What is TALE about?

TALE is a research partnership between Royal Shakespeare Education, Tate Learning and the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacies, School of Education, The University of Nottingham. It is funded by Arts Council England.

Our research focuses on the contribution that cultural organisations can make to teachers’ ongoing professional development and to the learning of their students.

Both RSC and Tate have long recognised the value of investing in the professional development of teachers. Both organizations are committed to improving teachers’ practice, and therefore pupils’ understandings, attainment and experiences of visual and performing arts. Both have programmes geared to deepening teachers’ pedagogic disciplinary knowledge and know-how, which is widely accepted as the key to improving teacher quality. Both programmes challenge some of the orthodoxies of book-bound, narrowly target driven teaching methods which alienate many young people, and ironically contribute to producing the poor attainment they were intended to redress.

Tate and RSC have adopted innovative but different approaches to teacher CPD:

(1) The Royal Shakespeare Company offers school-focused professional development in which key teachers work alongside RSC professionals to embed RSC rehearsal room approaches to Shakespeare’s texts across a national network of schools. The RSC offer is rooted in the real-world work of actors and directors in the rehearsal room and explores the interpretive possibilities of the text. Teachers are encouraged, as learners, to get out of their seats, and use their bodies, minds and emotions to get to grips with poetic and metaphoric language and the texts. They then take these approaches and use them in the classrooms. They are supported to consider how they can make the teaching of the only compulsory author in the national curriculum more vivid, accessible and enjoyable.

(2) Tate Schools and Teachers team offers individual teachers the opportunity to engage in immersive experiences, either through a network, or through an intensive Summer School which takes place at the gallery. Through encounters with artists and artist mediated materials teachers are encouraged to experience, as learners, the pedagogical principles of open-ended, critical aesthetic inquiry. They are supported to consider how they might curate learning in which pupils question, explore, challenge, play and interpret. St Ives and Liverpool also focus on individual teachers but within the context of their schools.

These two different models of teacher development, one focused on the individual teacher and the other on the teacher within their school setting – provide a unique research opportunity. We are able to investigate their different affordances and benefits, for teachers and their pupils.

At the same time, the research will support the two organisations to learn from each other, strengthen their partnership and provide much-needed national and international longitudinal evidence about the impact of the two CPD approaches.

This, in turn, will provide essential information to inform the development of the sector more widely. The research questions

This research asks four questions:

(1) What do teachers learn from deep engagement with cultural organizations?

(2) How do teachers translate this learning into classroom pedagogies?

(3) What do pupils gain from these learning experiences?

(4) What do the two different models of teacher professional development offer and achieve?

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