It can be noted that there is an on-going debate in educational circles as to whether teaching practice should be influenced by academic research or action (teacher-led) research. Therefore, in this assignment the author will critically discuss if teaching should  be informed by academic research, or whether the professional experience of the  teaching practitioner is a more relevant way of developing sound practice in the  profession (Pring and Thomas, 2004). The author will evaluate the strengths and  weaknesses of both methods, referring to case studies, academic literature, and other  practical research to argue the validity of both research approaches, and whether they 

can influence the author ‘s own teaching area within the Further Education (FE) sector. 

Teaching skills can be seen as something whereby they are picked up through  experience (Curzon, 2004). However, Ramsden (1992), argues that some lecturers do  not know where to start to improve their teaching; it being complex, and overwhelming,  and knowing what they can, or cannot do (Ramsden, 1992). Kaufman (2008), supports

the notion that as teaching practioners we “…flew by the seat of our pants…” (Kaufman,  2008), in that many a time there can be situations whereby teachers are ‘unsure what to  do?’ (2008). Kaufman further states that luckily there is research in a body of academic  theory that can inform practice (Kaufman, 2008), thus making it a good starting point for  the Teaching practioner. 

It can be noted that academic or evidence-based research can be defined as a requirement to obtain novel information or create a new knowledge of a study of a subject,  having some educational impact (Kwok, 2014). Likewise, academic research tends to be  in the pursuit of a deeper meaning and intellect, with Academic’s meticulously delving  into issues in the pursuit of enhancing human knowledge (Kwok, 2014). Furthermore, 

Morrison (2014), endorses the view that academic theory is important as teaching  practioners need to study academic learning theory to be more effective as educators.

Additionally, academic research is often adopted by governments, which in turn can be  used to advise policies such as educational, which can in turn affect classroom practices (Dumas and Anderson, 2014). For instance, the OECD (Organization for Economic Co operation and Development), uses quantitative academic research and ensuing  analytical publications to evaluate educational structures within its members countries.  This is through PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which processes the level of skill and knowledge of international 15-year olds students,  comparing to scores of the member countries. Likewise, the poor results from these  surveys in Wales’s students had major implications on the Welsh Government’s  educational policies. This resulted in the Donaldson Report (2015), whereby a National  Numeracy, Literacy, and Digital competence Framework, has come about. Therefore,  affecting the author’s teaching area, by ensuring to embed Literacy, Numeracy, and Digital competence across the curriculum (Welsh Government, 2015).

It can also be stated that, Coe et al, (2014), utilised academic research in relation to in their ‘What Makes great Teaching? Review of Underpinning Research’ (Coe et al, 2014),  relevant to the effectiveness of being an excellent teacher. Thus, can convey how  important academic research, can be in formulating international reports and reviews.  Furthermore, academic research has been used throughout the years, used by a huge  range of academics, universities, and their peers, thus showing a deep formulation of  knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning (Kwok, 2014). 

To add, Sergiovanni (1987), suggests that academic theories and research can be  applied to identify and remedy problems, finding solutions to develop a deeper  understanding, thus promoting new strategies within the classroom environment. For

instance, Kaufman (2008), uses the example of the learning theory of Constructivism  within the classroom, in that the teacher should provide learning experiences that expose  inconsistencies between learner’s current understandings and new experiences (Kaufman, 2008). This can be applied to the author’s classroom by the teacher being a  guide to facilitate learning, thus applying academic theory. 

However, academic research validity can be questioned. Kaufman (2008), continues on  his point that there can be an unfortunate gap between academics and practioners that  has led to the perception as theory as not being relevant to practice; as being out of touch  and so ‘belonging in an ivory tower’. (Kaufman, 2008). For example, within the authors  own classroom, learners all have different motivations for being there. Knowles’ learning  theory five assumptions for adult learning – Andragogy, can be argued to be just that, i.e. ‘assumptions.’ As it is not for the teacher to say that their learner is motivated by internal

drives rather than external ones (Kaufman, 2008). Therefore, academic research can be  viewed as wide ranging, and generalist in nature.

Agreeing with this notion can be that most constructionist and behaviourist learning  theories tend to assume homogeneity of the learners, with it being difficult in this day and  age, with schools and colleges having more diverse learners more than ever (HEA, 2014). Therefore, can result in conclusions that do not apply to some learners and some  teaching practices (Costello, 2011). 

Furthermore, much academic research relevant to teaching practice is produced in  periodicals, journals, and paid to view websites that require subscriptions (Costello,  2011), and thus teachers may not be able to afford and access the work. Likewise, time  constraints can be an issue, Jones (2019), advocates that between lesson plans,

teaching to standards, and marking papers, having time to read academic research can  be difficult (Jones, 2019). Therefore, teaching practitioners can find challenging it to  discover and undertake relevant techniques into their teaching practice. 

Additionally, William (2019) emphasises that most published academic research is  produced by academics at universities, who are seldom involved in the focus of their 

research; that is, directly teaching the learners themselves. In other professions such as 

medicine, much of the published research is completed by those who are still practicing.  (William 2019). Again, adhering to the concept of ‘belonging in an ivory tower’ (Kaufman,  2008). 

In comparison to academic research, there can be an Action or a ‘teacher led’ approach.  Action research can be described as professionals studying their own practice in order to  improve it (Costello, 2011). Thus, meaning that teachers themselves become the  researchers and undertake their own ‘on-the-job’ research, to improve their own practice. 

One advantage of this approach is that as it is practical in nature, the teacher can ‘think  on their feet’ and adapt to on-going situations (Ramsden 1992). As action research is  ongoing in nature (Norton, 2001). Therefore, this can be a complete contrast to academic researchers whereby the action-led researchers tend to be still practicing practitioners.

Likewise as academic theorist’s tend to rely too much on the homogeneity of learners (HEA,2014), with action-led research each leaner is an individual, with it being important  for teacher to having the strategies in place to meet the needs of their learners (Freeman,  2010). 

Therefore, practitioners are crucial in the research process (Costello, 2011). Kuit et al. (2001), refer to action research as a method of reflection, that incorporates, ‘plan, act, observe, reflect’ (2001). Thus, the final stage is reflection, whereby the teaching practitioner can learn from their own experiences, which can be argued to be vital to 

teacher training. (O’ Hear, 1988). 

O’ Hear (1988), advocated the importance of practical knowledge, and not theoretical knowledge at all. O’ Hear (1989), then adapted this approach indicating that theoretical knowledge should be available to teaching practitioners – if they require it. However, only  applying it once they have benefitted from some practical classroom experience.  However, proponents of academic research argue that theory precedes practice.  (Costello, 2011).

Action research can be important as it fosters change within schools and colleges  (Kitchen & Stevens, 2008). In 2008, two teachers, an instructor, and a teaching assistant, undertook their own collaborative action research project – ‘Action research in Teacher  Education’ (2008), and by doing so broaden their traditional parameters of what it meant  to teach (2008). So much so that Kitchen (2008), was aware of the pre-existing tension  between education theory and classroom practice. Kitchen attempted to bring the two  together by merging reflective practice, such as writing personal stories, examining case  studies, and undertaking a critical analysis of educational readings (Kitchen & Stevens,  2008). Thus, bringing the two together, hoped to merge theory to their complex  experiences to themselves as learners and teaching practitioners. By emphasizing

reflective practices, Kitchen et al (2008), hoped that preservice teacher would become  more involved, ultimately becoming active in curriculum development (2008). 

Agreeing with this notion can be Former Teacher Trainer Geoff Petty (2009). Petty  (2009), integrates a huge amount of reflective experience and research within his book

Teaching Today: A Practical Guide’ (Petty, 2009). Which can be viewed as a key text to  Further education teaching practitioners. Petty promotes Kolb (1984), as viewing teaching as a reflective practice, thus utilizing action-based research. Likewise, Lodico et al.  (2006), use reflective models in the hope to empower teachers to take an active role in  conducting research in their classrooms, a concept that is now not only expected but now a requirement of all teaching practitioners (Lodico et al, 2006). 

However, Grabe (2004), argues that there can be unrealistic expectations of research, and its ability to offer clear answers, in the validity of evidence and what research is  deemed fit for purpose (Grabe, 2004). Therefore, the ideal can result from combining practitioner knowledge and research support i.e. evidence based, academic research. Only then can effective teaching instruction come about (Grabe 2004). 

This connection of evidence and practice can be seen by the recent teacher-led  ResearchED movement, which aims to bring together teachers, academics, researchers and policy makers where teaching-specific expertise can be pooled efficiently (ResearchEd, 2020). 

In conclusion, it is still evident that academic research is a good starting point. However, in order for teaching to be considered excellent, both academic and action-based research should be adopted by the teaching practitioner (Schumacher, & McMillian, 2010).  Academic theory can give the practitioner a sound background. However, as advocated  by Norton (2001), action research is on-going in nature, allowing for teachers to think on  their feet and implement novel ideas. The reflective nature can mean that teaching  practitioners are given a chance to make changes and gain new skills. (Odom et al, 2005)  In the FE sector, there can be a wide range of diverse learners from all different

backgrounds. Not one size fits all, therefore, to ensure effective teaching instruction to  come about, a combination of both academic research and action led should be adopted 

by the teaching practitioner, to ensure, that their diverse learners needs are met. 

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