Putting evidence to work

With the resurgence of interest in evidence-based research in education, whether arising from randomised controlled trials conducted in classrooms or from cognitive science, there’s an on-going question about how we can get this evidence into the hands of the people who can best make use of it: Teachers. This issue, sometimes called the knowledge mobilisation problem, was the topic of a recent piece of research conducted by Teach First.

Putting Evidence to Work’ involved interviews and consultations with a range of academics, researchers and practitioners from education, psychology and related fields. I was really struck by the sheer generosity with which our respondents gave up their time to contribute to our thinking; so I’d like to say a big public ‘thank you’ to all of them:

Becky Allen, Tom Bennett, Daisy Christodoulou, Rob Coe, Kevan Collins, Philippa Cordingley, Caroline Creaby, Becky Francis, Ben Goldacre, Jonathan Haslam, Jennifer van Heerde-Hudson, Gary Jones, Paul Kirschner, Julie Nelson, Ben Riley, Jonathan Sharples, Phil Stock, John Sweller, Alex Quigley, Yana Weinstein, David Weston, Dylan Wiliam, Dan Willingham.

Their insights were combined with a short review of literature examining the barriers and ways forward for supporting teachers and school leaders to make the best use of research evidence. Whilst I hope the report accurately represents the many great ideas they contributed, I should make clear that our conclusions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect their views.

The report – which can be accessed on the Teach First website – lists some great resources for teachers and examines how these might be introduced over time to help teachers exercise a ‘professionally sceptical’ stance towards the kind of research evidence they will come across over the course of their careers. It also discusses a process of applying evidence to classroom practice which I hope is relevant to teachers and school leaders.

The gap between emerging research evidence and classroom practice is a difficult one to bridge – as I’ve reflected on myself in this blog over the years. Hopefully the report adds something to the discussion about how we can better achieve this – so that the best available evidence can inform, challenge and refine our professional judgement as teachers. If you read the report and have comments or ideas you’d like to share about it, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.

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4 Responses to Putting evidence to work

  1. David F says:

    This is great and thank you for doing it. In the US at both public and prvate schools, our biggest challenge with evidence based ed is getting our admins on board—very often they are swayed by board members, ed consultants (often having presented at a conference where the admin was present) or ed tech salespeople.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed reading the report, some valuable points and discussion made. Many references to how teacher training may be improved with a view to improving research based practice – all good. But I feel it is very important for teachers to learn about the history of education – the ideas, initiatives, practices over the last 150 years or so, how they originated and developed and why. Without this, there is no framework or basis to develop the professional insight into education that a teacher needs. Sounds like a large topic to cover but the key points could be communicated over a several weeks of lectures and readings.

    Liked by 1 person

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