Getting started as a researcher

What does it mean to be a practitioner-researcher?


One way to view practitioners as researchers is as 'practitioners who actively think about changing their practice share certain attributes. These are: (i) reflective; (ii) responsive to and respectful of learners; (iii) closely engaged with local enterprises; and (iv) reaching out to learn from and share their own knowledge with other practitioners. These four qualities appear to establish the bedrock from which practitioners can set out to seriously consider rebuilding their practice.'  (Figgis, 2009, Regenerating the Australian landscape of professional VET practice: practitioner-driven changes to teaching and learning: research overview, NCVER, Adelaide, p.3)

Action research (AR), practitioner-led action research (PLAR) and participatory action research (PAR) are all used in curriculum development, professional development and institutional improvement:

  • AR, and PLAR
    • help to improve and involve communities of practice by addressing critical educational problems and the situations in which these problems take place,
    • create a presence in policy decisions that impact the profession,
    • require practitioners to be self-reflective of their own educational process and how this process meets the learning needs of students.
  • PAR
    • is used to address broader knowledge and social change in community environments,
    • emphasises participation and action through collective inquiry and experimentation in relation to life, experience and knowledge within a community context.

Developing a research proposal

Examples of practitioner-led research

  • Excellence Gateway research portal: developing your practice: engaging with and using research [UK]
    This site aims to help practitioners engage with and use research to develop professional practice.
  • International Specialised Skills Institute [Victoria, Australia]
    The ISS Institute International Fellowship program supports many Australians and international leaders across a broad cross-section of industries and sectors to undertake applied international research that benefits economic development through vocational training, industry innovation and advancement.
  • NCVER Communities of Practice collection
    This collection brings together the published papers from NCVER's Community of Practice program, Academic Scholarship program, and the Building Researcher Capacity initiative.
  • Praxis 2016: improving education practice through action research
    In 2015, TAFE Queensland partnered with Griffith University to pilot a Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program. Pods of educators were established at TAFE Queensland Brisbane and TAFE Queensland Gold Coast. The program provides professional development in research practice, including an opportunity for our educators to undertake an action research project meaningful for them in a highly supportive environment. This publication features nine case studies from the 2015 CPAR program. These case studies demonstrate scholarly reflective practice across a variety of themes, including blended learning, technology utilisation, workplace learning, and sustainability. They also feature a diversity of teaching disciplines,including: veterinary nursing, community care, early childhood teaching and TAFE Queensland's Language and Literacy Services (TELLS).
  • Transforming practice in long day care: an action research project (article, 2019)
    (Source: International Journal of Training Research)
    TAFE SA created a new model of long-term support and engagement with the early childhood and schooling sectors across the state. One example of a long-term professional learning engagement with an early childhood service became the focus of an action research project, enabling systematic analysis of evaluative data to determine the impact of professional learning activities on educator practice. The action research project and its outcomes are presented in this paper.

NCVER research and statistics

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Information sources

Free resources

Research databases

  • VOCEDplus
    VOCEDplus is NCVER’s bibliographic and full text database of international vocational education and training research and related value-added resources. The bibliographic database has a citation tool which is useful for generating reference lists or for importing references into your EndNote library. The VOCEDplus document delivery service can be used to access copies of publications in VOCEDplus not available online.
  • ERIC
    Education Resources Information Centre, is an international education research database produced by the Institute of Education Sciences in the US.
  • Google Scholar
    A web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across a range of publishing formats and disciplines. Its citation index lets you know how many times a piece of work has been cited.
  • VET-Bib
    VET-Bib is a bibliographic database of mainly European vocational education and training (VET) research produced by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP).

Statistical data

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
    The ABS is Australia's national statistical agency and is the primary source of statistical information about Australia, it's people, economy and environment. The website provides statistical summaries, publications, links to other statistics websites, and detailed information about statistical collections.
  • Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) statistics
    This central source of Australian open government data provides access to anonymised public data published by federal, state and local government agencies.
  • Education datasets
    (Source: Queensland Government data)
  • Education GPS [international]
    (Source: OECD)
    Analyse by country, explore data and review education policies.
  • HILDA Survey
    (Source: Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne)
    The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a household-based panel study that collects valuable information about economic and personal well-being, labour market dynamics and family life.
  • International student data
    (Source: Australian Government Department of Education and Training)
  • Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY)
    A study that follows young Australians over 10 years, from their mid-teens to mid-twenties, as they move through school to further study, work and beyond.
  • OECD
    • Tertiary education [international]
      (Source: Our World in Data)
      Using interactive data visualizations and summarizing the scientific literature, this non-profit website brings together the data and research on the long-run trends reshaping tertiary education around the world.
    • VET data
      NCVER collects data about the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector through a number of statistical collections and surveys. You can also use VOCSTATS to construct your own tables via an interactive web interface, using data from various NCVER collections.

    Related VOCEDplus resources