EEF: Teacher research engagement strategies are ineffective


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.”

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  1. Supposed programmes to improve learning are trialled with thousands of schools and the result is that the programmes do NOT improve learning.
    So the researchers conclude that more work needs to be done on the TEACHERS, so that the programmes do improve learning.

    An alternative explanation is that the programmes do not improve learning.

    In all cases where the EEF has done bigger trials of its recommendations to improve learning, the intervention has been shown to have zero effect on learning.

    When will all these researchers stop trying to sell snake oil? Even the Chartered College cannot see through this confidence trick and is signing up members with the promise that they will have access to mountains of research. Most of the research seems to be bunkum.

    • Exactly! So much research is badly designed or over-generalised or fails to consider confounding variables, not to mention the fads and “misconceptions” imposed from above. For example, a holy cow such as “assessment for learning” has to keep reinventing itself because it is not producing anything like the startling results promised, and it is completely inappropriate in the teaching of foreign languages at beginners level, for example.

      In the meantime, teachers’ workload is increased because of poorly understood concepts (such as the current identification of feedback and marking) and SLTs unsure of what fad to follow to please Ofsted and achieve the massive gains promised.

      Let’s offer an alternative explanation to the EEF’ one: “snake oil initiative fails to replicate results when rolled out on a larger scale. Teachers trained on the new miracle approach failed to replicate initial results. Initial experiment was poorly executed and based on a poorly designed model.”