Building a global learning community of practice and publication platform for educational close-to-practice research

Twiner, Alison; Carmichael, Patrick; Dudley, Pete; Hennessy, Sara and McElroy, Maria (2022). Building a global learning community of practice and publication platform for educational close-to-practice research. In: British Educational Research Association Conference, 5-8 Sep 2022, Liverpool.


Educational practitioners and trainee practitioners are a diverse body of people. To add complexity, the scope and scale of settings that are considered educational contexts have increased dramatically, with many practitioners devising innovative ways to support learning during the global pandemic. With increased physical and social distance as much formal learning shifted from place-based to remote models, the practitioner community risks feeling increasingly isolated. Likewise, graduating trainees are entering employment in physical learning environments with minimal experience of teaching in them, whilst increasingly needing peer support.

Close-to-practice research (CTPR) is a well-established field, enacted in many forms including lesson study (Dudley, 2019) and action research (Elliott, 1991). What is often difficult to maintain however is the flow from isolated practitioners, trainees or small groups studying their practice, to feed into what a potentially global community can learn from many people trying many things in many places for many different reasons. Regarding our global ambitions, we acknowledge that education research is fundamentally context-sensitive (Bakker, 2019), and what one practitioner tries in one context will not be completely replicable elsewhere – something many large-scale randomised control trials potentially miss in evaluating effectiveness (Berliner, 2002). However, contextually-grounded, authentic practitioner understanding of what works, how and why in one context may resonate with others, allowing contextualised adaptation of approaches or resources to enrich practice elsewhere (Stenhouse, 1978). So how can we support these chains of research-informed impact, in an increasingly dispersed but globally-connected community?

Camtree is a global learning community of practice and publication platform for educational practice-knowledge. Development and research work reported in this session could hold significance on different levels:
For individual practitioners and small groups of colleagues: to feel part of something, connect with reasons for their pedagogic choices, and improve practice in ways that are meaningful for their contexts and learners.
For educational institutions and networks: to understand local pedagogic challenges, accessing rigorous research on what others have done, to identify solutions.
For trainee practitioners: to access a library of practitioner research equipping them with a broad sense of the CTPR landscape, publish their own work within this landscape, and transition into educational practitioners who are already part of a sharing community.
For policy and the wider educational community: to be influenced by diverse educational challenges and innovations, evidence-based practices and approaches, in seeking to change the discourse around ‘one size fits all’ approaches to educational effectiveness.

A community in development, Camtree members are reflective practitioners and trainees who believe education can be improved by knowledge gained from CTPR (Robinson et al., 2009), and should be mobilised widely so teachers and learners globally can benefit.

There are two distinct areas of our work: the development of Camtree, and the research around it. Through development, we seek to build a global learning community for educational practitioners interested in improving their practice. With this community we are developing a digital library of examples of practice, written and voiced by practitioners and trainees engaged in CTPR (including in languages other than English), accessible and used by others.

The research around the work involved two simultaneous strands:
Semi-structured interviews with the Camtree team (N=5) to gather expectations, priorities, challenges and reflections of the work.
Interviews, surveys and focus groups with Camtree practitioners and programme leads (N=50)
Pre- and post-engagement interviews with programme leads.
Survey of practitioners at pre-engagement, mid-point and post-submission of report; alongside semi-structured focus groups with small samples of self-selecting practitioners.

Findings will be reported based on descriptive and inferential statistics for numerical survey data, and thematic analysis (drawing on Braun & Clarke, 2020) of interview, focus group and open text survey responses.

This alternative format session will have three elements. First, we will present findings from research with practitioners and group leads engaged in CTPR and Camtree development work, located in different digital, physical, social, political and linguistic contexts. This will include focus on contextual specificity of needs, widening participation and access, and domain functionality.

Second, we will host a panel discussion with Camtree stakeholders, including practitioners. Discussion will consider what a global network of close-to-practice researchers could look like and achieve, potential limitations, and how to reduce barriers to engagement. We will incorporate time for delegate questions.

The third element will be a guided opportunity to explore the Camtree platform and digital library. Attendees will be invited to seek out aligned practitioners, reports or data. Jamboards will be used to encourage discussion (anonymously if desired) around where delegates see Camtree being useful and how it could be made more useful.

Bakker, A. (2019). Design research in education: A practical guide for early career researchers. Routledge.
Berliner, D.C. (2002). Comment: Educational research: The hardest science of all. Educational Researcher 31(8), 18-20. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X031008018
Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2020) One size fits all? What counts as quality practice in (reflexive) thematic analysis? Qualitative Research in Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/14780887.2020.1769238
Dudley, P. (2019). Research Lesson Study: A handbook. Lesson Study UK Fifth Edition. (First published 2003 by NCSL.)
Elliott, J. (1991). Action research for educational change. Open University Press: Milton Keynes (published in Spain by Morata: Madrid).
Robinson, V.M.J., Lloyd, C. & Rowe, K. (2009). The impact of leadership on student outcomes. An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(5), 635-674. DOI: 10.1177/0013161X08321509
Stenhouse, L. (1978). Case study and case records: Towards a contemporary history of education. British Educational Research Journal, 4(2), 21-39.

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