What the resource is:
These resources, including five research briefings, are published by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) as it draws close to its conclusion in September 2009, and are entitled: Impact and Significance, 'Evidence based policy': What evidence? What basis? Whose policy?, Assessment of significant learning outcomes, Making a difference: Collaborating with users to develop educational research and Transparency in planning, warranting and interpreting research. The brief of the TLRP, based at the Institute of Education at the University of London, managed by the Economic and Social Research Council and commencing in 2000, was to explore the contribution of research to evidence informed policy and practice. In addition to increasing the quality and quantity of educational research, it aimed also to contribute to the improvement of learning outcomes within the United Kingdom. As such it attracted support from higher education and research funders around the UK, and the five reports reflect the range of research activity, as well as presenting the authors' views of the implications resulting from the programme.
The report entitled Impact and significance presents summaries of the conclusions arising from the substantial range of research undertaken into education across the life course. Evidence based policy adopts a philosophical approach to explore the relationship between diverse forms of enquiry and how they contribute to, or influence, policy, whereas that of Making a Difference has a more pragmatic value, since it examines whether collaboration between researchers and users generates a synergy resulting in greater user engagement with research. Assessment of significant learning outcomes explores the complex relationship and tension between the intentions of those designing curricula and restrictive assessment methodologies, and lastly, Transparency in planning, warranting and interpreting research presents an analysis of different types of research questions ranging from those relating to the overall design to those relating to specific research issues such as design.
The aims of the resource:
The resource aims to share the substantial research evidence accumulated throughout the nine years of the TLRP, as well as share concise summaries of the collected authors' views on the implications of the programme for those involved in education, whether they be at practitioner, researcher, or policy-maker level.
Key findings or focus:
The main focus of the TLRP has been to enhance knowledge about teaching and learning across the life course in order to contribute to the evidence base informing policy. The findings are summarised in each, and since these are substantial, the following examples are intended to illustrate the flavour of the findings which will hopefully indicate which of the reports will be of interest to the reader, if not all.
The Impact report provides separate information bites of the research evidence generated about teaching and learning across the life-course, for example, how research shows that learning is most effective when teachers in schools use established principles of learning. These principles include pupil consultation, assessment for learning and the development of thinking skills. Succinct overviews such as this form the body of this part of the resource and relate to learning throughout the life-span.
The Evidence based policy summary suggests that, although ideology, normativity and educational values and principles are central to policy, there is still a role for scholarly endeavour in these areas. The resources of the academy in political sciences, social theory, ethics and philosophy can, and should, all be brought to bear on policy formulation. The conclusions in this report will resonate with many practitioners and researchers. The authors note that those who commission research might spend a little more time reflecting at each stage of the process on whether policy recommendations have been arrived at too quickly, and without a clear understanding of the trajectory of the problem in hand. This may result in more time being allocated to the diagnosis of a particular educational challenge before jumping to the prescription for the cure.
Seven categories of learning outcomes are proposed in the report on the work of the TLRP in Assessment of significant learning outcomes. These are: attainment, which is often based on the school curriculum or workplace competence; understanding of ideas, concepts and processes; cognitive and creative construction of meaning; using or engaging in processes or systems; higher order thinking and metacognition; dispositions and motivations; and membership or inclusion, self-worth and willingness to contribute to the learning group. The constructs underpinning a programme of learning should be clear to both teachers and students if the programme is to be interpreted in accordance with the intentions of those designing it. The alignment of assessment to curriculum is best understood as a complex synergy of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.
The key findings presented in Making a difference relate to the research process. Based on a series of five one-day seminars, this aspect of the TLRP focused on the importance of engaging the users of research in the research process. The report includes some very clear analyses of the different types of research and why user engagement in research is advantageous. Research needs to reflect current and emergent priorities, and be accessible, if it is to be of use to practitioners during the research process, as well as being shared with communities of practice once complete.
Finally, the Transparency report focuses on the principles of planning research, and it includes a step-by-step approach to formulating research questions to aid planning research. It also includes a mind map on how to interpret research.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
These summary reports reflect the considerable output of a well publicised programme of research, and as such, the quality is very high, as are the authority and credibility of the findings.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
These comprise a very valuable resource. The overview of research provided in the Impact report should be recommended reading on initial teacher education programmes in both the compulsory and post compulsory sectors. It will be very useful for those new to masters level work, since the contribution of research to our understanding of effective practice is transparent. Both tutors and mentors will find the report on assessment very helpful when addressing assessment for learning.
The relevance to ITE students:
This resource raises the profile of high quality research, and explores the links that already exist between theory and practice, as well as indicating that more care is needed to reflect on the evidence base when developing as practitioners. Since each report is very accessibly written, students will find them very useful starting points for exploring educational research and how it impacts on educational initiatives in schools and colleges.
Dr Anne Bore