01 SES 16 C, Evidence-informed Practice: International Perspectives, Problems and Opportunities for Teacher Development
Across the world, there are calls from policy for education practice to become more 'evidence-informed'. This is often framed in terms of 'what works', with the view that, if research can discover what works, and education professionals can both implement 'what works' and cease doing what doesn't work, the quality of education will improve and this will be recognised in terms of student outcomes.
The 'evidence-informed practice' movement, with its rallying call of 'what works’ (e.g. Goldacre, 2013) has profound implications for teacher development because it frames teacher development as a matter of discontinuing practices which have been shown to be ineffective and replacing them with those practices which are demonstrably effective. In so doing, it is likely to replace humanistic values such as inclusion, social justice and emancipation with instrumental values of ‘what works’. The implicit aim of evidence-informed practice is not necessarily one that strives for just and democratic schooling, but one in which all the important educational outcomes are visible and measurable in terms of students’ test results.
Evidence-informed practice is therefore highly contentious (Biesta 2007, 2010; Hammersley , 2013). On the one hand, it can be argued that educational research is being moved from a peripheral status to have a more central role, both in policy and in practice. This presents new opportunities for researchers to work closely with professionals and to achieve practical impact for their research. On the other hand, there are well-founded concerns that conceptualisations of ‘evidence-informed practice’ that focus primarily on the 'what works agenda', reduces research to experimental trials, and practice to techniques and strategies. If these concerns are realised, evidence-informed practice will contribute to an already prevalent view of education in general and schooling in particular as wholly concerned with instrumental values – values in which international comparisons, based on students’ test results are seen to dominate policy and practice.
This symposium will examine the potential benefits and pitfalls of evidence-informed practice for the continuing professional development of teachers. Throughout the papers, the conception of evidence-informed practice, as a technique or strategy (or a set of techniques or strategies) that can be used by teachers, is examined and critiqued. In its place, we argue that a deeper and more accurate conception of evidence-informed practice sees teachers developing through, and intellectual engagement with, research and evidence. This engagement includes asking questions of both research and practice, and developing a research approach to the teacher, students, teaching and learning.
The symposium opens with an examination of evidence as a form of knowledge. It considers what evidence might contribute to educational knowledge more broadly and how policymakers and practitioners might use such knowledge. The second paper reports on an empirical study of educational policymakers in Romania and how they claim to use evidence that is generated by research. The third paper reports on an intervention study in England and demonstrates that the teachers in the intervention developed research informed approaches that improved outcomes for both themselves and their pupils. The final paper reports on the role of evidence-informed triadic dialogues, involving mentors, student teachers and Teacher Educators, in teacher development in Sweden and Australia. At the heart of all these papers is the role of research and evidence to support teacher development, and policymaking around teacher development, conceptually rather than with strategies and techniques.
Biesta, G. (2007). Why “what works” won’t work: Evidence‐based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational theory, 57(1), 1-22. Biesta, G. J. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work: From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in philosophy and education, 29(5), 491-503. Goldacre, B. (2013). Building evidence into education. London: Department for Education. Retrieved from www.gov.uk/government/news/building-evidence-into-education. Hammersley, M. (2013). The myth of research-based policy and practice. London: Sage.
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