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Jess Child
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Creating a research-engaged school - a guide for senior leaders

Research published this week by the National Foundation for Educational Research and the United Learning group of schools gives an insight into how teachers use research evidence in the classroom and what they feel are the most effective approaches to engaging with research and using it to inform their practice.

It is accompanied by a practical guide for senior leaders called Creating a Research-Engaged School that helps them explore with their teams the approaches that can be adopted to make greater use of research evidence in their schools. The easy-to-read guide provides a menu of building blocks for developing a research-engaged school culture together with help to assess a school’s current situation and how to take research-engagement forward.

The research contributes to the growing debate around evidence-informed teaching practice by providing a clearer picture of what current evidence-informed practice looks like, the benefits of engagement and how to develop a culture of evidence-informed practice.

Key findings from the study are:

  • Overall, engaging in research evidence was perceived to encourage practitioner reflection and open-mindedness. Teachers’ openness to engaging with research and adopting different pedagogical approaches were considered to make lessons more engaging for learners.
  • Interviewees believed that teachers benefit from evidence through its use to inform professional development and through the confidence acquired from implementing new approaches.
  • Senior leadership team (SLT) members explained the benefits of using research evidence to drive school improvement initiatives; to substantiate the reasons behind change; and to underpin staff professional development. Additionally, creating the right environment to nurture a culture of EIP was considered critical.
  • Creating the time and space to engage in evidence, and making it easy for teachers to engage with evidence (by for example having support from external experts) were also viewed as important.

Carole Willis, Chief Executive of NFER, commented: 

'For our schools, and the young people they serve, to gain maximum advantage from the best available evidence, research organisations and schools have to work together. That is why I’m delighted with this partnership between United Learning and NFER, investigating how teachers can use research to inform and improve their practice. I hope the findings will be of practical benefit to schools, particularly those seeking out new ways to integrate evidence-use into their practice.'

Jon Coles, Chief Executive of United Learning, said: 

'The importance of an evidence-based approach to learning is clear but it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and identify what approaches deliver the best outcomes in the classroom. This report helps to identify some starting points to engender a research-based culture both within a school and within a subject. It provides a helpful guide for senior leaders on how to explore their schools’ current situation and suggests strategies to encourage and support the growth of their own research-engaged culture.'

The research report: Teachers’ Use of Research Evidence can be accessed here.

The Senior Leaders Guide - Creating a Research-Engaged School can be accessed here.

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