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Research at work HannaHannah is currently in her fifth year of teaching art in an 11-18 secondary school. She trained in Fine Art at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and recently completed the Masters in Educational Practice (MEP) at Cardiff University.

2015 was an interesting year for me, particularly during the summer holiday. Starbucks in Cardiff Bay became my second home. I made friends with the man who worked in the boat club and we’d take it in turns to get each others’ filter coffee refills, I had a seat which if someone else sat in, I’d be flustered for few minutes working out where else to sit, and I’d spend an unprecedented amount of time logging on and back off the internet, trying to get it to work as it was struggling with the pressure of the countless teachers and other MEP students using Starbucks’ wifi as their home office.

In this summer, I was pulling together the different sections of dissertation for my MEP and it was the hardest summer of my life. However, I’m sure that you’d also not be surprised to hear, that it was also the most rewarding.

In 2012, I enrolled on the MEP (Masters in Educational Practice) and the summer of 2015 was my final chance to write up the data I collected from a small scale research project as part of my dissertation.

Looking back over the three years, with a particular focus on my dissertation, there are three things that I’ve learnt, which are:

1. Try and separate your research and home life as much as possible

A work/life balance is so important and I think us teachers are pretty awful at it. Therefore, I think as much as you are able to, it is important to separate your research and home life. I tried to make sure that during school breaks, part of my routine was to wake up early and drive to Starbucks because that degree of separation helped me to switch off when I got back home. I also found that I really enjoyed writing up my research and talking about it (much to the dismay of my husband, I’m sure!) This made it harder to separate my time, therefore, if you are in a position to physically separate your time between different spaces, then I found it useful to do so.

2. Be prepared to give up holidays, knowing it’s short term

As mentioned, I became passionate about my research and would speak to anybody about it, and that passion meant that I wanted to put all of my energy into making sure that I did it to the best of my ability. That means that realistically, for a short term at least, school holidays became time dedicated to writing up, researching and organising my data. I found that it wasn’t something that I could just dip into on a weekend, but something that took real time and energy to make sense of. Whilst giving up holidays in the short term, the long term impact it has had on my teaching far outweighs this.

3. Talk through your project as much as you can when in school

When you’re in school, talk about your project with other practitioners as much as you can. You will be surprised at how interested they are, and I found that other staff became really invested in my project and would ask how it’s going. it can sometimes feel lonely spending large chunks of time writing but I found it comforting that my co-workers were interested too. I also found it useful to talk through my ideas and progress with them because it helped me to rationalise and make sense of my project when speaking it aloud and explaining it to someone else.

All in all, whilst the MEP is the most challenging thing I’ve done, ultimately I look back at it and feel a sense of pride and achievement, especially as I see the impact that the different knowledge and skills I’ve gained have had on my practice and therefore the learning of my pupils. I also made some excellent Starbucks friends.


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