Representing Teachers' Knowledge

How can I assist teacher-researchers to explicate their knowledge? You can find out some of the ways at:


This portfolio represents my professional values, professional skills and professional knowledge and understandings as an educator which have evolved over my career as a teacher, mentor and researcher. I have been assisting teachers to undertake classroom-based research to improve their teaching and learning and in this snapshot I explicate the action research mentoring that I have shared with Emma Kirby and colleagues in Japan over a five year period.

I am grateful to the Innovations Unit at the NCSL for sponsoring this representation of our work. I am also indebted to the Carnegie Foundation for the use of their KEEP toolkit template which I have used here to enable me to organise my data.

Sarah Fletcher, March 2005

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at

Sarah Fletcher and Emma Kirby
Sarah Fletcher and Emma Kirby

Action Research Mentoring: NCSL Innovations Unit Hot Seat debate 24/09/04

* How can we excite teachers to the idea of researching their own teaching and their own and their students' learning as an integral part of their professionalism?

* How can we create an on-line community of action research mentors who will assist teachers as leaders in learning in researching (and thereby improving) their practice?

* How can we develop some tools for learning-through-research that will enable teachers to access and use others' educational research?

National College for School Leadership

"A great deal of time and effort is being invested in the development of a professional knowledge base for teaching. We are committed to making the maximum use of this by spreading it through the system. This is called 'knowledge transfer' ... The challenges of collecting and validating knowledge of 'what works' are as nothing compared with that of transferring it across the system.

... whilst knowledge is at the cutting edge of human development, it only has its mass effect through the invention and refinement of tools and artifacts which enhance the productivity of work or the quality of experience. In this view, all our efforts should be committed, not to the management of talking shops, but to the design and refinement of tools for learners - whether these be pupils or teachers. People will queue for effective tools; the problem of knowledge transfer will be dissolved."

Desforges, C. (200) keynote address to NCSL e-mentors, NCSL Headquarters, Nottingham, 23/09/04

Emma is a school-based mentor
Emma is a school-based mentor

"Teachers are 'developed' by outside experts, rather than participating in their own development. Unrelated to classroom contexts and teaching practice, bureaucracies tend to create 'one size fits all' solutions that often fail to make distinctions among different kinds of school and classroom contexts, or between the needs of novice or experienced teachers."

Leiberman, A. (2000) Networks as Learning Communities, Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 51 (3) pp. 221-7
This website is to be developed to enable mentors to disseminate their research into their relationships with their mentees. It will be a locus for discussion and sharing innovative ideas.

"Recently action researchers by teachers has begun in Japan, in order to improve lessons. I n this case study, the subject of this research is the teacher's practical teaching ability. In this context, practical teaching ability covers not only the teacher's specific actions but also the 'acknowledgement' and 'judgement' - that is to say 'teaching cognition' - that forms the background to those actions."

Ikuta, T. (2004) A Study of Japanese Teacher's Practical Knowledge by means of an on-going Cognition Method, presentated to the British Educational Research Associateion, Manchester Metropolitan University September.

Sarah and Manami in Niigata December 2004.  We are working together to research action research and mentoring as part of a five year project funded by the Japanese Government.
Sarah and Manami in Niigata December 2004. We are working together to research action research and mentoring as part of a five year project funded by the Japanese Government.

"I argue that the type of leader needed in a school today is a lead learner who is constantly reinterpreting the things which are already understood, then letting go of these former understandings and techniques in order to move the school forward in the best interest of the individual learner. Leaders need an intelligent gaze to be able to look at themselves in a mirror of self-awareness and reflect on who they are as people. Perhaps we ought to ask how we might really help individuals - school leaders, other staff and students - to understand themselves in order to be able to encourage more general learning."

Kenning, S. (2002) The Intelligent Gaze: Leadership. lead learners and the concept of individual growth - a reflective enquiry, National College of School Leadership Report.

"My aim is not to do research, but to develop the education of children. I need to do research to help me improve my teaching. When I explain my practice I can reflect on my thoughts so I can understand children more. This year, I have my goal - this year I would like to find suitable kinds of play for children - because many children can't play. They can't just play by themselves. Sometimes they are bullying so my important work as a teacher is to research suitable kinds of play for children. I often think about this. I have a clear focus. I have a clear focus. I know by watching what children do and watching their expressions and I write notes about many points:

1) My goal for my children

2) How to educate my children

3) What do I feel is best?

4) What can I do for my children tomorrow?

I started action research when I met Tadashi Asada (Waseda University, Tokyo) three years' ago but I have been interested in ac tion research since I attended the action research workshop at Akashi School (run by Sarah Fletcher and Jack Whitehead). Many practitioners and university teachers cannot always understand teachers but gradually some university teachers change and see our children and interview us at school."

Rieko Iwahama, Akashi Elementary School Teacher, Kobe, Japan, March 2003 (video taped interview with Sarah)

Research enabled by Mentoring: Japan December 2004

Sarah Fletcher: Lecture in Niigata 07/12/04
Sarah Fletcher: Lecture in Niigata 07/12/04

" ... faculty come to the scholarship of teaching and learning as experts in their fields, but they're often uncertain how to use the field's concepts and methods to explore teaching and learning. The very idea of documenting and sharing the work of teaching and learning is new to most faculty ..."

The tradition of educational research was that teachers were invisible and anonymous. They were studied by others. They were not individuals, they were clusters of behaviours or cognitions or personality variables. They were the ultimate research subjects, devoid of identity or agency. And if the teachers were subordinated to "instructional treatments" then what could be said of the students? They were even further submerged, captured in average test scores, in percentages of males and females, or in categories of socio-economic status."

Hutchings, P. (ed) 2002, 'Ethics and Aspiration in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,' Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and Learning, USA

In some Local Education Authorities in the UK you can see a range of collaborative activities to support and sustain teachers' research in a way that is nothing short of world class. These schemes which can include a local Journal of Education, available in hard copy and on-line form for distribution to teachers in schools, can be replicated across any contexts where teachers can work with school board officials and members of faculty. I featured the work of Wiltshire LEA teachers in my workshops and lectures in Japanese to explicate the growth and on-going value of school-based enquiry groups supported by LEA funding and tuition and mentoring from university-based lecturers.

Professor Ikuta, Dean of Niigata University
Professor Ikuta, Dean of Niigata University

Sarah's publications include:

Fletcher, S. (2003) Guidelines for DfES Best Practice Research Scholarships Research Mentors, BPRS section of

Fletcher, S. ((2003) A Celebration of Mentor Research in Wiltshire, Wiltshire Journal of Education Autumn Edition, pp.4-8

Fletcher, S. (2002) Wiltshire Research and Development Group, Wiltshire Journal of Education, Summer Edition, pp. 4-6

Fletcher, S. (2002) What's Teacher Research Got to Do with Me? Wiltshire Journal of Education Spring Edition, pp. 4-13

Fletcher, S. (2002) Teaching Teacher Professionalism, Feature Article on the website for the general Teaching Council, January 2002

Fletcher, S. (2000) A Role for Imagery in Mentoring, Career Development International, Vol. 5 (4/5) pp. 235-243

Fletcher, S. (2000) Mentoring in Schools, London, Kogan Page (republished 2004 by Taylor and Francis)

Fletcher, S. 1998) Attaining Self-Actualisation through Mentoring, European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 21 (21) pp. 109-118

Fletcher, S. (1997) From Mentor to Mentored, Mentoring and Tutoring Journal, Vol. 5 (1) pp. 48-55

Fletcher, S. (1997) ITE and Form Tutor Mentoring, Mentoring and Tutoring Journal, Vol. 4 (3) pp. 45-51

Fletcher, S, (1995) Caveat Mentor, Language Learning Journal for the Association of Language Learners, Vol. 11 (March) pp. 39-40

Fletcher, S. (1994) Working with Your Student Teacher, Cheltenham, Stanley Thornes

Mentoring in Schools
Mentoring in Schools

What is Research Mentoring?

"Mentoring should unblock the ways to change by building self-confidence, self-esteem and a readiness to act, as well as to engage in on-going constructive relationships. mentoring is concerned with continuing personal as well as professional development ... it is not synonymous with cloning because it means developing individuals' strengths... The mentee is as much an agent in bringing about effective mentoring as the mentor. Mentoring is about whole school and whole HEI (Higher Education Institution) partnerships."

Fletcher, S. (2000) Mentoring in Schools: A Handbook of Good Practice, London, Taylor and Francis

My definition of research mentoring is distinct because it focuses on self-study through co-enquiry. Both mentor and mentee are seeking to improve their work-based practice.

Fletcher, S. (2005) Research Mentoring: The Missing Link, in Bodone, F. (ed) Qualitative Enquiry, USA, Peter Laing Publications

The Missing Link in Educational Research
This is the paper I gave drawing from my PhD thesis at Tokorosawa Teachers' Centre in Tokyo, Japan, in 2003

Mentoring and Action Research

* mentoring combined with action research can lead to improvements in both teaching and learning.

* video and multi-media can represent teachers' values as they undertake enquiry with their students.

* infrastructures need to be created to support teachers' research at Local Education Authority level - such a scheme exists in Wiltshire LEA - you can see details at on the Homepage.

* mentoring as co-enquiry between educators based in schools and in higher education institutions can create to a growing pool of knowledge that can enrich the profession of teaching in a global context.

How did I choose the video clips to represent our work?

(extracts from a video recorded commentary between Sarah and Emma 03/01/05)

"Mainly they came from looking at what we had achieved from our work together - represented on From the catalogue of the video clips right back to 2001 - the kind of pattern that I am coming to is something like a 'video narrative' - which is built around the idea of a very simple website. So these 6 questions might be the core part".

Sarah: How do you see yourself emerging as a 'Lead Learner' from 2000-5?

Emma: I lead 'alongside' others .. I have an ability to communicate enthusiasm for learning.

Sarah: What are the professional values, skills and knowledge you bring to your role as Advanced Skills Teacher?

Emma: I have an ability to communicate and empathise with other teachers. I have a good linguistic knowledge and I am highly committed to teaching modern languages.

Sarah: What evidence do you have that you embody these professional values, skills and knowledge?

Emma: There is evidence in m y work with primary schools and feedback I receive from other teachers.

Sarah: How has mentoring assisted you in defining and refining your values, skills and knowledge as an AST?

Emma: It has enabled me to be more reflective on my practice, to identify weaknesses and strengths and to look objectively at improving my practice and build on my successes.

Sarah: What practical use has the action research process been to you?

Emma: It has helped me to break down the process of reflection and improvement and to make it public.

 (5.00 minutes)
Emma's movie (This is a large clip. It takes a long time to download)

Emma's Movie

October 27 2003 11.22 am at Sarah's home

Emma puzzles over her MA assignment about her mentoring as Sarah, her research mentor and tutor, asks her questions about her outline

May 29 2001 at the University of Bath, PGCE Group

Emma as a PGCE student as she contributes to her group's presentation on action research, using the TTA competences as foci for research

November 7 2001 9.21 am at Emma's Classroom

Emma starts her first enquiry as a Newly Qualified Teacher working with her tutor group to improve their learning - and her own teaching

February 2 2003 5.14 pm at Sarah's home

Emma reflects on the problem of underachievement among some of her students - and how she could support their learning

June 1 2002 2.47 pm at Sarah's home

Emma works with Sarah to make a bid for a Best Practice Research Scholarship which will fund Emma's attendance at BERA and Sarah's mentoring

February 23 2003 2.57 pm at Sarah's home

Emma jokes with Sarah abut her PhD - and helps her clarify her role as a research mentor studying her practice as she interacts with teacher researchers

July 23 2003 8.50 am MA Mentoring Group

Emma assumes the role of lecturer and mentor to her co leagues in the MA mentoring g Summer School at the University of Bath in 2003

January 3 2005 4.30 pm

Sarah takes the lead on assisting Emma to represent her knowledge - this is the first articulation of how Emma's knowledge might be represented.

Evolving our action research mentoring partnership

1997-9 Sarah studies action research with Jack Whitehead's support

1999-2000 Sarah plans to combine mentoring and action research in her teaching

2000-1 Emma joins Sarah's Post Graduate Certificate in Education Group for Modern Languages

2001-2 Emma continues her work with Sarah as Newly Qualified Teacher, researching her practice

2002-4 Emma undertakes a number of assignments at MA level with Sarah as her tutor at the University of Bath

2004 Emma is awarded Adavanced Skills Teacher Status and she and Sarah transfer to working at Bath Spa

2004-5 Emma submits her final Best Practice Research Scholarship report to the DfES with Sarah's support

2002-5 Sarah develops her websites with Emma's help to disseminate teacher research inter/nationally

How do I, as a research mentor, influence Emma's work as a teacher researcher?

(extracts from a digital video recording 01/06/02)

Emma: You role has always been one of a supportive mentor but has moved on to a sort of co-researcher. I want to give you credit for having a role in my research, though you weren't there all of the time - but without you I probably wouldn't have been able to do it. I think you're a good listener and you create opportunities for me to talk and then carefully, without giving answers, you try to draw ideas out of me using particular questions. Sometimes, it's almost playing Devil's Advocate. I think it gets people to think about the same situation from a different angle. Remeber our last video? You were asking me what it would be like to get the kids to get the questionnaire and the 'dominant teacher' part of me was thinking 'I will do it' because I was thinking there was nobody else. Sometimes, you'll make suggestions without necessarily believing they are the best way forward, more as a way of triggering something within me to come up with a more suitable suggestion. You've made suggestions about using ICT - which me, knowing my school and the facilities, thought 'If only we had what they have at the Language College!' - but we don't. You are giving me ideas and I am thinking about how I could adapt that to my situation. You are saying this happens at School X. You seem to advise me but not in an instructive way - not 'Do THIS!' You are able to build my confidence by using praise and you are always full of energy and enthusiasm about your job. You are passionate about teaching and learning and you infect your mentees with the same enthusiasm and, very importantly, you're honest - and that's essential ...

You're a teacher, researcher and mentor and there's something else too - a research mentor. I was thinking about 'mentor' as for helping PGCE students and 'researcher' as in writing your PhD. I see you draw on your experience as a classroom teacher now you are a 'research mentor' ....

Sarah: What really fires me up?

Emma: I think it's you're helping someone to learn, which is exactly the same as me - only I am doing it with kids."

Choosing a medium for storing teachers' knowledge

"if teachers wish to record their knowledge for others to use, the most common medium has been words on paper. Written records preserve ideas and allow them to be accessed by others. With the advent of video technologies, however, the possibilities have been extended. Knowledge can now be stored in a form of observable examples that make teaching visible."

Hiebert, J., Gallimore, R. and Stigler, J.W. (2002) A Knowledge Base for the Teaching Profession: What would it look like and how can we get one? Educational Researcher, Vol. 31 (5) page 8

Systematising Teachers' Knowledge

"the capacity to reflect on and analyse one's knowledge emerges only after considerable knowledge has been accumulated and embedded in practice. The reflections of skilled practitioners in any field deserve to be systematised so that personal knowledge can become accessible and subject to analysis."

Snow, C. (2001) 'Knowing what we know, Children, Teachers, Researchers', Presidential Address, Division K., American Educational Research Association, Educational Researcher, Vol. 30 (7) pages 3-9

Emma presents her research project Summer 2001
Emma presents her research project Summer 2001

Emma Kirby: Teacher Researcher 2001 - 5

"I began my teaching career in the UK in 2000 after a period of teaching in Mexico, in school and university contexts. In January 2004 I was successfully assessed as an Advanced Skills Teacher and took up my post as AST in April 2004. I became invloved in mentoring in 2000 with colleagues on different levels and more formally with Newly Qualified Teachers and a PGCE student in 2003. My role as an AST currently involves supporting schools in South Gloucestershire in the Primary Modern Foreign Languages Pilot Scheme.

I have been interested in researching my own work - and have used action research as a tool for improving my practice. I started studying towards my Master's Degree in 2001 am currently assisting Bath Spa University College in developing and evaluating MA modules in mentoring for other teachers."

3 January 2005

Emma and her tutor group Autumn 2001
Emma and her tutor group Autumn 2001

What has helped you to become a mentor?

Sarah: What are the factors in your preparation for teaching (as a PGCE student 2000-1) that are enabling you to become an effective school-based mentor?

Emma: I think the school-based training we had - you are in there on the job, thinking on your feet. I don't think the PGCE can prepare you for life as it were, the practical pressures on your time, and providing practical solutions

I think because my experience was recent and I had recent experiences of mentoring. I have had some good mentoring and some pretty rubbish mentoring - it's enabled me to be a better mentor.

Whether it was the nature of the PGCE I was on, or the group - or the teacher - I don't know. But that openness and willingness to discuss issues and identify weaknesses as well, but openly and without shame ... but I sometimes think people who have been in the job for a very long time and have never had that sort of feedback on their practice, to have someone come and tell them - can be quite scary and quite unnerving and quite threatening - depending on how it is done. So I hope my experience in mentoring helps me to help other people to identify their weaknesses in a non-threatening way."

Video taped conversation January 3 2005

Emma leads learning at MA Mentoring Summer School 2003
Emma leads learning at MA Mentoring Summer School 2003

Emma explicates her professional knowledge

"How can I help my tutor group to work better and improve their learning?

"How can I undertake educational enquiries in a way that will help my students and me to learn?"

"How can we address the issue of boys' underachievement at Hanham High School?"

All of Emma's writings and her AST report can be accessed at

Best Practice in Writing up Teachers' Research

(3 drafts over 4 days with e-mentoring)

Emma's Best Practice Research Scholarship Report (Extracts from Draft One)

(These questions were supplied to all BPRS award winners by the DfES)

1) What are the main learning points you have gained from undertaking your BPRS research?

(no entry ...)

2) What evidence relates to this learning and your findings?

* My accreditation as an Advanced Skills Teacher

* Accreditation of my work as part of my Master's Degree

* The establishment of a mentoring scheme at Hanham High School

* Being regularly asked to mentor staff outside my teaching subject area

* Leading a session at the University of Bath Summer School in Mentoring in 2003

* Assisting with a presentation on Research mentoring with Sarah Fletcher at the British Educational Research

Association Annual Conference in Edinburgh September 2003

3) What are the questions for your future practice?

* How can I evidence the benefits of good quality mentoring of staff in pupils' learning?

* How can I assist my NQTs to improve their practice and develop personally and professionally?

* How can I further assist my school in its provision of mentoring as CPD for all staff?

* As an AST, how can I assist other schools in developing a culture of mentoring as a tool for improving CPD?

* How can we ensure mentors are well trained and have time for planning and meeting with mentees as well as

time for observation of colleagues lessons and debriefing after observing?

4) References

No references given ...

Between draft one and two there is a mentoring session by telephone between Sarah Fletcher and Emma Kirby - Sarah video records her discussion as part of her on-going work to see how she might improve her e-research mentoring with teachers.

Emma's Best Practice Research Scholarship Report (Extracts from Draft Two)

1) What are the main learning points you have gained from your BPRS research?

It has helped me to realise that informal mentoring is equally useful to formal i.e. when it is not restricted to a formal relationship. Spontaneity can be useful in both formal and informal mentoring which is why mentoring cannot be restricted by specified times. Shern's definition of 'reflection-in-action' has helped me to understand the dual role of mentoring as reflection on past practice/observation and reflection whilst in the process of doing something. (Shern, date?) I have become a more effective mentor because of the feedback I have received from my mentees and from my mentor.

The main learning points I have gained from undertaking the research are:

* That mentoring cannot be restricted by time and place.

* Mentoring is most valuable when contingent and that when mentoring is restricted by time it results

in lost learning moments and and opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee.

* To contribute, through my mentoring, to my own professional development and that of other staff.

(CUREE, 2004)

* To develop a culture of self -organised learning through mentoring within the context of the school

as a learning organisation. (Senge, Fletcher, Coombs)

* To identify and disseminate, through face to face and web-based technology, good practice in


4) What are the questions for your school?

* How can we create an environment in which mentoring becomes an integral part of CPD?

* How can we build upon good practice to provide opportunities for mentees to become mentors?

5) Are there any questions for further research?

* How can we develop mentoring practices to improve staff morale and retention across the profession?

* How can we collect and use data to evidence that mentoring can and does improve teaching and



(No references give ...)

Emma's Best Practice Research Scholarship Report (Extracts from the Final Version)

1) The main learning points I have gained from undertaking my BPRS research are:

* Mentoring should not be restricted by an insistence on specifying time and space for it to occur.

* Mentoring is most valuable when 'contingent' since, when mentoring is restricted by time, there are

missed learning moments and opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee.

* The importance of mentoring in personal as well as professional development.

2) What evidence relates to this learning and your findings?(unchanged from Draft Two)

3) What are the questions for your future practice?(unchanged from Draft Two)

Are there any questions for further research? (unchanged from Draft Two)


Colley, H. (2003) Mentoring for Social Inclusion, London: RoutledgeFalmer

CUREE (2004) Mentoring and Coaching: Consultancy for Capacity Building London

Fletcher, S. and Coombs, S. (2004) Mentoring, Action Research and Critical Thinking Scaffolds, promoting and sustaining practitioner research through reflective practice, Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Conference, Malaga, Spain, November 5-7

Fletcher, S. (2001) Improving Mentoring with Action Research and Digital Video Technology, Links Journal, Spring, Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CiLT) accessible at Sarah's Writings section of

Fletcher, S. (2000) Mentoring in Schools, London, Taylor and Francis

Fletcher, S. (1997) From Mentor to Mentored, Mentoring and Tutoring Journal, Vol. 5 (1) pp. 48-55

McNiff, J. (2002) You and Your Action Research Project, London, RoutledgeFalmer

QAA (2000) The Standard for Initial Teacher Training in Scotland, accessed at on November 29 2004

Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Dimension, New York, Currency DoubleDay

Schon, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner, USA, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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