Top tips for engaging with professional reading

Many teachers can be put off by academic articles and find them difficult to engage with. However, the information contained within them can be invaluable. So, what can you do to help your engagement with such writing?

We suggest three ways to engage with professional reading:

  • Engaging with professional reading
  • The Three-Pass process
  • Critical synopsis of a text

Engaging with professional reading

Step 1    

Use keywords and phrases to search for article in EBSCO, an excellent online knowledge hub that gives you access to academic and public libraries. It contains articles, journals and books covering a very wide range of topics.

Step 2

Read the ‘abstract.’

  • Most articles begin with an abstract or introduction. In this the author/s will set out what is in the main article and most likely the main findings or arguments they are going to make.

Step 3      

Read the ‘conclusion.’

  • This will round up all the main messages and findings from the body of the article and might well refer you on to further readings or work on the area covered.

Step 4        

If, after reading the abstract and the conclusion, if you decide that the article is going to be useful then you can read the other sections.

  • You may wish to skim read at first, looking for key words or phrases, then slow down and read more carefully when you see content of particular interest. However, there are plenty of articles where you must read it all, to thoroughly understand and assimilate the information.

The Three-Pass process

When engaging in professional reading, it is very easy to become side-tracked by interesting, but irrelevant, articles. The three pass-process allows you to focus your reading on relevant articles. It can also be used to extract the gist of the myriad of other documents that teachers need to read.

Before you start searching for articles, decide what specifically you want to find out.

First pass

Look at title and abstract to see if they are relevant to the reason you are searching. Record details whether relevant or not – then you know you have at least considered the article. If the article is worth further consideration, move on to the second pass.

Second pass

Read the introduction and conclusion, then first sentence of every paragraph to get the sense. Make brief notes to show you made a second pass.

Decide if you need more detail and if so:

Third pass

Read in detail and take notes.

Decide what questions you have about the material and make notes about these to avoid writing too much down.

Critical synopsis of a text

Examples of outlines of a critical synopsis of a text and example responses could include:

  • Authors, date, publication details, library code (or location of copy in my filing system). For example:
    • Sachs, J. (2001). Teacher professional identity: competing discourses, competing outcomes
    • Journal of Education Policy, 16 (2), 140-161.
  • A. Why am I reading this?
    • I am reading this to gain some understanding of contested interpretations of teacher professional identity
  • B. What are the authors trying to do in writing this?
    • Sachs is trying to persuade readers that it is time for teachers to become activists.
  • C. What are the authors saying that is relevant to what I want to find out?
    • Sachs has identified two different discourses of teacher professionalism – managerial professionalism and democratic professionalism. The former is more commonly espoused by governments and seeks to control teachers, seeing education as part of a market economy. The latter views teachers as professionals who have a broad knowledge base, operate within agreed standards and are ‘knowledge’ workers. She advocates that teachers form communities of practice who make their stories public to foster debate and collaboration.
  • D. How convincing is what the authors are saying?
    • I find her argument convincing. Strong links are made between theory, policy and practice and are supported by reference to a broad body of relevant literature.Quotation: ‘Communities of practice provided the context and conditions for teachers to develop an activist identity’ (p. 158).
  • E. What use can I make of this?
    • I can use this when discussing the impact of Professional Learning on teachers’ professional identity and when discussing how teachers view Professional Learning.
  • Applying a code to your articles may be helpful in deciding whether further analysis is relevant, for example:
    1 – Return to this for detailed analysis
    2 – An important general text
    3 – Of minor importance
    4 – Not relevant
    • Code: 1

Recording your Professional Learning

Don’t forget to record your professional reading within your professional learning records. As a probationer this is the PL section of your profile. When fully registered, depending on your local authority, you can record professional learning using the MyPL service in MyGTCS or Gateway CPD Manager.

Further reading

McMillan, K., & Weyers, J. (2011). How to write dissertations & project reports (2nd ed.). Harlow: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Wallace, M., & Wray, A. (2011). Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Wyse, D. (2012). TheGood Writing Guide for Education Students (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

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