The first part of the RAPS project is a survey of how the arts are taught in initial teacher education.
This piece of research has become a lot more complex (a common story in research). Initially we thought that we would contact university and school providers and speak to Directors about their primary teacher education programme. It soon became apparent that we also needed to speak to arts specialists in universities. The research doubled overnight! We could also see that we would know more if we talked with partner schools and students! A much larger endeavor.
But big or small, getting started was all a lot easier said than done. We decided to focus on universities at the outset because we thought that schools would really not want us to bother them. But making initial contact with university providers took a lot longer than we thought. In part because of the times we are living in – difficult and uncertain – and in part because of the difficulty of finding contact names and emails on university websites.
“Access”, as it is called in research, is inevitably an issue, and researchers always need to spend time finding their volunteer participants. We are no exception. We had to use lots of different ways to find and connect with the right people.
Once we had made contact, we wanted make the process as painless as possible. We decided to offer people a choice of how they provided information so we offered either an online survey or a recorded online structured interview. Most people opted for the interview, but we do also have some survey responses. The interviews are of course richer in information than the online survey but both cover the same basic questions.
To date, we have information from half of the current university primary ITE courses. While we could see this as disappointing, not everyone, a 50% return is considered pretty good these days. And the responses do come from all parts of the country and a variety of institutions. We also have information from Teach First.
We are now doing getting ready for approaching school based ITE providers when they go back to work in September. Once again, we will offer a choice of recorded interview or online survey. We hope that we will have a response rate as high as the university sector.
It is too early to say much about our results. We can see however that focusing on the arts is going to show something about the ways in which foundation subjects are dealt with in different kinds of teacher education courses. And, given the current debates about teacher education in England, we hope that we are important time to provide useful evidence for future developments.
Image: Thomas Tallis on Flickr.