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OTLA English: building a writing community

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OTLA English

Andy Convery, CPD and Research Lead for the Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (English) programme, reviews two very productive writing days.

Andy writes:

“Teachers, trainers, library staff and volunteers met in York and London to learn how to publish their accounts of researching the realities of effective English teaching for our sector.

Professor Jean McNiff led the sessions, sharing her experiences as a writer, a reader, and a publisher.  She created some thought-provoking activities and even got us all to role-play how we adapt our messages to our many audiences – including our children, our partners and our bosses!  Jean took us carefully through all the stages of getting a more academic paper published whilst being true to our values as practising teachers.

We all felt motivated by Jean’s driving message – that practitioners do not just have the ability to broadcast their research, they actually have a professional responsibility to publish.  Every day, teachers translate abstract policies into effective practice to help learners with specific needs right across our diverse sector.  If teachers want to take back control and help themselves make better teaching decisions, they need to shine a light on their good practices for other English teachers, policy-makers and the wider research community.

By taking part in the writing days we found that writing itself is very much part of the English research and development process.  One participant noted that the writing days “provided some precious time and space to think about all the data we have and what it may all mean.”  These meetings also inspired teachers to connect and gain support across similar projects in widely differing contexts.  For example, in London, an Adult Education tutor and her volunteer partner presented an impromptu session on how post-16 Phonics had helped a learner move from reading ‘fun’ to ‘misunderstanding’ in a single session.

We also learned that writing is actually a social event – we don’t need to research in teams but then write in isolation.  Jean showed us how thinking up ideas, identifying an audience, drafting and redrafting is much more effective when shared with friends giving constructive feedback.  In this project, Jean leads a very supportive writing community network of mentors and Strand Leads who are all eager to help project teams to highlight how English teachers have done research, and what their investigations uncovered.

We are planning further writing days in early March for those who wish to keep writing beyond completing their research reports.  We’re offering support to get OTLA English experiences published in a special edition of RaPAL (Research and Practice in Adult Literacies).  To see some examples of research that previous OTLA practitioners have published please see “Teaching in Lifelong Learning” Vol 8 No.2 (Articles by Brown & Hunter, Meaby, McPartland and Mattinson can be downloaded).”

The Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (English) programme, commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation and delivered by ccConsultancy, is a collaborative development programme which aims to systematically improve the teaching, learning and assessment of English. 

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