Teachers do not have time to learn about research evidence, studies find

While teachers understand the importance of using research evidence to inform their teaching, they lack the time and senior-management support to put this into practice

Lack of time, insufficient interest and minimal support from senior-leadership teams all stop teachers from implementing academic research in the classroom, new studies have found.

Two studies, piloted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), looked at methods of encouraging teachers to implement research findings in schools.

The first study ran for a year in 10 primary schools in Rochdale, in North-West England. It offered teachers professional-development sessions, intended to help them develop a positive view of educational research, and understand the ways that these research findings might help them in the classroom.

However, at the end of the study, there was no evidence that teachers at participating schools were more likely to use research to inform their teaching than they had been before it began.

The EEF report, published today, concluded that there was “a decline in teachers’ perceptions that academic research is not useful to teaching”. But, it continued: “Finding time for working collaboratively on implementing research evidence in practice was considered a challenge.”

Time pressures

This was reinforced by the second EEF study, which ran for a year in five schools in Kent. A senior teacher at one school was designated a “research champion”, and worked with senior leaders at the other schools, to promote engagement with research evidence.

However, the report concluded: “There was no evidence that teachers’ attitudes towards research, or their use of research evidence in teaching practice, changed during the intervention.”

Teachers said that they found events – held to discuss the ways that research evidence could be incorporated into teaching practice – valuable.

However, the report said: “Attendance and engagement in the programme was occasionally low, due to time pressures faced by teachers. This posed a serious threat to the feasibility of the programme.”

In addition, it concluded that senior-leadership teams needed to commit properly to the project, providing classroom cover to ensure that teachers would be able to spend time developing ways to implement research in the classroom.

The report said that these factors, as well as “a limited capacity to facilitate and support widespread pedagogical change across a school”, all posed significant barriers to ensuring that the programme was properly implemented.

Talk of the town

Today, the EEF also published evaluation reports of two teaching programmes. The first, Talk of the Town, is a community-led approach to supporting the speech, language and communication skills of school pupils of all ages. After a trial with 2,696 pupils, it was found that Talk of the Town had no impact on pupils’ reading comprehension or spoken-language skills.

The second programme, Powerful Learning Conversations, was intended to improve the feedback that teachers gave to pupils in Year 9, by training them to apply techniques used in sports coaching. After a pilot in 20 schools, it was found that there was no evidence that the programme had an impact on pupils’ English scores. It did have some impact on their maths attainment, but this result was inconclusive.

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