Read, read, have a cup of tea and read some more

I’m now a couple of weeks into the Masters course and it’s dawning on me just how much material there is out there.

To be able to write intelligently in my assignments and in my dissertation (come the New Year), I need to read around the subject as much as I can.

There is a quote that goes something like:

“The more I know, the more I realise I don’t know”

That is certainly holding true with me.  Every paper has more references for you to follow up so my pile of papers to read is growing taller by the day.  Deciding how to prioritise my reading is a bit of a fluid undertaking such that the decision is never really ‘made’.

In my case I am following a lecture series in order get the benefit of some of the theoretical underpinnings of educational research.  My assignments, however, are all focused around a separate project I am going to be running, alongside my supervisor and an external partner.  So, against every instinct I have, I am not simply making my way through the module reading list.

Instead, I am delving deeper into the existing body of knowledge on teacher’s use of – and attitudes towards – data in schools.  It’s a relatively new area of research but there are plenty of people who have gone ahead of me whose work will help to define my decisions.  The advice we were given in the first lecture (“read, read, have a cup of tea and read some more”) is certainly proving useful so far but, far from making me feel better informed, I am just beginning to realise how much there is yet to learn!

There is also plenty of work out there that is linked to my research questions but not specifically in the same field.  For example, I have found a number of journal articles that deal with measuring teachers’ attitudes towards IT, primary science, or whatever.  There are things I can learn from this sort of work that will also influence my decisions.

What is interesting to me, however, is that where many of these articles may have been written in other contexts (e.g. the US, the Netherlands or Flanders), it is difficult to draw direct comparisons with what I am concerned with, namely the English and Welsh educational system.  This context is probably the most data-rich and accountability-driven educational system in the world.  As such, it will not be possible to simply assume that what holds true in the Netherlands, for example, will automatically hold true here in England.

Such are the dilemmas I will be facing.  The prospect of what is in front of me is already making me feel the same way as the author, whoever he or she was:

“The more I know, the more I realise I don’t know”