Teachers’ engagement with research: what do we know? A research briefing

Education Endowment Foundation and NFER

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This new report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Education Endowment Foundation summaries the findings from a nationally representative survey of schools and teachers investigating their use of research. The findings are based on survey results from 1,670 teachers in England administered between September and November 2017. Percentages were weighted according to four school level variables: school phase, pupils’ eligibility for free school meals (FSM), attainment and teachers’ roles. Amongst the report’s key findings, teachers were much more likely to draw ideas and support from their own experiences or experiences of teachers/schools when deciding on approaches to pupil progress. Non-research-based continuing professional development was also found to be an important influence. The findings suggest there has been no particular growth in the the use of research evidence in school decision making in recent years. However, when asked whether their school environment supported evidence-based teaching, respondents agreed. Many felt that their school facilitated a professional learning community but did not have formal processes to help them critically engage with evidence-based sources.

Through factor analysis on the survey data, the authors explored variations in responses according to the four school level variables using two factors. Firstly, schools or certain types of schools reporting to engage with evidence-based research through a positive/enabling research culture. Primary school teachers were more likely than secondary schools’ teachers to believe their schools had a positive research culture. The second factor examined individual uses of research to inform selection of teaching approaches. Related to this factor included items such as teachers reporting that research plays an important role in informing their practice, adopting new teachings techniques and teachers use research findings to make changes to their practice. Teachers with four or fewer years of experience were more likely to report they used research to inform the selection of teaching approaches than teachers with 20 years or more experience.