Teachers need “structured and intensive support” to engage with new research if outcomes are to improve, according to new findings from the Education Endowment Foundation.
Three randomised controlled trials, funded and published by the EEF, found that passive methods currently used to educate teachers about research are not leading to changes in classroom practice or pupil outcomes.
The first two experiments, named the ‘Literacy Octopus’ trials, involved a set of 12,500 schools receiving evidence-based resources in a range of formats, and a second set of 823 schools receiving the same resources along with “light-touch” support, including seminars on how to use them.
The resources included research summaries, magazines, webinars and conferences, all designed to support literacy teaching in primary schools, and were provided by four delivery partners – the Institute for Effective Education, Campaign for Learning, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and NatCen Social Research with ResearchEd.
Independent evaluators found that neither approach affected attainment for the 10- and 11-year-olds whose teachers took part.
The third trial, Research Learning Communities, involved 119 primary schools. Two teachers were nominated in each school as “evidence champions” and attended workshops on research in specific areas of interest to the school, such as phonics teaching, delivered by UCL’s Institute of Education.
These champions developed school improvement strategies using what they had learned, to support other teachers in their schools to engage with the research.
Again, evaluators found no evidence the programme led to improvements in outcomes for 10- and 11-year-olds.
However, there was some tentative evidence that being in a Research Learning Community increased teachers’ engagement with research.
The conclusion from all three trials was that, in general, light-touch interventions without any face-to-face contact are unlikely to affect how teachers engage with research, and more direct strategies are needed to change classroom practice and improve outcomes.
Sir Kevan Collins, the chief executive of the EEF, said that while academic research has “enormous potential to improve pupil attainment and save schools money”, it is important that it is properly accessible for teachers and school leaders.
“We need to make sure that research findings get into the hands of teachers in ways that are most likely to have an impact. We know how challenging this can be,” he said.
“Today’s reports tell us that light-touch interventions are unlikely to have an impact on pupil attainment and getting teachers to engage with research is far from straightforward.
“We need to focus our efforts on more targeted and structured approaches to disseminate evidence and support teachers.”