Ben Goldacre, of ‘Bad Science’ fame (2013), was tasked by the government to examine the role of evidence in educational practice. Citing the success in using blind-tested research in medical practice, a good case is built for engaging in evidence-based teaching. The scientific method promises rigorous analysis of any potential method; by employing test groups compared with controls, an effect can be seen and conclusions drawn. Causation can be predicted and proven through statistical comparison and rigorous data collection.
Following this logic, through exposure to evidence from the latest educational research-based training, teachers should be able cherry pick the best methods, based upon research, without needing a background in interpreting statistics. Evidence-based practices therefore should become the norm as professionals are presented with a dazzling array of books, TED talks and articles citing research that promises interventions, techniques and approaches, backed by reliable data, that can improve our students’ outcomes.
And yet, it is apparent at INSET at the start of every school term that this idea can be rather divisive; in one corner of the staff room a clique of enthusiastic teachers work out exactly how the next big idea can be embedded into everything they do. On the opposite side, grumbles can be heard from another group of staff members, lamenting how the same idea hadn’t worked 20 years ago when packaged slightly differently, questioning why one should change a tried-and-tested formula in favour of the latest fad from Stanford.