Think research

1st May 2009 at 01:00

I welcome any measure that focuses attention on teaching and learning in the learning and skills sector, but am less convinced about the priority of setting up a "think tank" ("Think tank to stimulate college debate", April 17).

The sector needs systematic empirical research to show what works in teaching and learning and what doesn't. At Curee, we mine the research literature to extract and reveal this evidence to educationists and policymakers. For schools, this means sifting a lot of gravel to find the nuggets. For FE, there isn't even much gravel.

I used to think this was a problem in the British system but, having just got back from the American Educational Research Association annual meeting, I realise it is a global issue. Some 15,000 researchers from around the world gathered for a week to share research. Of more than 900 sessions, only 13 were about student learning in the post-secondary sector.

There were nearly 100 sessions about the sector, but most focused on management, access and diversity, finance and success rates. In our experience, this echoes the preoccupations of researchers of the British post-secondary system too. We need to give priority to generating a lot more evidence about teaching and learning in the sector. Then we can think about it.

Paul Crisp, Managing director, Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (Curee).

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