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.