Research School Network: Introducing our ELE team – Mark Enser We are really excited to introduce our newly assembled team of ​‘Evidence Leads in Education’ (ELE)

Introducing our ELE team – Mark Enser

We are really excited to introduce our newly assembled team of ​‘Evidence Leads in Education’ (ELE)

by Durrington Research School
on the

I have been a geography teacher for 17 years, training in Gloucestershire and then working in a range of schools from Southampton to East and West Sussex. For the last seven of those years I have been head of geography at Heathfield Community College and added the role of research lead two years ago. I am also a TES columnist and author of Making Every Geography Lesson Count and Teach Like Nobody’s Watching. I have two more books coming out this year – one is looking at putting a piece of educational research into practice in the classroom and the other is about notions of curriculum purpose in geography with an emphasis on the concept of Powerful Knowledge.

I am very excited to be joining Durrington Research School as an Evidence Lead in Education as I love working with schools and individual teachers on research-informed approaches to teaching and learning. What really excites me is the way educational research can be used to empower us as professionals and allows us to take charge of a vision for education in our schools. This research can help us to find more effective and efficient ways to work both in and out of the classroom. Ways to help pupils learn more of the things that we think matter and in ways that reduce our workload.

At a time when our profession is gripped by a retention crisis, it feels as though it has never been more important for us to seize autonomy as individual teachers and as schools and find what works for us. It is also a time when the kind of system leadership provided by the Research Schools Network becomes important. There is a huge amount of research and advice available to schools and teachers and one thing I think my role can be is to sift through it and find the diamonds in the rough. I can also recontextualize it so that what can be very theoretical is instead shown through the eyes of someone who is still working full time in the classroom. That teacher-eye lens is critical if we are to make educational research work for us.

During the disruption to normal school routines caused by Covid-19, educational research has really helped me to find a way to teach in the most effective way possible for my pupils. I have been able to use ideas from Cognitive Load Theory to consider my instruction design, research on attention to consider the distractions my pupils will face and the principles of Barak Rosenshine to ensure that the focus remains on learning rather than on activity.

The main thing that has been reinforced over the last couple of months is that the pedagogy of the classroom doesn’t translate directly to remote learning, but the underpinning principles do. What I have had to do is find new ways to apply them. It is still just as important to find ways to question, use deliberate practice and to give feedback but the methods I deployed in the classroom don’t work when we are not together in the same room. The magic of the classroom is missing. This is also a salutary reminder that common principles will always have to be applied in different ways when we change the context; and this gives us another reason to embrace professional autonomy. But an autonomy underpinned by being both experienced and research-informed.

Mark Enser

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