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Practitioner-Led Research Initiative Impact Study

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/09/0628/02/07

The aim of this project was to carry out an impact study of the practitioner-led research initiative and to produce a short guide on how to support practitioner research, based on the lessons learned from the initiative. Together with the final report from the initiative, this project will ensure the contribution of the PLRI is fully documented for future funders and for interested national and international audiences who have been involved with similar initiatives.

One of the underpinning strategies of the funder, the NRDC is to "build research capacity, reflective practice and career development through the systematic engagement of teachers and other practitioners in the centre"' (NRDC, 2003: p.13). The overall intention of the practitioner led research initiative is to publicise and support this strategy by drawing in a new constituency of beginning practitioner researchers. The aims were explained to applicants as being to: · building research capacity in the field · producing findings which will give new insights into adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL · embedding the activities of the NRDC in practice · strengthening networks linking practice, research and policy Drawing on a model of partnership working, the initiative was intended to be of benefit to practitioners and their organisations in a number of ways, providing an opportunity to put original research ideas into practice, offering the chance to step back and reflect on practice, and to systematically explore day-to-day issues arising from the Skills For Life policy.

The current study set out to find out the impact of the PLRI in terms of the four aims of the initiative listed above. Specifically it asked what changes are reported by practitioners who have been involved in the initiative, and their employing organizations, as a result of this experience?

The aim is to understand the impact of people's experiences of doing practitioner research through the initiative by following up all those involved throughout the life of the initiative. This will enable an assessment to be made of the effectiveness of this particular model of practitioner involvement, and communicate this to a national and international audience.

Methodology and design

We contacted people in all the groups who have been involved in the PLRI from the beginning and interviewed them about the specific impacts of this involvement on their professional careers, day-to-day practice and the effects on the organizations they work within. We asked for their views on the value of the PLRI strategy as a way of affecting the wider field of practice. Since all the groups required active support from senior management in their employing organizations in order to apply for the funding, we gained an organizational perspective on the initiative through contacting these people as well. We also sought to contact people who were not directly involved with the projects, but who have responsibility for wider staff development within the relevant organisations, such as staff development officers. This enabled us to gauge the wider impact within the organisation and the extent to which there is an awareness of the research activities that took place.

As in the earlier evaluation (Hamilton 2005), we used a mixture of e-mail questionnaires and telephone interviews.Where people were still in post, this was a highly effective method of making contact. A large degree of instability and movement in the sector, especially among senior managers, was revealed through our enquiries.

The data was recorded, collated and analysed thematically in terms of the main aims of the PLRI: building research capacity; producing new findings, embedding the activities of the NRDC in practice and strengthening networks.

The analysis builds on the knowledge gained during the practitioner-led research initiative and the reports already produced from it, together with the findings from the previous evaluation report of the first year of the NRDCs work.

Seventeen project groups, of up to six practitioners in each, have been involved with the initiative and all of these were contacted as part of the impact study.

We formed a small advisory group, including representatives from the UK and elsewhere who have been involved in supporting similar initiatives (principally from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Canada and the US). This group met face to face in February 2007 and has offered advice about communicating the findings and reports effectively.

Our Partners
Department for Education and Skills (DFES) - This project is part of a suite of projects funded through the National Research and Development Centre for Adult LIteracy, Numeracy and ESOL with which we are a consortial partner.