Connecting Community Development Work and Teaching

June 2014: The publication of the Transforming Educational Experience report – which is a joint initiative between CDI and the National University of Ireland Maynooth – provides clear evidence that teachers are joining the dots in a way that has real impact on the lives of our children and young people.

In this report we have a national university, a community-based initiative, community organisations, schools and teachers all connecting, all working together, drawing on research and policy, and making a difference in the daily reality of classrooms.

This is a beautiful glimpse of the professional space that we in the Teaching Council espouse, encourage, support and seek to safeguard.

Teaching, learning – an embedded culture of research

There is a perception that teaching is not as well informed by research as it could be, that we are behind the medical profession in terms of an embedded culture of research and reflection that could support every teacher in what they do.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, we would have to say that there is some truth to that. This project, however, gives great cause for hope, for it clearly shows, page after page, how teachers in some of the most challenging situations in schools can make the time to conduct rigorous research on what they and their colleagues do, draw conclusions and most importantly, have a real impact that makes a real difference in the lives of children, young people and parents.

Reflection, collaboration, action – a clarion call

Continuum is another way of saying that teachers, like everyone else, learn throughout their lives. In many ways what the Teaching Council is about is trying to make explicit what has been implicit for far too long, particularly in terms of teacher research, professionalism and reflection. This collection of research is a great notch in the post of that process of explication!

Research creates an architecture of support for deeply reflective practice. It can reaffirm teachers in what they are doing. Or it can equally challenge. But make no mistake, used professionally, as evidenced in this research, authentic use of research by teachers makes a powerful, and empowering, difference.

If we are saying (and we are) that at the heart of a teacher beats the heart of a great learner; that the old clichés of sage on the stage or guide on the side no longer hold, then teaching can lead the wider community and Irish society on a journey of responsive honest learning that ensures that our policies and actions have the best possible outcome.

Thus can the profession of teaching, historically the oracle of knowledge, help create new ways of thinking and doing for everyone. This is not utopian mumbo jumbo. This collection of research shows that learning and the sharing of learning are already happening, and making a difference.

What next? Connections!

The big challenge now is how do we share these stories with other professionals, with other communities, in a way that supports and encourages them in what they are doing. On the one hand, this is not rocket science – we live in an era of connections. We need to connect more, like NUIM and CDI did in supporting this initiative. And we need to connect more, with more people. But doing that effectively, and scaling up at the same time, needs careful thought and planning.

Read Tomás Ó Ruairc’s full speech here

Read the full Transforming Educational Experience report here

See the Transforming Educational Experience project video here