One of the fundamental and most important purposes of educational research is to provide evidence to bring about effective practice in the classroom.
Teachers know this only too well, of course. They draw their wealth of knowledge about what works and is effective in teaching and learning from their own observations and experience, but also from the evidence that has been amassed on the subject by educationalist researchers and academics.
Accessing evidence can be a challenge, however. Where do we go to look for research that is robust, relevant and valid? What do we do with that information once we’ve read it – assuming we have even found the time to do so? How do we translate and interpret evidence and adapt it into effective practice?
With ministers impatient for reforms to show progress in the fastest possible time, how long is it acceptable to wait until that evidence has proved results - one GCSE year, or more? We know how cohorts of pupils can return varying results from one year to next, even with consistent teaching and content year on year. But we get only one stab at getting it right for pupils as they go through the school system.
Not enough time is spent finding out what good evidence is, how to understand it and how to use it to the most positive effect to help us to become better educators. There is also often a mismatch between the difficulties we face as educators, and the timely availability of solutions to help and support us.
Technology in the classroom
We must find solutions to these problems in the learning sciences, as in any other discipline. Bridging the gap between our understanding of how learning takes place and the use of technology and other innovations in teaching is one of the great challenges for everyone working in schools in this period of the 21st century. At no point before have these strands dovetailed as they do now. A good example of this is how advances in artificial intelligence have been made possible through our increased knowledge of neuroscience and how our brains work.
Next month we will be learning about technology during the Practitioner Day at the London Festival of Learning. The event, which is being held at UCL Institute of Education, will comprise three major education conferences under one roof for the first time ever, bringing together world experts and academics in artificial intelligence, the learning sciences and technical innovations in education.
These are the most respected research conferences in the field, and present an ideal opportunity for practitioners and other stakeholders to engage with key researchers and evidence.
The festival’s Practitioner Day, on 26 June, has "bridging the gap" as its theme and aims to tear down some of the barriers blocking access to good quality and relevant research, and tackle the problem of a lack of timely output. It will bring together researchers, policymakers and practitioners, including teachers, in a quite unique networking and collaborative opportunity.
It is important that evidence is interpreted within the context in which it was generated, whether this be a particular country, educational setting or type of learners. The presentations and discussions will focus on research that addresses the challenges teachers face in the classrooms, and in school as a whole, and the search for interventions that might help and support teaching and learning.
These are important conversations that need to be had, and not just in the setting of an academic conference. By sharing knowledge and opening up opportunities for discussion, we start to see much-needed collaboration between all the main players – learning scientists, educational technologists and educators – who will shape how our education systems look in the future.
For more information, visit: www.londonfestivallearning.com and use code tespromo2606 to get a 50 per cent discount on a Practitioner Day ticket – a saving of £50.
Professor Rose Luckin is chair of learner-centred design and director of EDUCATE at UCL Institute of Education. Her new book, Machine Learning and Human Intelligence: the future of education for the 21st century, is published on 22 June