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Inquiry-based practice and research

Research is key to the development of professional practice that improves outcomes for children with SLD/PMLD/CLDD.


Research inquiry involves deep questioning of 'how' and 'why' things are done. The experience and knowledge of practitioners are major attributes to bring to the research arena and, combined with a systematic approach to gathering evidence and analysing its significance, can produce a strong evidence base.

Teachers, teaching assistants and other school staff have found that engaging in and with research can be highly rewarding and provide exciting opportunities for professional development.

School-based inquiry: benefits
A male teacher and young boy conduct
                  a qualitative research exercise

Professional development for teachers is high on the government agenda and evidence-based practice is a compelling force within
school improvement.


The benefits of school-based inquiry may be realised at individual, class, department and whole school levels. By choosing to research some facet of our professional experience (eg identifying the needs of a child with a rare disorder) we can generate knowledge and understanding which translates into more effective practice.

Making a difference (1)

The point of school-based research is to make a difference to the students that we teach. Listen to this teacher talking about the outcomes of the Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Research Project (Carpenter et al, 2011a,b) for a young boy in her class.

Research is not distant from practice but its lifeblood. It's what excellent teachers do.

Mary Whitehead, Head teacher, Halstow Primary School

  • Poster
Making a difference (2)
A teacher sits in front of a row of children

It has made me definitely change the way I look at children... Through the [research] project we have something to back up what we are saying about the learning of children.

Carpenter et al, 2011a,b

Principles of research (1)
Teachers and pupils sat round a
                  classroom table

Research can take many different forms, but some principles are common to all good research:

  • There is a clear statement of research aims, which defines the research question and is informed by current knowledge;
  • A disciplined approach is taken to ensure reliability and consistency of observation and interpretation;
  • There is an information sheet for participants which sets out clearly what the research is about and informed consent is obtained.
Principles of research (2)
A teacher sits in front of a row of children
  • The research should have appropriate and sufficient resources;
  • Reflection on the information generated from the research will be disseminated, at least to those participating;
  • The research should be ethical and not harmful in any way to the participants;
  • The complete research process should be carried out
    with impartiality.
Find out more (1)
opened book

Carpenter, B., Egerton, J., Cockbill, B. and Owen, T. (2011) Having new eyes: engaging children and young people with complex learning difficulties and disabilities in learning, PMLD-Link, 23 (2), 4-6.



General Teaching Council for England (2006) Using Research in Your School and Your Teaching: Research-engaged professional practice. London: GTC (accessed 12.1.12).

Find out more (2)
opened book

You might also be interested in reading one or more of the following books to support Level C:


Bell, J. (2010) Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-Time Researchers in Education, Health and Social Science. Maidenhead: Open University Press.


Blaxter, L., Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (2006) How to Research (3rd edition). Buckingham: Open University Press.


Carpenter, B. and Egerton, J. (eds) (2007) New Horizons in Special Education: Evidence-based practice in action. Clent: Sunfield Publications.


Cryer, P. (2006) The Research Student's Guide to Success (3rd edn). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Find out more (3)
opened book

Denscombe, M. (2002) Ground Rules for Good Research. Maidenhead: Open University Press.


Denscombe, M. (2010) The Good Research Guide for Small Scale Social Research Projects (4th edn). Maidenhead: Open University Press.


Jones, P., Whitehurst, T. and Egerton, J. (eds) (2012) Creating Meaningful Inquiry in Inclusive Classrooms: Practitioners' stories of research. London: Routledge.


Porter, J. and Lacey, P. (2005) Researching Learning Difficulties: A guide for practitioners. London: Paul Chapman.


Roberts-Holmes, G. (2011) Doing Your Early Years Action Research Project: A step by step guide (2nd edn). London: Sage.


Find out more (4)
opened book

Robson, C. (2011) Real World Research (3rd edition). Oxford: Blackwell.


Rose, R. and Grosvenor, I. (2001) Doing Research in Special Education: Ideas into Practice. London: David Fulton.


Also, visit the National Foundation for Educational Research site.