Teacher involvement in research communities makes no difference to pupils' outcomes, a new study has found.
A trial conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) did find some evidence of a positive relationship between teachers’ interest in academic research and pupils’ outcomes – but this was unrelated to whether or not they were members of a research learning community.
The EEF study states: “In recent years, there has been an international trend towards the use of evidence to inform practice. Both in the UK and internationally, greater focus has been placed on addressing the gap between research evidence and professional practice…
“For instance, initiatives such as ResearchED in the UK have aimed to bridge the gap between research and practice in education by bringing together researchers, teachers, and policymakers.”
To test whether membership of research learning communities, such as ResearchED, made any difference to pupils’ outcomes, EEF conducted a trial in 159 primary schools.
These schools were given access to a programme devised by the UCL Institute of Education, to facilitate access to – and discussions about – high-quality research evidence.
The average cost of the intervention was £860 for each school, or £3 per pupil, over three years.
However, the academics found no evidence that membership of a research learning community improved reading outcomes for children at key stage 2.
Exploratory analysis identified some evidence of a small positive relationship between teachers’ disposition towards research and pupils’ outcomes. However, this was irrespective of the teachers’ involvement in a research learning community.
The project did appear to have a positive effect on teachers’ disposition towards research. However, the EEF states: “There was…some evidence that this impact may have been influenced by other factors, such as the level of postgraduate qualifications or seniority of teachers that took part in the intervention.”
'Far from straightforward'
Some teachers told the EEF that it could take a number of years’ involvement in a research learning community before there was any impact on their teaching practice, or on pupils’ outcomes.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “Teachers and school leaders now have access to a significant and growing body of academic research, with enormous potential to improve pupil attainment and save schools money.
“But we need to make sure that research findings get into the hands of teachers in ways that are most likely to have an impact.
“Getting teachers to engage with research is far from straightforward.”
Tom Bennett, founder of ResearchED, said that he was unsuprised by the findings of this study. "The thing about the EEF is that they're looking for some very definable, quantifiable outcomes, like have pupils' improved," he said. "But, with research, you might be looking at something that happens over several years.
"Really, the best way to get research into people's classrooms in a meaningful way is to get it into teacher-training, or as a long-term professional-development programme."