Evidence Matters: Towards informed professionalism in education

Evidence matters image

What the resource is:
The resource is a CfBT publication that is focused upon the way in which knowledge about educational practice is produced and put to use.


The paper begins by examining the recent impact of research evidence on educational policy and practice before then presenting recommendations for more effective structures and relationships in the future. A case is made for the transference of ways of working from other fields in which there is a continued interface between the research task and the practice setting. This would necessitate a move towards large scale and longer term projects that engage directly and symbiotically with practice. It is argued that these changes would be facilitated by a central validating structure and an ongoing technology and knowledge transfer between researchers and practitioners. The importance of the success of this enterprise for public finances and educational outcomes is emphasised throughout.


The aims of the resource:
The resource aims to consider how the impact of research on practice can be increased most effectively over the short and longer term. It recognises the funding that is currently allocated especially by government and analyses this in terms of success of outcomes. In the Foreword, Professor Charles Desforges very pithily sums up the challenges of the present context, by saying that "Researchers are lost in thought; practitioners are missing in action". As well as an examination of the current situation the paper makes strong and particular recommendations for greater efficacy and impact in the future.


Key findings or focus:
The main findings can be summarised as follows:

  • That there is a wide range of sources of research evidence - academic, governmental, independent, and practice based
  • That the increase in knowledge and information has not led to  consistently positive or verifiable outcomes
  • That evidence from other fields indicates how access to the rich variety of information may be enhanced through authoritative, electronic portals
  • That knowledge for practical use would be generated more effectively from the combined interactions of professional researchers and practitioners
  • That a direct engagement with practice would be facilitated by larger scale, longitudinal projects which informed practice within an ongoing process of Development and Research
  • That some reconceptualising of roles is necessary to enable lessons to be learned from other disciplines as well as to ensure the best outcomes of developmental activity informed by research


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
This paper presents a very readable and informed survey of the current relationship between practice, policy and research. It proceeds to put forward a persuasive argument for a different and more effective way of conceptualising these relationships in order to improve impact and efficacy. One of the paper's strengths is the emphasis on the ways in which educational research and practice can learn from other disciplines in order to enable a more productive level of engagement and outcomes. The wide ranging and well informed basis of the discussion lends weight and credibility to its conclusions. The concluding remarks of Professor Charles Desforges, that the paper should be "required reading for anyone who wants to surpass current educational goals and save public money", is testimony to the clarity and power of the argument presented.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
For any ITE course that emphasises the importance of practitioner enquiry, this paper would serve as a good way of encouraging an awareness of the critical and discursive arena where policy, practice and research meet. It may be most useful as an introductory piece of literature in order to illustrate the need for thought as well as action both within the classroom and beyond. The clear and straightforward argument may encourage an informed appraisal of current levels of effectiveness as well as a positive recognition of the role research might play if properly combined with practice.


If students are engaged in their own school or classroom research then it would provide a lucid and engaging way of linking the particular to the wider context.


The paper may also serve as a thought provoking discussion piece for groups of ITE tutors and other educational researchers when considering their rationale for engagement with external agencies and organisations. The perspective fits very well into a ‘value for money', business approach which increasingly informs the decisions of HEIs and sponsors of research.


The relevance to ITE students:

  • It provides a clear and articulate analysis of the current position regarding policy, practice and research.
  • The argument that research conducted separately from practice has little impact and effectiveness may be particularly pertinent to students working across university and school contexts.
  • Conclusions are made forcefully and strongly so that a particular set of recommendations can be engaged with critically.
  • An understanding of the wider discourse of the place, role and effectiveness of research may be especially valuable for those who are conducting small scale or action research as part of their studies.


The substance and emphasis of the paper combine positively with the basic tenets of the Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL) regarding evidence-informed practice.


Reviewed by:

Karl Cain


Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:

Burkhardt, H. and Schoenfeld, A.H. (2003) "Improving Educational Research: Toward a More Useful, More Influential, and Better-Funded Enterprise". Educational Researcher, Vol. 32 (9) pp. 3-14

Nisbet, J. (2005) "What is educational research? Changing perspectives through the 20th century". Research Papers in Education, Vol. 20 (1) pp. 25-44

Furlong, J. and Oancea, A. (2005) Assessing Quality in Applied and Practice-based Educational Research. Oxford University Department of Educational Studies

Furlong, J. and Oancea, A. (eds) (2008) Assessing Quality in Applied and Practice-based Research in Education: Continuing the debate.  London, Routledge

Authors :

Morris, A.

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CfBT Education Trust

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