Two and half years ago in August 2014, following the completition of my MEd, I became involved in clicktivism. I started a campaign to call for free access to research journals for teachers in England and Wales. I set up an e-petition on Change.org. I used Twitter as a platform to canvas for support and to highlight the importance of research in a teacher’s professional development. Very quickly, my petition attracted attention from many educators and other professionals and individuals who were equally, if not more, passionate about education.
Many signed my petition and left testimonials explaining why they supported the campaign. Many engaged in numerous conversations on Twitter with me and one another regarding the pros and cons and many other issues related to “free access to research journals”. There were a few who were sceptical about such an appeal, questioning teachers’ abilities to use research to improve their practice. I refuted these argument and insisted on one single belief – access is fundamental to teacher professionalism. Professional autonomy was only a rhetorical wishful-thinking without the actual empowerment through knowledge construction and sharing.
Without professional self-determinism, teachers would be forever in the mercy of arbitrary policies in a top-down model. Teachers would always be at the subjugation of political whims and ideological dogma. Teachers would never be in the position to do their jobs without constant interference or changes whenever a new fad came along.
I wanted to change that.
My e-petition has remained open and it has had over eight hundred signatories. It has since inspired a similar petition created in the Netherlands by Dr Frank Cornelissen who achieved so much more through his endeavour. His campaign has won the support of the Secretary of State of the Netherlands, Sander Dekker, and his colleagues in the Open Science Conference during the Dutch Presidency, 2016. I felt profoundly humbled by the invitation of the organisers to make my case during the same conference led by Dekker and the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, in Amsterdam. Not everyone supported my cause, but all appreciated my effort. I felt deeply honoured to be involved in the drafting of the European Call of Action on Open Science.
Then Brexit delivered a bitter irony to my belief in knowledge without borders.
If there’s anything remarkable in my simple quest, let it be the quiet and unwavering support from all those eight hundred and more individuals who share my pursuit. Two and half years have witnessed many changes in the landscape of British education. Nicky Morgan was replaced by Justine Greening, the Conservative government quickens its pace in marketisation of education, expansion of grammar schools and funding cuts for schools, all of which have far-reaching repercussions.
Without access to research, indeed, without any tool with which to evaluate or challenge received wisdom, teachers remain a passive participants in education at best, complicit in perpetuating damaging policies and such a status quo at worst. Critical engagement in education is at least possible through taking part in research, as a reader, participants or conductors. Access to research is fundamental to a teacher’s critical professionalism.
Teachers as change agents shouldn’t remain a wishful slogan; it can be a reality.
It is worth mentioning that during the early days of my one-person campaign, debates about the setting up of a “Royal College of Teachers/Teaching” and a “Chartered College of Teachers/Teaching” were also taking place. During my campaign, I also learned about the Scottish (GTCS) and the Irish Teaching Council’s offers of access to research via their respective memberships. Following the successful establishment of the Chartered College of Teaching by Dame Alison Peacock in January 2017, teachers in England can finally gain access, through their membership, to the research database provided by EBSCO which also serves Scottish and Irish teachers.
It is clear that paying – regardless of the amount of the fees – for access is not the ideal outcome of my objective. It is a significant step forward nonetheless. A step towards a more critical engagement with, and reflection of, educational research amongst teachers. To some extent, it may just be possible that teachers can finally take the epistemological control over their professional and pedagogical knowledge to inform their practice for the betterment of the students and for the improvement of the teacher professionalism.
It would be presumptuous of me to make any declaration of success of, to claim any credit for, or even to suggest a direct cause to, the real possibility to access research for teachers in England. Nevertheless, I take a quiet pleasure in knowing that a link can be drawn from the set up of my petition in 2014 to the continuous effort to make access a universal entitlement for all teachers in England and Wales. To make such an ideal a reality requires conviction, courage and commitment.
If you are still interested in my story, the link below will take you to my “one year on” update:
If you would like to sign the petition, you can find it here:
Schools Week have also covered my petition on three occasions, starting with the latest: