Evidence matters

Andrew Morris

This paper offers a straightforward recipe for achieving educational policy objectives whilst at the same time saving vast amounts of public money.

The first section, The way things are outlines the need for evidence in education, where it comes from and how it is used. It suggests that evidence is needed by professionals and members of the public, in education as in other spheres but that demand for research-based evidence is not strong.  The second section, How things might be, invites the reader to imagine what a future evidence-using culture might look like. It draws on existing small-scale innovations in education and larger-scale systems in other fields to set out possibilities.

The third section, Changes needed, links the way things are and the way they might be, exploring the kinds of changes they imply. It distinguishes those of a fundamental kind, such as changes in thinking and in incentive structures, from others that are more procedural, such as the development of evidence-based tools for teachers. The penultimate section, Bringing about change, proposes a reconceptualisation of the way in which applied educational research is funded, carried out and exploited. It draws inspiration from approaches familiar in other fields, such as design, in which the research task and the developmental task are not separated but simultaneously addressed in a constant iteration between the practice setting and the research base.

The final section, Key messages, drives the issues explored earlier to some practical conclusions. It suggests that funders of research need encouragement to focus on fewer, larger, longer-term programmes that combine research with ongoing development activity and result in tools for the improvement of practice.