The work of the the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT) builds on the work of two previous research centres in the former Department of Education: the Centre for Teaching for Understanding and the Thinking Skills Research Centre. CfLaT was established in 2002 and is now nine years old. It is embedded in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences (ECLS). It has established itself as a driving force behind teaching, learning and curriculum innovation and as a foundation for research capacity building across the School and the Faculty.
Since being established, the Centre has had a changeable membership due to staff leaving for promotions in other universities. At its largest it included around 26 members; currently there are 13 full members and 10 associates. We have taken strategic advantage of the nature of the learning and teaching field so that our research and consultancy work can be closely linked to our teaching. The Centre operates at a critical, but complex cross over between these different aspects of members’ professional and academic careers (see figure 1). It provides a research ‘life raft’ which draws together the different threads of work within ECLS, acknowledging the complexity of different roles whilst also providing a pragmatic approach for combining perspectives.
Figure 1: Understanding where the work of the Centre fits
The aspiration of the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching is to be an authority in the research and practice of learning and teaching lifelong and lifewide. We are widely recognised as an effective University partner in developing research-led practice with a growing reputation for pragmatic collaboration and improvement in the field of learning and teaching. The Centre has a strong orientation towards applied research and impact. This has been developed through a range of work exploring a variety of innovations all of which address the educational experience and outcomes for learners. CfLaT takes a dynamic approach to improving its research pedigree and its ability to deliver practical education projects within a sustainable and viable commercial framework. We measure our reputation and recognition partly through evaluations from peers and partly through the impact of our work on educational thinking and organisations. We gauge this from both from success in research funding, demand for our dissemination outputs and also demand for our services and collaboration.
Our vision is realised through large national projects which break new ground and help generate new concepts, tools and frameworks and smaller projects which apply, refine and add validity to this knowledge. Alongside this, a targeted and strategic communication strategy has been developed which includes a rapidly evolving website, an annual conference and two national publications for the practice community, all of which aim to disseminate good evidence-based practice. We are aware that this approach needs conceptualisation for our peer community. Improving our standing involves the CfLaT management team continually addressing and improving the following areas of operation:
• The quality of CfLaT’s links with other Newcastle researchers, national and international research groups and learning practitioners in the search for conceptual and pragmatic synergy.
• The promotion of research-based teaching and learning across the University and the practice community with greater links made across different aspects of members and associates roles.
• Collaborative research programmes with schools, networks and Local Authorities to improve learning.
• Assessment of the skills and experience of CfLaT’s membership.
• The volume and quality of published work from CfLaT staff and associates.
• Development of an appropriate business ethos that will aid the sustainability and growth of CfLaT.
• Learning from best practice examples of national and international Research Centre operations (globally) within and outside our disciplines.
CfLaT is committed to the creation and translation of knowledge about teaching and learning in a range of contexts: schools, universities, workplaces, families and communities. We believe that collaborative partnerships and equality between the different sectors on which we have impact is essential. These relationships are based on a reflective research cycle (which mirrors an effective teaching and learning cycle), operating between the Centre and educational practitioners and stakeholders. The output of this process is the co-creation and transformation of knowledge. In this way we facilitate the development of understanding of learning and teaching as well as an appreciation of how research on learning and teaching can support this process. This broad approach is illustrated by the diagram below. This model is continually being developed, however it is flexible enough to be used as a basis for planning research projects, consultancy, dissemination events and teaching.
To download a poster detailing the general work of CfLaT, please click here.
We are concerned to create and utilise activity and working spaces in which we and our partners can reshape thoughts and practices. These are achieved via a series of linked communities of practice, within the university and beyond, structured around project and consultancy work, debates about research methods and epistemology and a range of dissemination strategies. Effecting change in learning and teaching requires an understanding of the connections and dissonance in systems and the iterative development of theoretical and practical knowledge. Our work is exemplified by some of recent high profile projects that relate to the following themes:
In addition to these areas of research, CfLaT conduct work on several key themes which cut across these areas and our projects: