UK (University of East Anglia) UEA research project supporting the use of technology to improve teacher experiences gains funding boost

A new University of East Anglia (UEA) research project supporting the use of technology to improve the experiences of teachers has received a funding boost from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The project is one of a number of successful awardees from ESRC’s Education Research Programme, which will explore new approaches to attracting and developing teachers, and the use of technology for teaching and learning.

The £5.3 million fund will support a total of nine projects. The research evidence gathered as part of the programme will inform policymaking and practice leading to better outcomes for children and their families.

Projects will be led by a range of research institutions working in partnership with other stakeholder groups across the four nations of the UK.

The ‘Enhancing teacher agency with technology: Creating an ecological model through a place-based study of teaching and learning’ project is being led by Dr John Gordon in UEA’s School of Education.

The project will advance comprehension of teacher agency with technology for teaching and learning. It aims to understand how teachers’ choices and actions are affected by the conditions they work in, to support the use of technology to improve their experiences. Through a place-based study the team will work to improve agency of teachers and influence policy making.

Professor Gordon said: “We are absolutely delighted to be supported by ESRC to conduct this research in partnership with Norfolk County Council Children’s Services, Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service and BT Applied Research in Adastral Park. Over the next three years we will be working with teachers and school leaders across East Anglia to understand how they use technology in their schools, and what they want from technology for their students and for their teaching in the future. That’s an exciting prospect: anything from helping students navigate the Web and social media for independent learning, to preparing students to innovate in the design of sustainable technologies for the twenty-first century.

Commenting on the project award Professor Gerard Parr of the School of Computing Sciences said “We are delighted to collaborate with our colleagues in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning to investigate innovations in technology such as immersive digital experiences as well as new student learning environments in support of teachers that will help to transform the delivery of education practices”.

The Education Research Programme will build on previous ESRC investment in research on the impact of digital working by exploring the use of technology in schools.

By rethinking the approach to teaching in a post-lockdown, more digitally connected world, this work aims to inform new, more impactful ways of teaching which integrate technology into the classroom.

“This research complements UEA’s new strategic research theme CreativeUEA”, added Professor Gordon, “continuing our longstanding history of creativity, innovation and collaboration across disciplines and sectors. The project will showcase creative applications of technology in education. We also hope it can make a very significant contribution to the profession of teaching, foregrounding the agency of creativity of teachers for a positive and lasting influence on the education of children in schools across the country”.

Other projects focus on gaining a better understanding of how teaching and learning is changing, with particular reference to improving teacher education, recruitment and retention.

The funded projects cover a wide range of contemporary issues in education, including:

  • approaches to improving the recruitment, retention, education and development of specific groups, including ethnic minority teachers and school leaders
  • the use of technology in schools and how it can reinforce or reconfigure existing educational and social inequities
  • the role of digital and innovative technologies in recruiting STEM undergraduates into teacher education and in improving foreign language teachers’ knowledge and skills
  • digital citizenship and data ethics challenges in the classroom
  • children’s participation rights in teaching practice to inform teachers’ professional development.

The research begins in early December and projects will run for up to three years.

Under the leadership of its Director, Professor Gemma Moss, the programme is designed to support partnership working between researchers, practitioners and policymakers in different parts of the UK, developing lasting networks that can identify and promote key strategic aims for future education research.

Professor Gemma Moss, Director of the Education Research Programme, said:

“This is an exciting opportunity for the education research community to work in partnership with other stakeholders and find new ways of tackling some long-lasting challenges in school-based education.

“The programme recognises the devolved nature of education in the UK and in this context is looking to develop stronger links between research, policy and practice that can generate new insights relevant to local contexts.”

This investment contributes to the “digital society” priority area of investment in ESRC’s 2022 to 2025 delivery plan.

It also contributes to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) strategic theme of creating opportunities and improving outcomes (further details in the UKRI 5-year strategy).

Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “Through the Education Research Programme, ESRC is funding important new research that will generate insights and help address ongoing challenges for the UK’s compulsory education systems, including how to attract, educate and retain excellent teachers, and how to adopt and harness the benefits of new technologies.

“The programme will support both teachers and children by tackling issues such as resilience, participation, recruitment, training and retention.

“The research will use the power of social science to generate a range of exciting outputs that have the potential to directly transform UK education and create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.”