Practitioner Enquiry: Benefits and Challenges

Being an enquiring practitioner, I realise, is becoming a widely accepted form of being a teacher throughout Scotland and I believe that it is important to be continuously engaging with this. Following our input on Tuesday about being an enquiring practitioner and further reading from the GTCS website, I’d like to share some of my reasons as to why I believe that practitioner enquiry is an excellent thing to adopt within our Scottish schools.

What does it mean to be an enquiring practitioner?

Being an enquiring practitioner means that you are able to continue to use the research skills you have developed to go beyond being reflective of your practise. It means being able to take a stance in which you can think critically about your professional development and the way in which your pupils are learning.

Benefits of practitioner enquiry:

As I read through the Practitioner Enquiry on the GTCS website, I noticed that there were several benefits to taking such a stance.

  1. Enables the chance to make a change to the way in which you continue to develop and make positive changes to the way in which your pupils learn. I believe this is an important benefit of being an enquiring practitioner as it highlights the fact that practitioner enquiry does not only effect you but it will also have an impact on the quality of the pupils’ learning experiences within the school environment. I am a huge believer in providing the best possible education to children and being an enquiring practitioner sets you up to provide just that.
  2. There will be a significant impact on the long-term professional development of a teacher after the research/project has been discontinued. Much of what you will find through your investigations will develop the knowledge, understanding and skills that you have already obtained. Although some research may only be specific to a certain school or environment, the further knowledge you gain can be implemented into another setting. This proves that being an enquiring practitioner is not just a one off thing, it is something that you should continually engage with to become a better professional.
  3. Although there are positive impacts on your own individual development, practitioner enquiry can be included within the development of the school itself. Overall, the benefits highlighted on the GTCS website have an important value upon the wider school improvement agenda. The opportunity to work individually or collaboratively allows you to investigate, question, consider and plan for change and further development of not just yourself but the school.

Challenges of being an enquiring practitioner:

It became evident that although the benefits were greater than the challenges, they were still part of practitioner enquiry.

  1. It can be quite difficult for existing teachers to adjust to the fact that practitioner enquiry is becoming part of the day-to-day practise that they engage in. For myself, it will be easy to enter my professional practise as being an enquiring practitioner has been integrated into the MA (Hons) Education course here at the University of Dundee. But for previous students this may not have been put across as significantly as it does now. Reflection is a key part of being a professional but in order to better your professional development it is essential that you move away from just reflecting. Existing teachers may need to re-visit and develop their research skills again in order to take part in practitioner enquiry.
  2. Many believe that such a process can be “uncomfortable” and may find it daunting therefore may not follow the correct procedures. Practitioner enquiry can be uncomfortable for many people and can lead to a more stressful string of events when trying to engage with their enquiries. This is where expert support may need to be brought in to ensure that they understand the processes and to make it a less stressful time.
  3. People may find it difficult to critically question and think about their practises. Without the right set of skills and expertise it can become quite difficult to critically question your own beliefs, understanding and knowledge to improve yourself.

For me, as a student teacher in this present day, being an enquiring practitioner does not seem as daunting as others may think it is. I believe it is easier for student teachers these days to take on practitioner enquiry as the research skills are fresh and will not be forgotten about. They are a set of skills and techniques that can be continually develop even after your time at university. Despite some of the challenges that I have noted whilst reading, I think that being an enquiring practitioner is a vital part of your professional development and will make a huge but hopefully positive impact upon the learning experiences that your pupils will gain.

3 thoughts on “Practitioner Enquiry: Benefits and Challenges

  1. Mandy Everett

    Danielle, you have clearly spent a lot of time researching the benefits and challenges of practitioner enquiry. This is evident from your writing.
    I was particularly drawn to the fact that you reminded me that the benefits of working this way appear to outweigh the challenges. I had not reflected on that aspect, until now. I feel that was important because it highlights the reality that all learning and development programmes are subject to trial and error and there are no concrete answers. This is why we will need to be diverse in our thoughts and actions, in order to move forward.
    Collaborative learning will definitely be of huge benefit to us. I am looking forward to working with others to improve my skills through engaging with and reflecting upon the knowledge of others, but, do you think we will always need to plan for change? If something is working well and teaching and learning is proven to be productive, deeply embedded and of high standard, should we always look for ways to change the structure?
    I agree that many people will find the prospect of engaging in practitioner enquiry daunting and extra support may be needed for them to develop their skills but could you offer a suggestion of who may be of expert knowledge and able to help, if someone should find themselves in this position?

    1. Danielle MackayDanielle Mackay Post author

      Thank you for the reply Mandy. Your points have really made me think about my post and I agree with some of your views about looking more at the positives rather than being a little more balanced.

  2. Sarah StewartSarah Stewart

    First of all, I love the structure of your post, the way you have split up into; the summary at the start, the benefits, the challenges and then your summary of being a student teacher!
    I like the way you give the example from the GTCS website (linking continuously back to it) then giving your own personal opinions of them.
    I like your conclusion paragraph at the end! It shows your confidence in becoming an enquiring practitioner and I agree with many of your points!
    I think a developing point could be to include some of your own person benefits and challenges of becoming an enquiring practitioner.


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