New “dating service” brings together research and classroom practice

A new brokerage service linking up research evidence to classroom practice in 12 schools will launch this month.

The Evidence for the Frontline service is aimed at guiding education professionals to evidence and expertise so they can make evidence-based decisions in the classroom.

It will be based at Sandringham School in Hertfordshire and is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).  There will also be input from the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Education.

Headteachers and teachers who call the service will initially speak to a trained broker and explain their query. The project lead will help them to come up with a suitable research-based question.

They will then be directed to either web-based research resources, researchers engaged in the field, or practitioners who have already addressed the question within their school. The project will be piloted from September 2015, with a further 20 schools.

The service lead is assistant head of Sandringham School Caroline Creaby. She said Evidence for the Frontline is targeting a very specific need. “This is specifically picking up on research and how you mobilise that research to become practical in the classroom,” she added.

The development of a relationship between the researcher and the teacher leads to a more successful outcome, she added: “What they have found is that if you have social interaction between the researcher and the teacher – some sort of relationship – knowledge mobilisation is more successful.

“It’s a bit of a dating service. The broker would talk to the teacher to find out what they need. That focuses the issue in terms of what learning outcomes or attainment they want to achieve.”

Examples of issues that could be tackled include gender attainment, attainment gaps and feedback from teachers to students, said Ms Creaby.

She added: “We are working with the University of York to identify the researcher who would best meet their need, and it could lead to a one-off email or a project, or an ongoing dialogue between the researcher and the school.

“So far our experience of working with the University of York has been brilliant. They are very good at looking at education and research and deciding which of the good quality stuff will have a beneficial impact in the classroom.”

The brokerage service funder the EEF is an independent grant making charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. According to the EEF, the programme builds on existing knowledge about promoting research use from North America, which makes clear the importance of dialogue and social interactions for the spreading of good practice and uptake of research knowledge.

The project will be independently evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). The evaluation will focus on assessing whether the model is practical and feasible. Through the development phase, the NFER role will be formative and will feed into the pilot stage.

During the pilot phase, NFER will interview and survey schools, academics and the delivery team to understand how the service is being used, identify potential improvements, and make recommendations for how to evaluate its impact in a larger trial. The evaluation report will be published in January 2017.


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