Give teachers free access to academic research, says petition

Teachers should be given free access to research journals to help drive improvement in education, according to a petition addressed to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

The petition, which hopes to gather 500 signatures, says that free access to journals is “absolutely fundamental” to moving towards a position where teaching practice is more informed by research.

“The educational benefits of empowering teachers to be researchers have long been argued by many leading educators and academics such as Dewey, Hoyle, Stenhouse, Hargreaves, Hargreaves, Fullan,” the petition reads.

“Successive governments also recognise the educational benefits of evidence-based research and research-informed practice.”

“Yet teacher as researcher has remained largely a slogan. For many teachers with a strong desire to examine their own practice through research, this ideal is no more than a source of frustration.”

The petition calls for free access to major e-journals for teachers, “regardless of qualification status”.

It was set up by Vincent Lien, an English teacher at Harrogate Grammar School in north Yorkshire. Mr Lien said that he was motivated to set up the petition after completing a Masters of Education at Clare College, Cambridge, and being frustrated that he could no longer access academic articles sitting behind paywalls.

Speaking to Schools Week, he said: “I’d just completed my M.Ed, and then after that I thought ‘I’m really enjoying this, and really want to continue’, but the trouble is that once you’ve finished [an academic course], without the student status you can’t access all of the research material any more. That’s really frustrating and restricting.”

He added: “If, as teachers, we’re supposed to be able to improve our practice through research … surely the best way is for teachers to be able to access research?”

Mr Lien also said that opening up access to research journals could help empower teachers. “That’s part of the reason, to give teachers the sense of autonomy,” he said.

The petition was started in August last year, but has received a flurry of signatures since New Year’s Day as part of the #teacher5aday push to get teachers thinking about their well-being.

At the time of writing the petition had 380 signatures.

One of those who has signed the petition – Chris Chivers – wrote: “I’m signing because teachers deserve to be able to access, first-hand, the original writing of researchers, not always to rely on interpretation.”

A second signatory – Tania Harding – wrote: “Having ready access to journals will help strengthen theory-practice links. It will also help more teachers consider how we share our findings from practice to add to the evidence base of research.”

The Department for Education said that it would not be commenting on the petition.

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