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Martin Bamber, AC for Cheshire West, Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, and Wirral

Work Groups have been around for some time, often going by alternative names such as Teacher Research Groups. I recently agreed to lead a Core Maths Work Group in the North West, a collaborative initiative organised by the AMSP and Maths Hubs North West. The group comprises 18 teachers from schools across the Merseyside and Greater Manchester areas, split into two regional entities: one in Liverpool and one in Manchester.

The first meeting was held on Tuesday 13th November and I confess to having been a little nervous at the thought of running a three-hour meeting where control would be handed to the teachers. I’m used to organising and running CPD events and being in charge, directing operations and making sure everyone follows the script. This would be different.

As much to get teachers talking to each other as for any specific pedagogical reason, we began with a ‘Love Island’ activity – finding a deeper truth in the statement, “Twice as many people apply to be on Love Island as apply to Oxbridge”. Thereafter, the agenda was handed to the teachers, albeit with a Work Group Plan to guide them. Initial discussions (where my role was simply to act as chair, ensuring everyone had a chance to speak) led to the emergence of ‘themes’ for investigation: (1) cross-curricular co-operation, and (2) exploring pedagogies relating to student-led discussion and presentation, and whether ‘new content’ can be taught in this way. Teachers willingly signed up for one of these options, partly, I feel, because they had a significant voice in deciding the themes. Other potential areas for investigation were logged for subsequent consideration.

After a lengthy break, during which discussions were ongoing, teachers then settled into separate discussion groups according to their chosen theme, and at this point I really felt that something new and significant emerged: a group of teachers actively engaged in their own research planning, without the need for direction and with no barriers to their creative input. A prime example of Zeichner’s model for action research: “teachers developing and controlling their own foci for enquiries and engaging in collaborative work and study groups for intellectual challenge and stimulation”. I very much look forward to seeing the results of these enquiries at our next meeting in January.

[*Zeichner, K. (2003) Teacher Research and Professional Development, Educational Action Research, 11 (2)]

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