A few weekends ago I was at a conference and something said by the key note speaker – Sir Kevan Collins – really stuck with me.
He was talking about our school and all the amazing, progressive, innovative things we are doing… which got us all proud and perked up!
And then he asked us:
How will you be sure that that what you are trying to accomplish, is actually being accomplished? How will you know if what you’re doing is “working”?
And then you could feel our collective consciousness pull back in contemplation.
This was especially impactful for me, as I had just joined the school and the Studio 5 initiative. This meant I was part of a specifically experimental team, trying to challenge the traditional model of school in pursuit of more student-directed, agentic learning.
How were we going to know if what we were trying to accomplish was actually being accomplished!? How could we be sure that our crazy experiment was working?
Obviously the answer was clear – and it was the point he was building towards in his address – with putting on the hat of risk-taker and innovator, also comes the need to put on the hat of researcher.
Maybe not capital R, published-in-a-scholarly-peer-edited-journal, “Research”, but definitely the small r, how-will-we-know-and-measure-the-effects-of-our-innovation, “research”.
I’m not new to the practice of educational research. I completed a major research project during my MEd last year. But that felt different. That was research mandated by my university, required by my coursework and necessary in order to receive my degree. It was research I had to do… so I did it.
This is also research I feel I have to do, but for totally different reasons. I want to know the effect of our our innovation. I want to document and share the potential impact of our model with other educators. I want to know, for myself as a risk-taker, if I’m accomplishing what I am trying to accomplish.
When it came to our innovations, Sir Kevan Collins urged us not to be skeptical, but to be cynical. And although I agreed with the heart of his message, I did not agree with his word choice here. I think both words have a negative connotation — neither capture the eternal optimism and hope I feel about the risks I am taking with my team this year. I don’t feel I need to stop believing in what I am doing in order to be able to conduct valid, reliable research.
So this year, I will pull out, dust off and re-fit my research hat… not because I have to… not because I am skeptical… not because I am cynical… but because amidst my dreams and hopes and passion for change I want to ensure I stay critical.
I have no idea where to start.
Wish me luck…