GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

What is Practitioner Enquiry?

Practitioner enquiry, as defined by Menter et al (2011), is a 'finding out' or an investigation with a rationale and approach that can be explained or defended. The findings can then be shared so it becomes more than reflection or personal enquiry.

It is usually undertaken within the practitioners own practice/ context or in collaboration with others. Within collaborative enquiry the group shares a common research question which can then be 'investigated' through different lenses to enhance knowledge creation and sharing within the group and beyond. As such evaluation and reflective teaching are fundamental elements of practitioner enquiry if it is to have impact on the practitioners practice and ultimately pupil experience.

It is envisaged that practitioner enquiry will become an integral aspect of the day-to-day practice of teachers and other education professionals. For the experienced teacher, regular engagement in practitioner enquiry supports professional growth by challenging or 'disrupting thinking' and 'ingrained habits of mind'. Practitioner enquiry helps to create a space to stop and look again at existing ways of working. It is argued by McLaughlin et al (2004) that teachers who engage in research have 'better understanding of their practice and ways to improve it'. For some teachers, enquiry may promote levels of critical reflection that are 'transformative'.

Practitioner research can play a major part in making change more systemic and indeed sustainable as practitioners become 'agents of their own professional learning'. Systematic enquiry helps teachers to "'let go', unlearn, innovate and re-skill in cycles of professional learning throughout their career in response to changing circumstances" Menter et al (2011).


McLaughlin, C. Black-Hawkins, K. and McIntyre, D. (2004) Researching Teachers Researching Schools, Researching Networks: Review of the Literature. University of Cambridge: Routledge Menter, I Elliott, D Hulme, M. Lewin, J Lowden K. (2011) A Guide to Practitioner research in Education. SAGE publishing

To understand more about what Practitioner Enquiry is, select each of the sections on the wheel below:

University of Edinburgh

Education Scotland