Margaret is an experienced teacher, trainer, manager, researcher and writer in post-16 education. She currently works as an educational consultant in the UK and is a Visiting Professor in the School of Education at the University of Wolverhampton.
Research by practitioners within their own practice is a long established tradition in parts of UK adult literacy practice (e.g. the RAPAL network) and increasingly within teacher education programmes (Barton, 1999; Tracey, 2006). Most recently, programmes of Research in Practice (RIP) have been funded by the NRDC (Hamilton & Wilson, 2006; Hamilton, Davies & James, 2007; etc.), by the LSC (West Midlands, Herrington, 2006) and by specific universities (McLachlan, Glasgow, 2006). Similarly, colleagues overseas - in Canada, Australia and the USA - have also sustained extensive Research in Practice programmes. All of this work — undertaken by individuals and by collaborative groupings —has revealed major gains at individual, community, institutional and field levels.
Though these gains are clear, there remain important obstacles to RIP being taken seriously by professional researchers and practitioners. More work, for example, is still required in relation to:
Work is already underway on some of these. For example, Horsman and Woodrow's (2006) recent clarification of the essential components of RIP as a research approach; Kendall and Herrington's (2007) exploration of RIP and professional formation; and the seminar, Practitioner Research - can it support professional development? at Lancaster University Literacy Research Centre ( April 28th, 2008)
In this paper I attempt to contribute to the discussion by arguing for the value of a longitudinal approach to RIP- for the day-to-day building of research within practice, in varying contexts, throughout an educator's professional life. I shall argue that in addition to the known gains from specific pieces of RIP, a long-term stance produces an enhanced impact on research confidence — in terms of methodology and interpretive depth — and on professional development. I draw briefly upon evidence from my own history as a practitioner researcher, to provide an example of such a model and though this is designed primarily as an invitation to practitioners to devise their own, it also contributes something towards each of the above issues.