Engaging teachers in collaborative action research Engaging teachers in collaborative action research

The Norwich Area Schools Consortium (NASC) was funded by the Teacher Training Agency as one of its four national consortia designed to restructure the relationship between research and practice in schools. It consisted of a partnership between seven Norwich secondary schools, Norfolk local authority, and the School of Education and Professional Development at UEA. It engaged teachers in collaborative action research (from 1997 – 2000) within and across schools and classrooms in ways which aimed to foster both individual professional development and school improvement, by creating useful knowledge about the curricular and pedagogical conditions of student disaffection from learning.

The work of the Consortium became an important conduit for headteachers and teachers to: identify the nature of disaffection, explore factors that contributed to or countered the development of disaffection in young people, and evaluate attempts to change the curriculum opportunities provided for older disaffected students.  Methods used were classroom observation, pupil tracking, interviews with pupils and teachers, and questionnaires. From these sources, datasets about classroom and school practices and teachers' and pupils' perceptions of them were created, using both qualitative and quantitative data. Projects were carried out on ‘invisible under-achievers', curriculum enrichment, classroom management, and rewards and sanctions.
The theme of students who are disaffected from learning grew out of the professional concerns of head teachers in discussion with the project director. It was viewed as a phenomenon experienced by all teachers, and sufficiently complex and multi-faceted to allow them to pursue a variety of research questions developed at school level.  It appeared to maximise opportunities for collaborative research between teachers, both within and across schools, as a basis for both school improvement and individual and group professional development.  Teachers from all levels with the schools took part, from head teachers to recently qualified teachers.  Pupils in the schools participated by providing, and in some instances, collecting data. All teacher-researchers had opportunities to use existing research literature as starting points for their own enquiries, special research methods sessions were held after school, and regular meetings and a series of one-day conferences were organised for participating teachers.

Key researchers

Professor John Elliott, Project Director
Dominic Boddington, Phase 1 Research Co-ordinator, (seconded from Heartsease High School).
Ann Shreeve, Phase 2 Cross-school Research Co-ordinator, Senior Research Associate
Barbara Zamorski, Lecturer, Phase 2 Cross-school Research Support.
Dr Terry Haydn, Dr Elena Nardi, Kim Brown, Jeff Battersby, Paul Doherty and Dr. Maggie Teggin, research mentors to schools

Further reading on this research

Elliott, J., Zamorski, B. And Shreeve, A. (2001) Exploring the Pedagogical Dimensions of Disaffection from learning through Collaborative Action Research. Norwich Area Schools Consortium.  Final Report to the Teacher Training Agency  http://www.uea.ac.uk/care/nasc/TTA_Final/NASCFINALREPORT_June02.pdf   
Data Sets and Research Instruments:
Rewards and Sanctions: formal systems of rewards and sanctions in secondary schools and their effect on motivation and behaviour. Includes results of the research, data sets, and research instruments. 
Elliott, J and Zamorski, B (Eds) 2002, Special Issue of Pedagogy, Culture and Society,  Volume 10 Number 2
This consists of eleven peer-reviewed articles co-authored by academic researchers and teachers and can be accessed at: