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Seek and ye shall find

Sheilah Jackson's thoughtful piece (TESS, last week) about the need to seek and critically appraise evidence for the effectiveness of teaching practices and programmes was most welcome.

Of course, there are practical difficulties. Teachers are very busy and do not have the time to systematically seek out and evaluate all relevant evidence. What they can do is sharpen their critical faculties and apply them to claims they encounter in passing.

There is also the issue of what should be counted as "evidence" : different professionals and stakeholders often have very different criteria in this regard. There are also many gaps in "the evidence" - and teachers have the task of somehow joining up art, craft and science into a seamless whole that works in practice.

Managing all this is extremely demanding. Yet diverting valuable enthusiasm into some evangelised tangential novelty just makes it all the more difficult.

More please, Sheilah.

Keith Topping

Professor of Educational and Social Research

University of Dundee

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