Is Research Useful? I Oxford Open Learning

Is Research Useful?

Is research useful? It’s an interesting question and one that doesn’t get asked very often. In fact, you probably think it’s got nothing to do with you. After all, we know that the big drug companies do it, that there are vital medical advances thanks to it. We hear too, from time to time, about space research ( Either that it’s doing wonderful things with distant planets or that it’s too expensive. Or both at the same time).

In fact, we probably all think that it’s all about men and women in white coats doing things that we’ll hear about later. And of course we all hope that it’s ethical and will contribute to a healthier and more peaceful future. But hang on a minute! Isn’t research sometimes closer to home than all this? For example, many of us know someone who has been to or is likely to go to university; all over the world universities are now graded partly by their research, which improves their teaching. And we all know how important league tables are these days; F.E.colleges also do research which is relevant to them. They do Master Skills activities which try to found out who is training most competitively – very important in industry and with vocational education and training. And – ‘hot off the press’ – they are now creating a ‘Vocational Education Research Centre’, which shows how important this all is. Currently it’s out to tender, but you can read about it in the TES ( Times Educational Supplement).

Research doesn’t stop there, though. Schools also want a piece of the action. These days you can get Research Schools. Organisations like BERA and NFER in particular are helping schools research areas of interest. One school is looking at teaching and learning to see how they can improve. Quite bravely, I think they’re videoing lessons and using them for discussion and training. This to me is a bit of real pioneering, and very welcome. Wouldn’t we all admit that this is the sort of research which is very ‘local’, down to earth, welcome and useful? Surely we all want schools to get ( even ) better at what they do ( Am I generally in support of our schools? Maybe the answer is obvious. )?

But… what do you think of this? What if I say to you that every time you study, read and write you are in fact ‘researching’? You give your response, your interpretation, your answer. So in fact, maybe research is more familiar and closer to home than you thought. Isn’t that useful?

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I'm semi-retired after a successful and much enjoyed career in education. Funnily enough, my last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. I've had an interesting career, in schools, colleges, adult education, the Arts and a few other bits and bobs. At one stage I was also a local authority inspector. Now I'm a school governor, and am enjoying watching my young grandchildren go through their own first experiences of school. Through these articles I hope to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested!

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