FailEd by ResearchEd

The teaching profession has recently enjoyed a rekindling of a love affair between teachers and research. In 2009 the first throes of fancy were entered into with the release of John Hattie's Visible Learning book (known as the White book). The wave of enthusiasm with which the early adopters greeted this book has turned into a considerable surge, such that Hattie's work is now both revered and reviled by the same profession. Where a profession shows interest, you can guarantee that there will be those who attempt to capitalise on the momentum of others. It doesn't take long for the opportunists to tout their wares, hoping that the increased professional footfall gives them the chance to become established: "Beware the snake-oil merchants!" cry the, well, merchants of snake-oil. And, on the whole, there is nothing wrong with letting our profession have access to a free market. There is very little point having teacher autonomy whilst having a state-controlled profession.

This, for me, is one of the reasons why ResearchEd has failed.

ResearchEd was born of Twitter. It was created by people who already had a well defined Twitter persona, so its direction was already set and cannot be adjusted by any of its supporters (with perhaps the directors being a notable exception to this). ResearchEd is a collection of EduTwitter celebrities who have a great many followers. Given the size of our profession (in the UK we have about 500,000 teachers) it would be incorrect to say that ResearchEd speaks for us all. There are about 5% of teachers who have an active Twitter account and it is quite possible that the demographic of the typical ResearchEd advocate is located in the south of England. Certainly the demographic of those aligned to ResearchEd (the directors) is that the majority are based in the south of England.

Here is where ResearchEd fails again: it does not represent the profession due to containing perceived/actual cliques.

Do we need representing by an organisation who allows anyone to join as long as they tow the party line? And when that party line has close links with key political figures we have a quasi-political lobby group that lobbies the profession, not the politicians. And the reputation of some of the lobbyists has made people question whether they wish to be aligned with such an organisation.

To be told that your professional experience is invalid by people you do not trust professionally, who cherry-pick research that supports their ideology is, yet again, another fail for ResearchEd.

Would ResearchEd have been created had Twitter (or any other social media platform) not been available to promote their conferences? If the internet closed down today, how long before the number of attendees at their conferences fell to zero. As a not-for-profit organisation they would possibly run a conference of 115 speakers with only one delegate in attendance.

The issue of funding is another fail.

To organise and run a conference is not easy. To run one without worrying about costs must be much better than trying to break even or make a profit. There's no such thing as a free lunch so one would assume that the subsidising of conference costs by other companies would require something to be given in return. I know that philanthropy exists and can here the cries of "cynic" heading my way but, follow the money and see what that reveals. ResearchEd has applied for charitable status putting it outside the commercial sector. Yet its logo has been trademarked, some of its directors have commercial businesses. How will it handle a conflict of interests created by someone wanting to present findings that one of the director's commercial products has negligible impact on learning?

When lines between charity and private enterprise become muddied, I spy a fail.

The way that ResearchEd troops protect it on Twitter is the biggest fail of all. Look through any thread on Twitter (I know that I'm only speaking to a maximum of 5% of the UK profession) where questions have been asked - in either good or bad faith - and make a note of the respondents. Now find another thread and note the protectors names. Soon you see the same names keep popping up. I'm not sure that ResearchEd is anything more than another hierarchy imposed on our profession. There is no good quality evidence that ResearchEd has any more impact on learning than attending a music concert has on, well, anything. Conferences are a staple of any profession. They are intelligent show-and-tell, an audio book to the research, a way to showcase success. But successful stories without a vehicle to deliver success in your own school are nothing more than story-telling. ResearchEd has failed our research-aware profession by failing to provide valid and reliable evidence that they have improved learning. They have also failed to provide a process through which people can transfer success from stage to school.

ResearchEd has failed me.


  1. Now I'm going to declare an interest, as I have spoken at a number of researchED events - both in the UK and abroad. That said - I find the comments made extremely interesting - so I'm going to pose a number of different questions in response to the so-called failures.

    State control and teacher autonomy - given that researchED has held conferences in England, Scotland, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Australia, the United States and later in the year Canada, which state is controlling the researchED agenda?

    How many of these events have been organised with the aid of 'government' and how many have been organised by local teachers with an interest in research?

    Twitter and edutwitter - what do you mean by the term twitter celebrities - how many are there - how many followers do you need to have to be a twitter celebrity - what percentage of the speakers at researchED London are deemed to be Twitter celebrities.

    Social media - how do we expand the number of people involved in edutwitter ?

    What lobbying is taking place on behalf of the profession - can you provide examples

    Who are the actual and perceived cliques in twitter?

    What is the party-line ?

    To be told that your professional experience is invalid by people you do not trust professionally, who cherry-pick research that supports their ideology is, yet again, another fail for ResearchEd. - has this happened to you personally? If so, can you give an example?

    Are there any conflicts of interest about this post which should be declared?

    How much of your own time (non-enumerated) have you spent to support the professional development of colleagues?

    I look forward to your response


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