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How do professional bodies champion research?


Alliance for Useful Evidence reflect on the launch of their new report: “Bodies of Evidence: How professional organisations in health, education and policing champion the use of research”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first recorded randomised controlled trial (‘RCT’) in education. Today, universities and charities such as the National Foundation for Educational Research and the Education Endowment Foundation continue to conduct high quality research on all aspects of education, using RCTs and other methods. From KS2 literacy support strategies to the use of TAs and texting parents there is a growing evidence base to support educators’ practice inside and outside the classroom.  And researchers want to make their findings relevant to those that can make use of them.

Yet incorporating evidence into frontline teaching practice isn’t easy. Keeping on top of the latest research (assuming you know where to find it in the first place), assessing its credibility and relevance, taking the whole evidence base into account (not just the headline-grabbing single study), and putting it into action, all takes time and skill. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that teachers are more likely to be guided by their own professional experience and what other schools and teachers are doing than look to research. A 2017 survey of 1670 teachers and senior leaders in England found that research evidence has a small influence on teachers’ decision-making relative to other sources.

The Chartered College’s journal Impact and its early career guide, The Profession

At the Alliance for Useful Evidence our goal is to increase the use of evidence in decision-making, for social benefit. We know that for research findings to have an impact, it’s essential that professionals are able to make use of them in their day to day practice.

In our new report, Bodies of Evidence, we highlight the ways that professional bodies support their members to engage with research, and in doing so help to make evidence use the norm. It follows the signing of the Declaration on Evidence in 2017 when the heads of the Chartered College of Teaching, the College of Policing, and the medical royal colleges and faculties pledged their full support for the use of evidence and evaluation. One year later, the Chartered College was quick to respond when we asked the signatories to tell us how they had been upholding that commitment.

Leaders of the College of Policing, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and the Chartered College of Teaching signed the 2017 Declaration on Evidence

The Chartered College is committed to supporting teachers to deliver the best possible education and being a conduit to a more research-informed profession. Members have the opportunity to discover trustworthy, actionable research through its peer-reviewed journal, Impact, and its member site MyCollege. As Professor Dame Alison Peacock told us:

“For the first time In UK teaching, these publications bring education academics and teachers together in the same journals, moving evidence around the education system. Like much of the Chartered College’s other work, the journals bridge the gap between practice and research, help headteachers challenge dogmatic (‘evidence is contestable’) or poorly informed inspectors, and, with The Profession, inform not just student teachers but also their trainers in Colleges of Education.”

In addition to these publications, the online platform MyCollege, access to research and evidence summaries and networks all provide other ways for teachers to critically engage with research and translate it into practice. It’s great to see how the Chartered College is truly mobilising evidence for the benefit of the profession and pupils. Let’s hope that other professional bodies will be taking notes.

Helen Mthiyane is the Programme Manager of the Alliance for Useful Evidence at Nesta. Sign up to hear more. Bodies of Evidence is published by the Alliance for Useful Evidence at Nesta, with a foreword by Professor Jonathan Shepherd CBE (Surgeon, Cardiff University and Trustee, Chartered College of Teaching), author of the Declaration on Evidence.