Who drives evidence-based education?

4 December 2017

Author: Marcus Jones: Research and Literacy lead, Huntington

When I was an NQT education felt like it was being driven by a class of 30 year 8 students who had me strapped onto the bonnet as they careered recklessly across multiple lanes of traffic.

As I gained (a little) control it felt like it was being driven by my Head of Department; when I eventually took on that role myself perhaps I felt like I got to do a bit of driving myself, with a kindly Headteacher acting as driving instructor (complete with dual controls, should they be required).

Now being part of a Research School starts to open up your days to an ever more vast array of people, organisations, boards, working groups, trusts, alliances, authorities, officials and charities, who all have a stake in education.

Several of these stakeholders met last month at a CEBE (Coalition for Evidence Based Education) conference to reflect on what evidence had done for education over the past 10 years, and what the coming decade might hold. There were contributions from a range of speakers, but one I found most striking was Huw Davies (from the Research Unit for Research Utilisation at St Andrews) speaking about ‘Archetypes of knowledge mobilisation practices.’

Huw has worked primarily in the field of healthcare, and written about the components of an ecosystem that are required to ensure good patterns of practice across a profession. His work has identified eight different archetypes and it was interesting to consider who in the educational ecosystem is fulfilling these roles, and whether that will enable a healthy and sustainable future.

 

A – Pushers: research producers such as the EEF

B – Brokers for own research: any number of education products

C – Brokers for wider research: a role fulfilled by someone like the IEE

D – Advocacy: such as CEBE

E – Facilitation and uptake: turning research into practice, such as the Research School network

F – Co-production: schools may be part of SSIF bids for example

G – Communities: such as Research-Ed

H – Advancing the knowledge field: All the above?

 

That final group seems particularly interesting. Is that a government role, or is it essential that all the stakeholders play a part – classroom teachers included?

As normal when I leave an event like this, I found myself slightly overwhelmed by everything I had just heard. How can so many different entities ever really coalesce in an efficient manner to bring the meaningful change mentioned in archetype H? I was strapped onto the front of the car again, and this time facing a convergence of different stakeholder cars.

The train journey brought some perspective though. The most heartening part of the day was that all the different stakeholders at CEBE were, at their core, in agreement. Research matters. It is useful and it has a role to play in education. The cars actually are all travelling in the same direction.

And to continue to make the journey a successful one it seems that going back to my NQT year might help. In the first instance, you look to control what you can in your immediate surroundings. As a Research School through our training offerings, our distillation of research, and our support for school funding bids, we hope to spread a greater knowledge about the practical use of research through the educational ecosystem.

With other archetypes, at their core, trying to accomplish the same, it seems that the research journey can continue to be a drive worth taking.

Posted on 4 December 2017
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