Research in Further Education: The pathway towards continual professional development and the reflection and application of outstanding Teaching and Learning practices.

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Education and Childhood Research Group (ECRG), School of Education and Childhood, College of Health, Science and Society, UWE Bristol

In this blog, Gemma Lyons, a current EdD student at UWE and a Teaching and Learning Lead at Richard Huish College in Somerset, discusses the benefits of further education staff being ‘researchers’, as part of the delivery of outstanding teaching and learning practices.

The blog explores how action research has supported the development and refining of effective Teaching and Learning practices.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education (DFE) released its policy for Teacher development. Delivering world – class Teacher development (March 2022). Rationale, following the pandemic, levelling up is now the foci of the agenda. The ‘Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All’, sets out plans to make sure every child can reach the full height of their potential (Department for Education, White Paper, March 2022).  

Have educators been blinkered in our previous visions?
Most educators work with the premise of making a difference; creating environments in which all students can be provided with the opportunity to grow, bloom and flourish.

Teachers are the foundation of the education system – ‘there are no great schools without great teachers’ (Department for Education, 2022). This vision is reflected as baseline culture at Huish and is undercurrent throughout day-to-day activities. ‘ The vision for Huish is delivering exceptional education and delivering exceptional education requires exceptional people who are both reflective and engage in their own professional development and continuous improvement’ (Huish policy and procedure, 2021).

The Huish vision acted as the foundation, which the Teaching and Learning team built upon in 2020. In January 2020, as a teaching and learning team, we launched our first action research project. The aim of doing so, was to encourage staff to be inquisitive, considerate, and reflective about their and their learner’s learning environment and to be able to convert the findings in to beneficial ‘action’, to enable further success in an area or to enable adaptation to enhance outcomes.

When carrying out the action research, members of staff worked together in course teams to co-construct research activity. The Teaching and Learning team, directed the process, by providing the focus of formative assessment, as an area for investigation. Wiliam & Leahy’s Five Formative Assessment Strategies in Action by Kate Jones was explored. This focus was selected as it aligned with our college priorities at the time.

As a team, we facilitated teachers carrying out the research, by providing literature support and segmenting existing knowledge. Time was allocated on staff development days to aid completion . Staff gathered data during their normal day to day work and interactions. Staff members arranged lesson swaps and observations of one another, to support their investigations. Allocating space for thought and time for action, as well as having a flexible approach, were key to this project’s success.

The outcome was that during summer 2022, our first Huish action research book was published, containing research from the differing course teams on the investigative focus of formative assessment. Some examples included ‘engineering effective classroom discussion, peer- to peer learning and feedback strategies.’ We celebrated, by sharing best practices. Staff had the opportunity to showcase and discuss findings with each other. Our very own peer-peer learning!

Back to business in September, after summer break, we are now into action research projects round 2! This time staff can choose a theme or topic that they want to grapple with, alongside the focus being interlinked with the College or Course quality improvement targets, student feedback or being data based driven. So far, we have projects looking at classroom-based themes, such as flipped learning, positive psychology and independent learning, as well as research focused on pastoral and wellbeing aspects, such as retention, motivation and mental health, just to name a few. Academic, pastoral and well being staff are all involved in the process .

In the summer term last academic year, we were lucky enough to have Ofsted on site . From our visit, our final report found:

‘Learners develop an excellent attitude to their studies. This is demonstrated through their commitment to purposeful independent study. This commitment is not achieved by accident. It is the result of teachers using evidence-based methodologies to teach learners the benefits of independent study and instilling the attitudes and behaviours learners need to be successful students of their subject.’

(Extracts from Richard Huish Ofsted 2022 report)

We might be Ofsted outstanding, but that doesn’t mean we can take our feet off the gas! Our ultimate goal of improving the quality of teaching and learning provision for our learners remains.

To continue to develop best practices, we are striving for networking and partnership working opportunities. To get the ball rolling, we aim to begin partnership working with the Education department at UWE as of 2023. Aligning research that compliments both UWE’S 2030 strategic vision and Huish’s quality improvement priorities.

If you would like to discuss partnership opportunities, please make contact. We can offer an ‘on the ground’ approach to learning from research.

Contact email address: – Gemma Lyons- Teaching and Learning lead for school of Humanities and Social science at Richard Huish College. Taunton.

The Teaching and Learning Team at Richard Huish College, who have been involved in overseeing the process; Emma Fielding, Saffron Lee, Sarah Marshall, Toby Eveleigh, and Gemma Lyons (top to bottom).

Not to forget the wider College body of Academic, Pastoral, Wellbeing, and Support staff, who without them, we would have no research to discuss.


Department for Education (2022) Delivering world- class teacher Development, Policy paper, Crown copyright.  

Department for Education (March 2022) Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All, sets out plans to make sure every child can reach the full height of their potential. Policy paper, Crown copyright.  

Ofsted Inspection of Richard Huish College (2022) Further Education and Skills inspection report. Available at

Richard Huish College (2022) Action research projects, formative assessment.

Richard Huish College (2021) Policy and Procedure, Continuous Professional Development and Appraisal.

Author: ellarees

Welcome to the School of Education and Childhood blog, as part of the Education and Childhood Research Group (ECRG).

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