Anne Clough has won the 2016 Marie Butterworth Prize for Excellence in Practitioner Enquiry. Marie Butterworth was a keen advocate of teacher research, an active participant in a number of ECLS research projects, a CfLaT research fellow and a local deputy head teacher. ECLS is making this award in her memory to celebrate her enthusiasm and achievements. Anne was a part-time Masters student whose dissertation related to the choices that English teachers made related to texts to be taught at GCSE and what the significance of their choices were.
She was presented with her award at a CfLaT research tea on 25th January 2017, during which she shared her motivation for the research and her findings. We were pleased to welcome Steve Jones, Marie’s husband to this event and he was able to talk about how Marie had faced similar decisions as a former Head of English. Laura Mazzoli Smith, Anne’s supervisor was also present. Anne’s work has relevance due to the current curriculum reform at secondary level in England. During the course of her research Anne gathered questionnaire responses from over 100 English teachers (making good use of twitter to elicit respondents) and undertook interviews with local Heads of English. Her findings exposed nuances in decision making, but also exposed tensions, for example the restrictions imposed by the current austerity measures as they affect schools and how the curriculum is resourced, and the influence of pragmatic decision making around time and money.
The decisions that were being made about texts to be taught by the subject community enabled her to reflect on questions of cultural and gender representation (of authors and characters), how teachers balanced the risks of teaching new texts compared with the familiarity they had with existing ones, the question of the value given to texts which were considered to have relevance to children’s lives compared to how literature might extend their awareness beyond their own direct experiences. Her dissertation work was the culmination of meaningful participation in practitioner enquiry throughout her M.Ed degree, and the award is a reflection of Anne’s innovation, attention to detail and reflective and analytical approach.
Anne has recently been appointed as Head of English at St Mary’s Catholic School in Longbenton, Newcastle. She is using her research in support of the decision making she undertakes in her role, as well as the support and encouragement she can offer colleagues facing curricular and pedagogic decisions.