Conor George

Opening Doors: How Educational Research empowered and inspired me

During my second year of teaching I completed a Masters’ in Education with a thesis titled: When does Dialogue about Race and Racism become Dangerous within the Classroom? This explored the dynamics of a white teacher facilitating dialogue about race and co-constructing the knowledge and rules for dialogue with students. Since then, I have maintained that the M.Ed has been the most meaningful and empowering thing I have done as a teacher in my professional development.

The M.Ed allowed me to investigate a previously unexplored topic of interest within my teaching and curriculum and come to understand my students and their backgrounds more deeply. I also had the opportunity to develop a pedagogy and corresponding scheme of work for racial dialogue based on my findings. This was adopted by my department. All of these ‘in school’ benefits made the Masters valuable, but the greatest reward was in my own individual development and progression. The M.Ed taught me important skills of data analysis (further than the usual school statistical analysis), allowing a more meaningful level of reflection on curriculum and pedagogy, the application of literature and others’ knowledge to my own teaching and context and finally, how to draw meaningful conclusions based on the appraisal of evidence. All of these skills are desired from leaders, and the M.Ed gave me an opportunity to develop these within myself which have now led to further opportunities, such as a Farmington Fellowship, collaborating with Martha Shaw and Adam Dinham at Goldsmiths in their work on Innovation Through Co-production, networking with Culham St Gabriel’s Trust and beginning a PhD in January. All these opportunities came as a result of the M.Ed, therefore I can say it certainly opened many doors for me.

To provide context on how I applied and was accepted into the Masters’ course, I was a PGCE student two years before the M.Ed and had completed Masters’ accredited modules as a result of my training. I was then able to complete the M.Ed with my training provider, which allowed a smooth transition into the course as I was familiar with the facilities and staff already. My biggest apprehension when applying for the course was that during my training it became clear that educational research was a weakness of mine. Coming from a Philosophy degree I wrote conceptually, using thought experiments and counterexamples as evidence, rather than literature or data. This was a steep learning curve during my training, and I could have used this as a reason to avoid the M.Ed. However, knowing this was my weakness and being dedicated to personal development and progression I decided this is more of a reason to do the M.Ed, rather than a reason to avoid it. Consequently, I now consider these skills as my strengths in teaching. The best way to learn it, is to do it.

The M.Ed was demanding. The time pressure of weekly webinars meant I needed to balance my time well, and although at the time I saw the webinars as an inconvenience on top of my workload, they were essential and extremely beneficial at becoming acclimated to education. Also, because of the typical demands of teaching, I inevitably left the M.Ed work until half terms, which meant that I found I was sacrificing a lot of personal time. However, the benefit was worth the cost.

I would encourage any teacher looking to further their personal progression in education to undertake an M.Ed. If you are interested but don’t know where to start, contact your training provider or local University, who should be happy to help you start the next step of your journey.  I recommend choosing a subject that you want to study. I observed friends who had chosen subjects they thought would look good on a CV struggling to summon the energy to complete their studies. A subject that you are passionate about and gives you the drive to continue when you are tired and overworked. This is something that really provided me drive and motivation within the research and what encouraged me to take risks. Finally, and most importantly, ensure you make your research ‘you-centric’. The overall conclusions of the research are important, but what is more important is that you learn the skills and processes of educational research. Hopefully, education research like this opens up doors and opportunities for you as much as it did me.

Conor George is a full-time Secondary teacher in Peterborough, He is also a Farmington Fellow and has earned his Masters in Education. Conor is currently studying for his PhD, focusing on impact of religion on student achievement. Conor is interested in exploring the purpose of RE and the implications for the curriculum.