Evidence for the Future and the Future for Evidence Elspeth McCartney, Helen Marwick University of Strathclyde HEA Social Sciences Conference 21, 22 May 2014, The Studio, Birmingham
Looking back from the future • Now, in 2064, ‘teachers’ are only one, limited, source of information, with no claim to intrinsic authority • Learning is lifelong, pervasive, pluralistic and liquid • Learners are properly sceptical, and interrogate claims about expertise and the validity of information
Teachers are similarly sceptical • They expect to teach using classroom practices with demonstrated evidence that ‘work’ to enhance pupil learning • The ethics of using methods and approaches unsupported by research evidence has been challenged • Practices that show ‘poor’ evidence are now decried as an assault, time wasting or inconsequential
The rights of diverse learners • Challenges to non-evidence-based practice came in the early 21st Century from representatives of pupils with developmental, social, religious, cultural and linguistic differences • Their experiences had not always been heard
A badge of an ethical professional • Teachers and learners sought evidence as available in social care, health, and personal development settings • This was provided, moving from feasibility studies, to counterfactual randomised studies, then real-world implementation studies, and checking for long-term effectiveness of approaches
DoctorsEducationalists, with the best of intentions, often do harm and they do it often on a very, very wide scale before they realise that they should have been more diligent about demanding good evidence for the basis of their practice.
Implementation science came in • Educational studies were judged for quality • Many failed, and better studies ensued • ‘What Works?’ slowly became an answerable question in some curricular areas
Political mandates reduced • Learning approaches were no longer mandated as manifesto commitments unless they met rigorous levels of evidence • Otherwise, authorities and schools could be sued by parents
If we win power, reading will be taught in the traditional most effective manner.
Policy studies developed • Evidence from policy studies using large scale data sets was also applied • Studies showed inequalities of educational outcome for pupils raised in areas of social deprivation and in poverty, and for those with disabilities and language diversity
Better understandings • This led to better understanding of the cumulative effects of disadvantage • Actions by health, social and educational services at all levels lessened health and educational inequalities
A range of evidence-based approaches can reduce the attainment gap. These span: high-quality, pre-school education; whole-school reforms based on timely, relevant data; and closer partnerships between home and schools.
It was expensive • Trials were costly, but clarified many practice issues • Some showed little difference between approaches • Policies of equality, diversity and social justice were sustained
Teachers’ views were considered • Reviews of teachers’ views of research had shown negative as well as positive views • These were similar to those of health staff moving towards ‘evidence based medicine’ • Here are paraphrases of some positive views:
Having research evidence for practice prevents inappropriate or time- wasting activities in class.
Without strong research evidence for good practice, teachers can be pushed into doing whatever politicians dictate.
Having research evidence for practice allows teachers to justify their professional decisions.
Educationalresearch is often not applicable to individual classroom situations.
Teachers are less interested in research if they believe that the intention in sharing the research evidence is to impose a particular style or model on their teaching.
Teachers have concerns about their ability to evaluate research information. Research is often full of jargon and statistics that are hard to understand.
‘Practitioner’ research is associated with emancipatory, democratic and theoretically-informed approaches that encourage reflective practice.
Whereas ‘What Works’ research is seen as an oppressive, dictatorial, descriptive and theoretically naïve approach that stifles reflective practice.
Clearly, views are important • Little was known about student teachers’ views as they progressed towards practice • HEA-funded research addressed this, with a focus on students’ views of educational research about diverse pupil groups • In line with the HEA theme of the contribution of HE to teacher education
The strategic project • HEA Social Sciences Strategic Project ‘Developing workshop materials summarising evidence-based classroom approaches to support student teachers in responding effectively to issues of diversity and inclusion’ • Now in the past - January - July 2014, Strathclyde University. Will discuss the situation then.
Outline of the project • Collection of applicable education research evidence: • from Faculty staff, as a scholarly community • and from targeted literature searches
Two types of evidence • Large research studies that provide information on the relationships amongst bio-psycho-social aspects of child experience and educational attainment
Two types of evidence • ‘What Works’ reviews of classroom interventions. In 2014 there were few completed UK examples • The US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences ‘What Works’ Clearinghouse (WWC) reports relevant to diverse populations
Workshop format • Workshops were piloted on Strathclyde PGDE, BEd and BA Childhood Practice teaching students • Participants respond to questionnaires pre-, post- and a month after the workshop
Workshop format • Participants decide whether statements similar to those presented above are ‘Not close to …’ or ‘Close to my views’. • They read and discuss a summary of policy research and a WWC Quick Review.
Policy example used: all courses • Sosu & Ellis (2014). Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/education-attainment-scotland-summary.pdf
WWC examples used - Quick Reviews: • BACP: Head Start Impact Study: Final report • BEd: Reciprocal Teaching: Students with learning difficulties. • PGDE: Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A difference-education intervention improves first-generation students’ academic performance and all students’ college transitions. • All http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/quick_reviews
Information sought • Participants are asked at the start of the workshop about their uses of research evidence in their teaching practice, its utility, sources and any problems. • They discuss whether they know about the sources (JRF, WWC) of the examples, and whether they are surprised at the findings
Information sought • Participants are asked about translating the evidence in the workshop examples into their practice, and how it could become more informative for teachers • They are presented with potentially useful websites
Information sought • The post-workshop questionnaire asks about the impact of the workshop, and to suggest how research could be made more useful for students by universities • The follow-up questionnaire asks whether they have accessed websites, and about their intentions and any changes of views
So far (May 2014) • Academic colleagues have supplied a range of research material • Critical policy studies and reviews of evidence, and ‘What Works’ classroom studies were requested • However, policy reports, research on teacher education and analyses of large pupil data sets were received, but no ‘What Works’ examples • Literature searches found these
So far (May 2014) • Workshops are being piloted for feasibility with small numbers of volunteers from the courses • We will then review the workshop materials and investigate scaling up the numbers of participants
Next steps • The workshops may provide insights into student views, and what support they will need as they move into the new evidence-based teaching profession future.
However: back to now, 2064 • Is the future outlined at the start the one the teaching profession still wants? • Is the conceptualisation of evidence agreed? • Was the effort worth the change?
However: back to now • Medicine recognises the need for ‘real life’ studies after RCTs, to monitor effectiveness. • How did/will education cope with translational/real world applications?
Discuss? • Thank you for listening.
Key readings • BERA (2014). The Role of Research in Teacher Education: Reviewing the Evidence. London: BERA • Connolly, P. (2009) Paradigm Wars, Evidence and Mixed Methods in Educational Researchhttp://www.paulconnolly.net/publications/ pdf_filesTERN_Presentation_2009.pdf • Florian, L. & Pantić, N. (2013), Eds. Learning to teach. Part 2: Exploring the Distinctive Contribution of Higher Education to Teacher Education. York:HEA • Helmsley-Brown, J. & Sharp, C. (2003). The use of research to improve professional practice: a systematic review of the literature. Oxford Review of Education, 29 (4) 449 – 470. • Schleicher, A. (2012), Ed. Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century:. OECD Publishing.