Role of research is to find out what works

30th January 2009 at 00:00

Scotland's education system will have to work more effectively with existing resources to meet the improvement targets it has been set, the head of the Scottish Government's schools division has warned.

Colin MacLean told education researchers at the final conference of the Applied Educational Research Scheme (AERS) last week that the education community needed to know what worked, how to make it work and whether it was working - and that was where research had a role to play.

Under the concordat deal between local and central government, single outcome agreements gave prominence to frontline services. That meant that the focus was on classroom teachers, in the case of education, and everyone else involved had to demonstrate how they could add value.

Stephen Baron, AERS co-ordinator, reminded delegates that the scheme had been set up because the RAE in 2001 had shown a decline in the quality of educational research in Scotland.

Although the 2008 RAE showed progress, a key challenge was to ensure that colleagues from a classroom background in initial teacher education were given the support to become active in research. He also challenged the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government to encourage collaboration rather than competition between institutions.

Professor Baron was particularly concerned that the major responsibility for research activity in education was being given to local authorities, under the terms of the concordat. "That will inevitably lead back to piecemeal, ad hoc, small-scale evaluations," he believed. "The idea of a sustained national effort in terms of educational research does not sit well with the concordat."

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