Building a culture of evidence and research use: Selected reading

Research Reviews
Author: Cat Scutt

A collection of articles, blogs, tools and resources to help you embed research in your school

There has been a growth in interest in evidence-based practice in the teaching profession over the last few years. Evidence-based practice is all about bringing together academic research, professional experience and judgment, and evidence and data from within your own context.

For many schools, embracing evidence-based practice has centred primarily around helping teachers to access, read, reflect on and make use of published research to support their decision-making and professional confidence.

Other schools are also looking at supporting teachers to engage in their own small-scale practitioner research projects to measure the impact of new initiatives in their own setting.

Both of these approaches, planned and managed well and taking into account the need to avoid increasing workload, can form an important part of a schools’ CPD approach.

This collection of research articles, blogs, tools and resources is designed to help you think about how (and why) you might seek to embed a culture of research use and / or practitioner research and enquiry in your school. They are all either freely available, or available through your Chartered College membership.

Some of the articles included may present opposing viewpoints, and ones which may contradict your own viewpoint or experience. They will provoke thought and discussion, rather than telling you exactly what you should do in your school. The views within do not necessarily represent that of the Chartered College.

1: Research and evidence engagement in education

What is evidence-based practice and why does it matter?

Dr Gary Jones’ 2018 article for CEM outlining a definition of evidence-based practice.

The interim issue of Impact, journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, themed around engaging with and using evidence in practice and containing a wide range of articles on this topic.

Professor Rob Coe’s original 1999 manifesto for evidence-based education, arguing the case for engagement with research, and its 20-years-later follow-up reflecting on progress and continuing priorities.

Ben Goldacre’s oft-quoted 2013 article, ‘Building Evidence into Education‘, credited with driving some of the current interest in evidence-based practice, which makes links between medicine and education and argues for the value of RCTs.

Teaching as an evidence-informed profession

Education Development Trust and ResearchEd’s 2015 report on the problems and possibilities of teaching as a research-engaged profession.

A 2018 report from the Wales Centre for Public Policy, looking at how to promote teachers’ engagement with research evidence.

The Royal Society and British Academy’s report Harnessing Education Research looking at the current state of educational research, considering all parts of the ecosystem, from evidence commissioning to dissemination and use in practice.

A short article by Rachel Lofthouse looking at whether classroom practice based on research is practical and desirable.

A 2014 research report from the Wellcome Trust looking at how teachers and, interestingly, parents, believe neuroscience research is affecting education and learning.

An Impact article by Professor Stuart Kime, looking at how a culture of research and evidence use might be developed at a system level.

A Q&A with Philippa Cordingley, exploring challenges, opportunities and approaches for teachers using research and evidence.

Leading research and evidence use in schools

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Education (CEBE)’s 2017 guide on leading research engagement in school, which includes both guidance and examples / case studies.

The EEF’s guide to implementing approaches based on evidence in schools, ‘Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation’.

A 2006 report on ‘Leading a research-engaged school’, produced for the then National College of School Leadership – although a little dated, this may still be of some interest.

NFER’s 2014 research report looking at ‘What works and why’ in developing the use of evidence in the classroom.

David Godfrey’s 2014 research article on cultivating a research-engaged culture in schools, with a strong focus on the importance of leadership; this is a freely available pre-print of this journal article.

An Impact article by Megan Mansworth, exploring different approaches to developing research and evidence engagement in her school.

Two 2015 reports from Education Development Trust and ResearchEd about school research leads, the first exploring the idea of such a role and the second reporting the results of a small-scale study into the practices of school research leads in practice.

A blog by Carl Hendrick articulating why having a research champion or research lead in school is important.

Evaluating schools’ evidence and research culture

Mike Coldwell and colleagues’ 2017 research report for the DfE, looking at progress towards evidence-informed teaching in England, with useful descriptions of what evidence-informed schools look like in practice.

The 2018 evidence-engagement self-assessment toolkits hosted by the Chartered College of Teaching, including a whole-school and an individual-teacher self-assessment framework, based on Mike Coldwell and colleagues’ research into evidence engagement in schools in England.

NFER’s Self-Review Tool, an online tool that allows you to assess how engaged in research and enquiry your school is.

NFER’s 2019 research briefing for the EEF, reporting the findings of a survey asking teachers about their use of evidence and research.

Challenges in evidence and research use

Beng Huat See’s research article challenging the quality and validity of much evidence from education research used to inform policy and practice.

A blog by Greg Ashman highlighting some possible problems with the existing evidence base, and the implications this has for the notion of ‘evidence-based’ teaching.

An article by Gert Biesta about the issues with a “What Works” approach to evidence-based practice.

A journal article by Adrian Simpson looking at some of the problems with meta-analysis as a means of determining ‘what works’.

A Tes article by Dylan Wiliam, arguing that teaching is too complex for research to ever be able to tell teachers what to do.

A guest blog on the Australian Association for Research in Education website arguing that there are problems with the notion of using scientific research in education.

A 2017 news article from the EEF summarising the results of trials into teacher research engagement, highlighting the challenge in actually influencing pupil outcomes.

A 2019 blog from Tom Sherrington outlining some things that ‘controlling’ schools often do that have little or no basis in evidence; modelling evidence-informed practice as a leadership level is important if you are promoting evidence-informed teaching!

An Impact article by Bob Burstow, looking at the question of ethics in schools involved in carrying out research.

A short blog by David Didau reflecting on the differences between notions of being evidence-informed and research-informed.

An article by Mel Bond for BERA around the extent to which teachers are involved not just in using research, but in conducting it and publishing it, based on analysis of content and authorship of journal articles.

2: Evidence engagement

The benefits of evidence engagement

A guest blog for What Works by Shaun Allison, looking at how engaging with research can reduce, rather than add to, teacher workload.

A 2018 article by Sam Freedman for the ResearchEd magazine, looking at how evidence can be used to inform decision-making.

A short article by Cat Scutt for Inside Government looking at some of the reasons that engaging with evidence is important.

A Telegraph article featuring Tom Bennett and others arguing for the importance of engagement with research evidence to tackle myths in education.

Tim Cain’s article for Schools Week looking at how engaging with research can increase teacher agency.

An article for the Guardian by Mark Enser that outlines various benefits to engaging with research.

A (long) report on the Evidence for the Frontline project that connected researchers with practitioners to respond to their questions around research.

Evidence engagement as a form of CPD

A blog from Huntington Research School explaining how they integrated a process of ‘disciplined enquiry’ based on research into their performance development process.

An Impact article by Sam Sims, looking at how Teacher Journal Clubs might be a powerful way to support teachers in engaging with and making use of research evidence.

Beth Greville-Giddings’ website about education journal clubs includes a range of tips, resources and links to help teachers to run their own education journal club.

An Impact article by Claire Badger and colleagues, outlining how they introduced Teacher Learning Communities in their school.

An Impact article by Dr Gary Jones looking at how engaging with evidence might help teachers to develop their practice.

The ‘That’s a Claim’ website, including a range of concepts to support teachers and school leaders in responding critically to claims made about the effectiveness of education tools, approaches or resources. It is part of a cross-profession project, so you can also view a section on healthcare and other fields.

Sources of research and evidence aimed at practitioners

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) website, including a teaching and learning toolkit summarising international evidence on teaching, a series of guidance reports,  and opportunities for your school to be involved in research trials.

The EEF’s Research School Network, who provide local support and training, as well as blogs and other content.

Best Evidence in Brief, a free newsletter and website providing regular, short summaries of new research summaries and a searchable database of all previously summarised studies.

Impact, journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, provides termly, themed journals covering a range of topics and article types. The Chartered College member site, My College also provides a range of other research-based content, including research digests with implications for classroom practice.

The What Works Clearinghouse is an American site similar to that of the EEF, summarising the evidence around different approaches.

The website of the Learning Scientists contains downloadable resources, blogs, videos and podcasts all about using approaches in the classroom that are based on cognitive science approaches.

Chris Moyse’s series of very short summaries of education research papers is really helpful for time-poor teachers.

3: Practitioner research

Practitioner research as a form of CPD

A 2000 article from Rob Coe and colleagues, based on a round table, looking at the role of practitioners in evidence-based education and debating the kinds of research teachers can carry out and their value; although slightly dated, many of the arguments are still relevant.

An Impact article by Clare Rees outlining how they reworked their performance management approach to include a focus on action research.

Jonathan Firth’s 2016 article for ‘Education in the North’ explores the potential for research engagement and practitioner research as forms of CPD, as well as presenting an example of how a school has set up a research centre.

A 2017 Impact article from James Mannion that argues the case for teachers engaging in practitioner research to understand the impact of their practices on student learning.

A qualitative evaluation of the Spirals of Enquiry approach to practitioner enquiry piloted by Whole Education.

An article by Professor Chris Brown about his ‘research learning communities’ approach to supporting teacher research engagement, which involves teachers engaging in structured enquiry based on research.

An Impact article by Sarah Seleznyov about Japanese Lesson Study, a particular approach to enquiry in schools that involves collaborating in groups of 3 teachers.

Carrying out practitioner research

NFER’s set of ‘how-to’ guides to support teachers in carrying out research, including guidance on planning and running research, designing surveys, focus groups, and conducting Randomised Controlled Trials.

The EEF’s DIY Evaluation Guide, providing guidance on how to evaluate the impact of interventions or approaches in your setting.

The Chartered College’s member website, MyCollege, containing a range of resources to support teachers in using and conducting research, including two series of compact guides about different topics around research. These include a guide on asking good research questions.

Consideration of ethics is important in any research project, including practitioner research – useful resources include:

James Mannion’s  useful introductory guide to ethics on his website

The British Educational Research Association (BERA)’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, providing provide widely-used guidance for researchers.

A blog by Nick Rose, exploring some of the practicalities of ethics and research in schools.

Examples of practitioner research

An Education Development Trust publication providing an overview of twelve teacher-led Randomised Controlled Trials, looking at how scientific forms of research can potentially be carried out by practitioners.

Education Development Trust’s 2016 Research Review Report, containing write-ups of nine practitioner research projects carried out in schools in the CfBT Schools Trust.

James Mannion’s website Praxis Teacher Research, an online journal site containing a large number of practitioner research write-ups.

The ResearchED magazine contains a range of articles and reviews about research use, including perspectives and reflections on research. ResearchED also run a series of high-profile events across the UK and beyond.

An Impact article by Jonathan Firth about a practitioner research project looking at spacing and interleaving in the classroom.