Building a Diverse Practitioner Learning Community

Practitioner project


Research background

This is a participatory action research (PAR) project within the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences (HELS), co-ordinated by CSPACE researcher, Dr Katy Vigurs (Associate Professor).

The impetus for the project stems from the Faculty-level results of the most recent National Student Survey (NSS).

In response, the Faculty management team (Heads of School and Associate Dean for Research) has committed to setting up a Research-to-Practice Development Programme with the overarching aim of building an inclusive practitioner learning community in the faculty that involves staff and students.

Research aims

This PAR project aims to build a new practitioner research team to generate meaningful research evidence on the barriers to inclusive practitioner learning and how to address them. The project will recruit a team of 20 co-researchers from HELS who will be supported to become practitioner-researchers for the duration of the project. The co-researchers will comprise 10 HELS lecturers and 10 HELS undergraduate students.

The HELS students will be employed as co-researchers and paid for their time through the Manpower recruitment agency. The HELS staff will carry out the co-researcher roles as part of their scholarly activity hours.

This project will complement the existing HELS peer observation programme and will feed into the development of a single strategy for identifying and developing a research-led staff development strategy that responds to the concerns raised through the NSS results.

How will the research be carried out?

This project comprises two distinct parts:

1. The newly created practitioner research team will be exploring what an inclusive practitioner learning community looks and feels like. It will be a participatory action research project. This means that staff and student participants will be active co-researchers in the project. The project co-ordinators will support and guide the 20 co-researchers to develop their research skills and to conduct real world research on practitioner learning communities that is particularly relevant to their interests. As part of the project they will have the opportunity to contribute to the preparation of research assets (such as reports, research papers, blog posts, podcasts, vlogs, etc.) and to become a co-author on resulting research outputs.

The project will support the co-researchers to be actively involved in a range of research processes that generate meaningful practice-based research. Activities will include participation in online project workshops, reading and sharing academic literature, writing short reviews of academic literature, designing and conducting mini-research projects, analysing data and producing and sharing project outputs.

The practitioner-researchers will generate a range of data relating to their reflections and discussions on issues of student experience/belonging. These data will be of a qualitative nature and are likely to include written reflective accounts, anonymised observation notes and possibly audio-recorded interviews with peers. It should be noted that each case study will likely require its own ethical approval process, which the practitioner-researchers will submit for approval before they conduct the case studies. This additional ethical approval has been factored into the project's timeline.

2. Evaluation of the PAR project: This will involve the two project co-ordinators generating data with the practitioner-researchers relating to their experience of being involved in this collaborative research model. Evaluation data will likely be generated via pre-project and post-project questionnaires and a series of audio-recorded semi-structured interviews at the end of the project. The questionnaires will collect largely open-text responses. The project co-ordinators will also write anonymised reflective field notes during the project.