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Our agenda is firmly rooted in classrooms

Roger Murphy, Nottingham University and president of the British Educational Research Association

The aim of the Teacher Training Agency to build a more research-based profession is laudable and one that it shares with the British Educational Research Association. There is a danger, however, that the TTA, as a relative newcomer, may not yet understand the state and relevance of educational research in Britain.

Myths about ivory-tower academics can live on after they should have passed away. Nearly every education researcher takes their agenda from the challenges currently facing schools. Many work directly with teachers on classroom problems and have ensured that teachers contribute to the data that are collected. And almost all now realise the importance of communicating their findings in ways that teachers can understand.

Research that no one reads is no use to anyone.

Of course, good research is not always popular research. Sometimes researchers' findings challenge the status quo. For a healthy educational system to emerge, researchers must be encouraged to have longer-term horizons.

The education system, more than ever, faces crucial questions. What drives effective teaching and learning? And how can it best be assessed? How can we harness the developments in information technology to improve the educational opportunities of all UK citizens? What are the consequences of the rapidly expanding system of higher education - can quality be maintained?

Research has much to say about each of these questions. It is not the only source of answers, but it represents the best chance of finding them and is an essential part of the process of forming long-term policies.

The Dearing Committee reviewing the future of higher education intends to initiate research projects to help inform its deliberations. In doing so the committee will emulate the excellent example of the National Commission on Education, which incorporated commissioned reviews of educational research into its report.

Educational research in the UK is certainly alive and well. The examples given below demonstrate how it can illuminate the ideas and practices of pupils, parents, teachers, policy-makers and politicians.

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