The axiom of the Field Centre is practice enhanced research – research enhanced practice.
Our goal is for all RMT staff members to understand themselves as reflective practitioners, carrying out “research with a small r” – a continuous questioning, observation and refinement of their own practice with students. Beyond this, a growing number of staff either hold or are working toward Doctorate or Masters degrees and are involved in research activity focussed on the Trust’s method of Practical Skills Therapeutic Education.
All our research findings are disseminated through the RMT Practitioner’s Guide, HEaRT training and development, and research journals and conferences. Most importantly, this serves to develop staff practice for the benefit and impact of student progression. This is a research culture we are proud to be developing throughout the Trust, with research becoming a normal part of staff development.
Practitioner research: improving our work
Practitioner research, the first of our three research domains, includes all research carried out by RMT staff on their own practice. All Trust staff are invited to participate in periodic research events focussing on a different contextual theme. We also support staff to develop their own research as an integral part of our various training courses, through secondment and by means of bursaries for course fees and expenses, and by directly supporting specific research projects.
Senior staff are regularly seconded on a part-time basis (typically one day a week for a set period) to research the development of our curriculum in different areas. Current and recent projects include developing a master document for therapeutic pedagogy in green woodwork, research on best practice in the integration of drama and music within the student offer, and research on the bee curriculum.
Goethean research: underpinning our method
Our PSTE method draws on the insights of Rudolf Steiner, John Ruskin and William Morris. Developing and renewing PSTE requires a critical investigation into their contributions, as well as an ongoing reflection on what they mean in the modern world. To this end the Field Centre supports research into the life and works of Steiner, Ruskin and Morris. The Field Centre also employs Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s method of integrative scientific enquiry recognising both the significance of this method in its own right and the important role that Steiner played in editing Goethe’s natural scientific work.
Outcomes research: engaging with stakeholders
RMT also supports a range of research within various different academic disciplines, partnering with various universities to explore PSTE and the student impact, evidencing the value of our approach. This is accomplished by bringing together practitioner research directly informing how our staff work with students, and Goethean research on the theoretical underpinnings of PSTE.
We are also increasingly a locus for research by independent external researchers seeking to explore the research outcomes.
Applied research outcomes: the Three-Stage Process
A characteristic example of the impact of research on our practice is Julie Woods’ research on how our students learn. Julie’s MA research into the PSTE method identifies three stages in the student learning process: 1) helping our students overcome barriers to learning; 2) becoming skilled through doing purposeful activities; 3) contributing to the community. We have developed this three-stage process as a tool for assessing student progress and needs and, importantly, it now forms a central part of our discussions with students, parents, and external stakeholders.