and better approaches to learning and teaching
  • help you to become an innovator

New opportunities

Recent developments, both in schools and in the academic community, offer new and exciting opportunities for teachers to join or even to form research communities.

This encourages the sharing of research findings, helping teachers to become more aware of the outcomes of research evidence and to use it to inform their work. 

GTC Scotland has a crucial role to play in supporting you to become involved in research. The following are some exciting new opportunities for teachers to work with researchers in the university sector.

Emerging Researcher Network

The Emerging Researcher Network is being developed in partnership with the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA), bringing teachers carrying out specific research projects into contact with young academics and postgraduate students. For more information please contact me (see below).

Virtual Research Environment

If you're aiming to become a Chartered Teacher, you could gain access to a Virtual Research Environment offered by the Applied Education Research Scheme (AERS), taking part in online forums and using collaborative writing tools.

Refugees into Teaching in Scotland (RITeS) Project

GTC Scotland is a partner in the Refugees Into Teaching in Scotland (RITeS) project, based at Strathclyde University, carrying out research into the experiences of refugee teachers who come to Scotland. Researchers are interested in exploring the different perspectives of Scottish and refugee teachers on issues such as values, rights and responsibilities and how they affect work with young people.

Teacher Researcher Programme

The GTC's own Teacher Researcher Programme offers you the chance of funding to undertake small-scale, practice-led research within a number of priority research areas.

Previous participants have shared the outcomes of their research on this website:

The next step

If any of the above has inspired you to look into the area of research in more detail, there are many places to look for more information, including:

Remember, research can enrich your teaching, improve the learning opportunities you can offer your pupils, and perhaps have a wider impact in your school and others.

It can also be a really enjoyable activity that raises your eyes from the mundane to the horizon and beyond. So why not join Scotland's growing research community? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Contact details

If you have an idea and want someone independent to talk to, please contact me: