Professor Mary Ratcliffe Associate Director, National Science Learning Centre University of York, UK email@example.com Use of research evidence by teachers of science
Outline Exploration of how teachers of science view research evidence Example of trying evidence-based practice
Research Network: Evidence-based Practice in Science Education (EPSE) Professor Robin Millar (York) (Co-ordinator) Professor John Leach (Leeds) Professor Jonathan Osborne (King’s College London) Professor Mary Ratcliffe (Southampton).
EPSE Understanding the researcher-user interface Project team Mary Ratcliffe Vicky Hames Robin Millar University of Southampton University of York Hannah Bartholomew Jonathan Osborne King’s College, London Andy Hind John Leach University of Leeds
Rationale Calls for evidence-based practice (EBP) raise issues about what is ‘evidence’. A simple view of EBP is that specific research outcomes that are accepted as rigorously derived and widely validated should, and can, be acted upon in modifying professional practice. In contrast, professional knowledge is often tacit, and its supporting evidence ‘invisible’. Such evidence is communicated through established practices, curricula and resources. Given the different evidential bases on which professionals might implicitly or explicitly draw, how significant, is research evidence?
Aims To obtain a better understanding of the extent to which teachers, and other user groups, recognise and make use of research findings in the course of their normal practice; To explore the factors which promote and inhibit the impact of research in science education on practice.
Whose practice? Teachers of science: 21 with no formal experience of research (10 primary, 11 secondary) - interviews 20 with experience of research (8 primary, 11 secondary) - interviews 18 primary, 18 secondary in 6 focus groups Other science education practitioners 21 – including curriculum policy makers (QCA, OfSTED, DfES), textbook authors, curriculum developers, initial and in-service providers, examiners.
How did we explore perceptions? Interviews Perceptions of: the nature of research in science education the influence of research on current practice any contribution of research to improving and evaluating practice
What do we mean by research? Plausible scenarios - are they research?
Focus groups Vignettes of real science education research Have you heard of these research findings? To what extent are the research summaries convincing? Why? In what way(s) would it influence your practice?
Vignettes 1.New science lessons improve pupils’ grades in science, maths and English GCSE grades in 9 schools were compared between 12 ‘test’ classes, who experienced 30 ‘Thinking Science’ lessons, and their matched ‘control’ classes in the same school. The ‘test’ classes consistently performed better. Source: Adey, P. and Shayer, M. (1994) Really raising standards: cognitive intervention and academic achievement. London: Routledge
Data Analysis All interviews and focus groups transcribed Coded for major and emerging themes by four researchers Qualitative software package used to assist in mechanics of coding and exploration of major themes
What constitutes research? No single common view – purpose and systematic methods dominate Large-scale, controls, comparisons, sample size No mention of conceptual or theoretical basis Tendency towards a ‘natural science’ model
Does research have an influence on practice? Perceived as beneficial, both actual and potential – extent of influence varies For many a ‘background’ or ‘hidden’ role I’d say relatively minor. I’m unaware of things that I might use that I’ve found out from research. I may absorb things from staff or training days or courses that have been found out or are based on research, but I’m not really aware [Sally: S1]
How does research impact on practice? Direct – a few examples where direct use of research findings was cited Mediated and Indirect – Transformation of research findings by people or materials Colleagues; In-service; ASE; Curriculum materials
Does research have an influence on policy? Policy documents seen as a huge influence on practice Primary – trust research influences policy Secondary – more sceptical Others – through interaction with research community
Will convincing research change practice? Research of quality – rigorous methods, validated findings I suppose for me it was CASE because I have already got pre-conceived ideas of how successful it is. So it’s hard to separate that knowledge from just looking at this piece of paper. [secondary focus group] Convincing research has to resonate with professional judgement.
Evaluating a change in practice I don’t think we analyse enough our results to quantify any changes we’ve made to see whether they’ve been successful, I think we measure our success generally through responses of the children and the feeling that we have after completing the new approach so it’s very woolly, really, [Rob: S1] Professional judgement, pupils’ feedback – the ‘feel’ rather than specific evidence systematically collected against pre-determined criteria
Towards evidence-based practice Research culture – supporting and enhancing professional networks Research tools – providing teachers with understanding of social science research processes and diagnostic tools Translation of convincing research findings into practical strategies that ‘fit’ with professional experience
Impact on practice For research findings to make an impact on classroom practice, they should have: convincing findings – i.e. from studies with clear, rigorous methods which seem likely to generalise to other contexts; which resonate with, or acknowledge, teachers’ professional experience; and have been, or can easily be, translated into practical activities and strategies for classroom use; which are then widely disseminated through respected professional networks.
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