Integrating practitioner enquiry into learning and teaching is revolutionising the role of Scottish Teachers. This educational reform is imperative to support changing student needs in a society where industries are declining and where focus is on technology and learning (Robinson, 1998).

At a National level, placing teachers at the centre of sustainable research and evaluation supports a paradigm shift in teaching practices from policies originally driven by political ideology and the media. Providing teachers with autonomy for the focus of evidence-based research informs professional practice and focuses critical evaluation on day-day issues in local contexts. This promotes reform based on professional values, improves the theories underpinning relevant practice and creates sustainable improvement in learning and teaching in Scotland. Practitioners’ insight is invaluable as it holds potential to build relations between research, policy and practice which significantly impacts on wider school improvement and a forward thinking perspective (Locke, 2009). Consequently, practitioner enquiry is a significant area of professional learning as highlighted in Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2011), GTCS standards and Scottish Educational policy.

I have found practitioner enquiry engages and motivates teachers, continually informs professional development, compliments career progression by enabling them to monitor, challenge and develop their practice. The enhanced knowledge and awareness of practitioners is fostered by collaborations on daily issues in local contexts and improves the quality of professional discourse in schools by sharing, critiquing and developing strategies on educational problems and curricular issues . Working in partnership across departments, with cluster schools, colleges, universities could add rigour and depth to all aspects of the Practitioner Enquiry process. Conducting an impact analysis and reporting findings is key to the success of peer audiences. Student experience and whole school initiatives will be enhanced by increased practitioner knowledge, research skills and engagement. I feel teachers’ capacity for original contribution to pedagogy and the curriculum, managing externally driven educational change and meeting student needs is improved by relevant enquiry, evaluation and utilisation of research findings. Quality support from Universities, colleges, industry is invaluable in supporting the mutual gains of practitioner enquiry. Teachers can research mechanisms to tailor the curriculum to support lifelong learning in addition to vocational skills as outlined by the Curriculum for Excellence (ref). Practitioner enquiry has capacity to improve teaching and learning, advance school improvement, build capacity for reform and develop strategic alliances with key members of the region’s education and policy making community.

There is concern over the validity of practitioner enquiries due to lack of systematic research (Scott, 2000). Without check on procedures and evaluations in a culture of demanding school standards and HMIe inspections, there is risk that data selection becomes biased or unethical. The subject of practitioner enquiry is influenced by research agendas and subsequent policies (Brennan, 2007). Research may introduce an ‘intervention’ without probing into the purpose of the enquiry risking becoming superficial and a ‘tick box’ exercise. The dangers of these trends is that research becomes increasingly removed from the rigor of scientific enquiry. A gap already exists between policy makers and practice (Scott, 2000). Educational policy-makers could dismiss practitioner enquiry based on efficacy and continue to base decisions on costs, political and media opinion. Evaluation, collaboration and dissemination of findings are needed for researchers to benefit from their enquiry. Practitioner enquiry tends to be ‘situationally unique’ to that place of education and not transferrable (Scott, 2003). To benefit from practitioner enquiry, support is required at all levels from teachers to management and policy makers.


Scottish educational reform is imperative to support changing student needs as industries decline and focus shifts to technology and learning (14, Robinson). Engaging teachers nationally in practitioner enquiry supports a paradigm shift from policies driven by media and political ideology to informed professional practice. Practitioners’ insight holds invaluable potential for building sustainable relations between research, policy and practice. Autonomy for evidence-based research through critical evaluation of values and theories underpins sustainable development in day-day teaching and learning issues in local contexts. Consequently, practitioner enquiry is a significant area of professional learning that positively impacts on wider school improvement and forward-thinking perspective that builds capacity for reform and development (Locke, 2009). This is highlighted in Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2011), GTCS standards and Scottish Educational policy.

I find practitioner enquiry motivates teachers and informs continual professional development due to the rigor of creating and implementing individualised research plans to inform value-based practice. In my practice, enquiry provides a framework to challenge, critically analyse and develop through the four stages of learning (Klob, year). Inline with CfE policies, my commitment is secured by selection of a topic tailored to my interests and driven by autonomy to support lifelong learning and additional vocational skills (cfe ref). I realise capacity for original contribution to pedagogy and the curriculum; managing externally driven change and meeting learners’ needs is improved by enquiry, evaluation and collaboration in a research community. Working in partnership at RCS and across departments, cluster schools, colleges and universities adds rigor and depth to all aspects of my practitioner enquiry. This improves the quality of discourse through a framework of reporting back and supports mutual gains. Practitioner enquiry has the capacity to develop strategic alliances with key members of the regions education and policy community to drive educational change.

Validity of practitioner enquiries is questioned due to lack of systematic research (Scott, 2000). The subject of practitioner enquiry is influenced by research agendas and subsequent policies (Brennan, 2007). Without check on procedures and evaluations in a culture of demanding school standards and HMIe inspections, data selection risks becoming biased or unethical and removed from scientific rigor. Small-scale enquiry risks becoming superficial and a ‘tick box’ exercise only completed by the most diligent. A gap already exists between policy makers and practice (Scott, 2000). Educational policy-makers could dismiss practitioner enquiry based on efficacy. Evaluation, collaboration and dissemination of findings are


It is impossible to explore all ideas or responses of participants. Planning is required to frame research and consider the collection of evidence to produce convincing conclusions. I feel an eclectic approach using a framework of mixed-methods is likely to select methods related to the underling research question without sampling bias. This suits my teaching-research context as sequentially ordering qualitative approaches will explore individual emotions and opinions before/post enquiry and quantitative scientific techniques analyse my movement hypotheses. A mixed-model protocol using qualitative and quantitative analysis in and across enquiry stages would suit longer-term research.

Data collection identifies which elements should be sampled and analysed to fulfil research questions and evaluation. X, y, z, articulate assumptions constituting a ‘positivist’ theory. This quantitative approach tests objectives constructed before data collection by altering one dependant variable and measuring the numerical change in an independent variable. I feel this method receives credibility from policymakers as it is fact based, validates cause-effect relationships underpinning experimental theories and provides statistical data from large numbers of participants. Quantitative research would benefit my enquiry during pilot studies and to prove generalisations during measurement of physiological factors. Quantitative research improves in reliability as the researcher controls extraneous variables to improve the replication of procedures. Human studies have many extraneous variables which are difficult to regulate and if uncontrolled could receive criticism from academics. In an enquiry with controlled variables similarity to the actual complex situation is lost causing time and context generalisations (Nagel, 1986). Remaining unbiased is vital to prevent influencing empirical justification of test hypothesis (Tashalckoni & Eeddline, ??). I recognise quantitative data leads to the technical and formal scientific writing style used to provide an account of findings.

In contrast, qualitative research is promoted by the purists, x,w,t. A writing style rich in stakeholders’ views specific on application of research in local contexts is more likely to promote understanding of findings. In educational contexts, qualitative research gains credibility form idiographic, informed and detailed descriptions written from interview, logs and observations in participants’ environment. As in my enquiry, the subjective understanding of individual stakeholders reveal why and how events occurred. Researchers need to be trained to interpret findings with flexibility and sensitivity and seek common themes rather than set hypothesis due to the diverse nature of findings. Although a qualitative approach generates ideas to overcome current problems it is time consuming and subjectiveness must be minimised by reflectivity on bias and reasons for research. Qualitative research involves indepth analysis of smaller sample sizes and consequently random, representative samples from target population unlikely.

Skill in practitioner enquiry involves selecting a representative samples and framework to suit qualitiative and quantitative approaches.

Probability sampling is suited to qualitative research bias is reduced as every individual in the population has opportunity to be randomly sampled. The selection of subclass of probability sampling; Simple random, systematic, stratified, cluster, and probability-size sampling is research specific. I plan to conduct stratified sampling during interviews by dividing stakeholders into strata based on their experience of dance at their education level. Each stratum (dance education, management and students) will be treated as an independent population. This allows different sampling approaches or number of samples to be applied which are best suited to answering the research question. The potential is created to draw random inferences about specific subgroups and selecting sample numbers equally from each strata should lead to more significant estimates in relation to other probability sampling. This justifies the time consuming complexity of this sampling method. Multiple criteria cannot be examined with stratified sampling. Samples are selected from all members of RCS which provides the required sample base but some participants could fall into multiple strata complicating the design and usefulness.

During quantitative analysis of measurements of physiological factors I plan to use non-probability sampling of 20-24 year old male dance students at RCS. This method avoids convenient selection of inexperienced individuals and requirement in quota sampling for large number of stakeholders in demographic groups. The need for cluster sampling is avoided by monitoring individuals already attending one institution. Specific sampling criteria in purposive sampling reduces the sample size and selecting specific samples limits the information relevant to the general population. Snowball sampling could encourage more participants from this cohort but reliability would be compromised by selecting out with.

  • What sampling method would be appropriate? Why?
  • Could another sampling method be considered? Why?
  • What should you consider overall when selecting your sample?



Practitioner enquiry involves collecting or using participant data and consequently has potential to influence educational experiences and change practice. Investigative inquiry requires a pre-planned ethical approach to retain fundamental moral principles and intrinsic balance between investigation and participant confidentiality throughout (Cohen & Manion, 1999). In the secondary education context, core ethical principles supporting practitioner enquiry include allegiance with successive cohorts, continual improvement through reflection on practice and acknowledging the significance of educational policies (Lofthouse et al. 2012). I believe effective practitioner enquiry follows ethical protocols and forms unbiased conclusions. This promotes professional learning and practice without inadvertently suppressing the moral dimension of education (Carr & Kemmis, 2005). I acknowledge there is no simple solution to identified problems as each practitioner works in a unique and fluid educational context. The British Education Research Association (BERA, 2011) sets out principles and advice which supports the aim of ethical research based on personal knowledge, values, quality and academic freedom. These principles constitute a persuasive argument which outlines the need for voluntary informed consent based on clear information specific to the research purpose (Baumfield et al. 2013). As a researcher, I must disseminate and store findings in a confidential manner that recognises individual contribution but protects distress through disclosure of identity. Omitting to state research position to stakeholders, bias, withholding findings or pedantry to the detriment of academic freedom are unethical approached affecting dissemination of findings (McNiff, 2013). Plagiarism during discussions or writing can deter the sharing of findings which benefit progress. Participants retain the right to withdraw and so researchers must balance encouragement without guiding responses. A democratic approach requires all backgrounds to be treated equally. Educational researchers work with parents and young people to gain consent, relay research and ensure contribution (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). I feel to fulfil requirements of BERA, opportunity must be provided for a feedback loop to progress enquiry during data collection, interpretation and reporting without loss of objectivity or personal involvement. All stakeholders should be credited as co-producers to acknowledge a successful learning experience. Effective educational researchers supplement the values in ethical standards based on personal philosophy, culture and experience (AERA, 2011). The principles of ethical practice inform pedagogy and inquiry.


I feel practitioner enquiry provides a form of lifelong professional development by acknowledging teachers understanding through developing their capacity to engage through reflection on the complexities of education. Practitioner enquiry provides scaffolding needed for teachers to perform essential roles in leading educational change (Donaldson, TCF, 2011). This cultivates a progressive standard of Scottish teaching professionalism.

Practitioner enquiry requires pre-existing understanding of professional standards and theories in literature as a basis to develop a questioning attitude. Teachers are empowered by moving successively through Blooms Taxonomy (1956) to apply critical thinking on relevant issues in context then synthesisise solutions which on evaluation to form reasoned next steps.

Professional understanding and progression are built by investigating questions which individual practitioners find relevant and when applied in context practitioners verify the value and ethical benefit of new evidence and the subjectivity of National policies.

During enquiry practitioners take on ‘six thinking hats’ which provide action tools to stimulate independent thinkers to successfully create perceptual frameworks (De Bono, 1985). I observe this requires deep thinking and promotes professional discourse. This development in philosophy is needed to influence school policies. Practice-based enquiry is modelled on a reflective cycle of analysis, synthesis and dissemination which provides a vehicle to deliver and continuously develop conceptual forms of knowledge (Klob, @@).

I envisage practitioner enquiry will encourage teachers to think beyond self-limiting boundaries. I realise practitioners may fond readdressing long-held assumptions and practices on traditional theories disconcerting. Many established teachers feel pressure to develop new skillsets for enquiry is unattainable with an already overstretched workload. Approaches are improved by exposure to a wider range of alternatives. Teacher collaboration is essential to success of enquiry but this also requires time commitment from teachers. The teacher most adept at adjusting their practice will overcome systematic problems, generate new questions and gain most satisfaction to enthuse others (Haberman, 2001; Hattie, 2003).

Interest in small scale enquiries by policy makers is welcomed but may compromise practitioner autonomy. Demand for research may result in unethical approaches or data adjustment to support government policies. I fear outcomes will not meet National expectations without regulation to the participation, application of enquiry. Without standards to remain ethical, reliable and valid participation will dissolve.

Like all research-practitioners, I believe in the value of enquiry process as it will set in motion specific lifelong changes in my pedagogy and practice. Informed practice and sharing of ideas will promote my role in fostering a dynamic learning environment.

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