ResearchSEND was developed in February 2017 to promote the importance of research in meeting the needs of learners with SEND through events, collaborations, publications and research projects.

Michelle Haywood, founder of ResearchSEND, provides an overview of ResearchSEND, its journey, what it does and invites us to attend future dates

Over the last year it is possible that you have read about ResearchSEND in publications, attended a national ResearchSEND Conference or seen ResearchSEND represented within other conferences such as The Space events run by The Chartered College of Teaching and NasenLive.

ResearchSEND was developed to be three strands:

Researching the bigger picture set out to consider research undertaken across the educational landscape and research undertaken by large research organisations such as EEF and large-scale work undertaken by Universities.

New researchers, New voices encourages teachers undertaking their own personal research to have the space to share that work. Contributions for this strand have come from trainee teachers on PGCE courses undertaking specialist SEND modules, the National SENCo Award and Schools who have undertaken research for the first time.

ChangeMonday focuses on how research can inform classroom practice in terms of supporting pupils with SEND, whilst examining the different sources of research and how to access them. Many examples include continuous professional development and the use of journal clubs to create a research centred culture though discussion around different types of research to support learners with SEND.

Overall ResearchSEND has started to explore what it means to be a teacher researcher. During our events and presentations, we regularly discuss how to read and respond to different types of research, as well as encouraging participants to try some research out for themselves. We have focused on quashing myths, such as all research has to be published in peer-reviewed journals, and exploring re-occurring research terminology, such as quantitative and qualitative data, in a sequential mixed method, so that teachers can undertake their own small-scale research and inquiry.

We have promoted different ways to research and support good practice, by the use of social media, such as the use of Twitter to ask colleagues about good practice and examining more traditional methods of interviewing, observing and the use of questionnaires.

We know when supporting learners with SEND that we have a significant amount of research awareness, as much of the practice that informs our teaching in both Special and mainstream environments is based around sound judgments, which we gathered through experience of knowing what works and we should be celebrating and sharing this.

If we take Speech, Language & Communication Needs (SLCN) as an example, we often look to established research which has built up over the years, such as Sheridan’s Birth to Five Years, which is a key piece of work on the developmental progress of pre-school children, and has been used to inform a number of different publications and assessments such as the Schedule of Growing Skills, of which one of its nine areas is the assessment of expressive and receptive language. Most schools allocate about five days a year to whole staff development, of which several will often focus on delivering some aspect of curriculum content, while others will focus on statutory responsibilities and the operational aspects of the role. Very little of this time, if any, is spent on translating research findings into effective classroom practice.

Using identified and published pieces of research can transform practice, and when teachers undertake their own research, it changes not just what teachers do but what they think as well. The use of research contributes to gains in knowledge and encourages reflection and analysis of personal performance and in doing so, helps to understand and improve outcomes for learners.

For SENCOs and SEND Leaders in School, research knowledge is invaluable in providing evidence of the success of research-based interventions but there is no doubt that undertaking continuous professional development (CPD) which impacts on practice is a challenge, with limited time to undertake it and other demands on time getting in the way. ResearchSEND is attempting to fill this gap.

Come and join the debate at our next ResearchSEND event. We are currently putting together the agenda for our 15th June event in London. Please save the date.

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