The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Teacher Researcher Programme - Case study

Primary teachers Caroline Bingham and Kirsten Duncan talk about what they gained professionally from taking part in the Teacher Researcher Programme.

Caroline, who teaches at Loanhead Primary School in Midlothian, worked with Kirsten Duncan from Edinburgh Academy on a project funded through the GTC Scotland Teacher Researcher Programme.

Their published report has attracted a great deal of interest and has been featured in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland. This led to the teachers being invited to speak at the Dyslexia Scotland annual conference and they also presented their findings at the Scottish Educational Research Association conference.

What was your research about? We had this idea of raising children's awareness of dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder. We first of all thought that we would go to speak to the parents and children themselves who have dyslexia and ASD and see if they thought it was a good idea. We spent many a Saturday afternoon coming up with workshops that we thought would help the children understand what it might be like to have autism or to have dyslexia. We put them in the shoes of a child to see what it was like [for them] in school and out in the community. So after we developed those workshops we also developed assemblies and then we contacted schools in four local authorities.
What did you do to carry out the project? We went out to the schools and took a cross-section of P4-7 children in the workshops. The workshops were really well received by pupils and teachers. Parents talked about them as well and we did one workshop before break, one workshop after break, 12 children in each. In the assembly they presented their learning to the rest of the school. In fact one school the nursery came along as well, so it was from P1-7, so the whole school was involved.
How did you analyse the results? We did a comparison because we wanted to see how much impact the actual workshops did as opposed to the assemblies only so we did a random selection, throughout Primary 1-7 to see how much information children picked up through just an assembly so we could compare that afterwards.
What were the benefits of doing this for your professional development? I think it's certainly given us a lot more confidence. I don't think prior to this that we would have stood up at a conference and presented. We've taken continuing professional development sessions with other teachers so we've then gone on to do training with the teachers on dyslexia and ASD. I think even ICT skills as well because going into schools, different challenges with ICT and projectors in the hall setting things up for assemblies. Every school is different so you just had to be really quick to learn and not panic about it, you know.

It was quite a challenge doing a literature review because of the field we'd chosen there was actually very little to go on. So we sort of broadened what we were looking for and looked at what's been done with disabilities in general rather than just hidden disabilities. Because it's something that we're passionate about we were interested in it, so if anyone's going to be becoming a teacher researcher to do something that they're passionate and interested in it won't be a chore to do the literature.

What were the benefits of doing the project through the Teacher Researcher Programme? Ian helped us right the way through the project and even afterwards as well. He's taken a great interest during the writing of the project we would send parts to him for feedback and he would get back at great length and detail and guide us and we had a huge amount of support. You didn't feel you were on your own. When we designed our questionnaires showed him our drafts and he made comment and we made some changes from the advice that he gave us so that was really useful.

You have ten days' cover as the GTCS pay for a supply teacher to come in and cover your classes while you work on your research project. Because we used our ten days up actually in the schools and a lot of our evenings and weekends were taken up, but it didn't seem like a chore because it was something we were really interested in and we're really proud of it because we think the finished product is good, we're really pleased with it.

I don't think that at any moment during the research that we wished we hadn't done it. I think we really had the push.