6Apr

Why Research Matters

Some wise people at Brock University in Ontario (http://www.brocku.ca/research-at-brock/research-matters) have this message on their web page.

WHY RESEARCH MATTERS

Within Brock University are researchers working diligently, tenaciously, tirelessly to better understand the world around us, with the aim of sharing that knowledge outside of Brock’s walls.

In the world are people coping with autism; some have been stricken with cancer; some seek grounding in a rapidly changing society. They and others are looking for answers; researchers are shedding light on all the unknowns to come up with information that will, in time, become the substance of those answers.

Brock University is not alone. Our researchers have thousands of colleagues in universities across Ontario investigating all aspects of life with the same aims. But they operate largely behind the scenes, with little publicity or understanding of the impacts of their work.

We – all of us who write, organize, and even read The Canadian Journal for Teacher Research – are Brock University’s colleagues. And, we wish to come out from behind the scenes. Because we believe research matters, we formed this space to encourage a wider sharing and a broader consideration of educational research. We believe research can help us seek answers to key questions; we also believe engaging in research to answer our questions helps us become connected and powerful. Our agenda is to investigate “all aspects of life” of/in schools, focusing upon the good work of teachers and the learning of both children and teachers. Further, we believe we are part of a large community of colleagues who wish the same.

We hope, with this journal, to create a meeting place for those of us who seek to better understand teaching and learning. Given what is happening in the United States with teaching and learning (Parsons, 2015), the space we are building can be seen as a bit radical. It is our resistance to outside force. It is the weight room for the big game. It is encouragement for us all in our difficult work. It is the campfire we huddle around to swap our stories and build our ethos.

After our large research study on instructional leadership, my great old and departed friend Larry Beauchamp and I wrote a book titled Living Leadership for Learning: Case Studies of Five Alberta Elementary School Principals. In that book we believed in writing that research was “a process of ongoing conversation” and shared the ideas of Albert Borgmann (1992), who coined the term “focal practice.” For Borgmann, undertaking professional work in a complex world involved (1) engaging emotionally and skilfully the invisible tasks a professional carries out and (2) responding to the moral imperative to make a positive difference in others’ lives. A profession is intentional in its practice, and teaching is a focused profession.

Borgmann (1992) noted that the word “focus” derives from the Latin word hearth – a gathering place that brings people together in a convivial way for a common cause. Thus, a journal where teachers share their research becomes an encounter of “focal realism” that sponsors a “sense of community” and becomes a place where “reality and community conspire” (p. 135).

Borgmann’s (1992) sense that vibrant learning communities are places where people “conspire” is compelling. Borgmann argues that it is not the fire itself but the conversations around the fire that build community and shape meaning. “A [focal] practice keeps faith with focal things and saves them for an opening in our lives” (p. 209). We hope, by bringing teachers together to consider learning, that The Canadian Journal for Teacher Research represents a focal practice.

As this edition unfolds, we will be sharing a number of research conversations around the focus of teacher and student efficacy. As executive editor, I have invited teachers and researchers to share their work around the idea of efficacy – becoming more powerfully engaged. Here you will find a number of “articles” (including videos) produced by people who care about building teacher and student efficacy. Some are specific stories shared by teachers about their own work. Some are research reviews shared by academic researchers (professors and graduate students) who have researched in the area of efficacy. Together, we are building an on-going conversation and a place, space, and pertinent time to have the conversation.

We trust you will read and consider these stories, accounts, and articles. And, we hope each will stoke the “fire” where we share (think marshmallows and hot cocoa) what we know and are learning together. Because we believe The Canadian Journal for Teacher Research is a space for continuing conversation, we invite your input. The articles you see here represent our beginning conversation – but not all the conversation we hope to have. We invite you to weigh in as well; and, if you wish to, please send your “conversation” piece to Jim at jim.parsons@ualberta.ca. As editor, Jim’s goal is a literate conversation.

For those new to our work, we believe our mandate differs from that of many journals – we are not looking to reject, we are looking to engage and include. In that capacity, Jim will work with (edit) you and your work to meet the standards we hold for literate conversation. We invite you to become part of the further conversation.

Citations

Borgmann, A. (1992). Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Parsons, J, & Beauchamp, L (2011). Living Leadership for Learning: Case Studies of Five Alberta Elementary School Principals. Edmonton, Canada: ATA.

Parsons, J. (March 4, 2015). The Erosion of Efficacy, ATA Magazine, http://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA%20Magazine/Volume%2095%202014-15/Number-3/Pages/TheErosionOfEfficacy.aspx