Research – Bridging the Gap

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the ResearchEd national conference in London. I have spent the last week mulling over the sessions I attended and writing up my notes. Any errors are most certainly my own but this is what I took away from my day. 


Their excellent book – out in October

Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson

Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice

For too long, research has been something done to schools rather than by or with them. This has led to problems with research being inaccessible to teachers and leads to misunderstandings about the application of research for schools. Some points to consider are:

  1. Research may be interesting without being useful to school practice. We need to stop trying to force things to be relevant.
  2. Classrooms are inherently unstable – unlike the controlled conditions of experiments.
  3. It is human nature to reject those things that go against established pedagogy.

Teachers should focus firstly on reading and reflecting on research rather than feeling it is something they need to do themselves. For this to happen teachers need access to research and space to collaborate and reflect.

Being research informed should not lead to an increase in workload. Often it can lead to changing methods of classroom practice which are more time efficient – such as changing marking policies to ones that lead to improved outcomes rather than look good for observers. [The chapter on assessment in their new book is excellent on this.]

Research can start by evaluating the impact of interventions in your own school (see attached document Mayne J (2012) Contribution Analysis). When evaluating the impact on learning we need to keep in mind Robert Coe’s “Poor Proxies for Learning” and look at outcomes.

There could be a role for Student Researches to look at and disseminate research on how pupils learn most effectively.

Research and reflection from all staff should inform school development plans. Schools may benefit from having a research lead in the school as consultant to SLT.


These are the thoughts I took away from the session.

  • How research informed are the majority of teachers? Is the “twitter bubble” giving too much confidence? Would we pass the “Learning Styles test” if something similar happened again?
  • A constant theme of the day was about teachers needing time to be reflective on their practice. How can schools encourage this at a time when budgets are being cut and time tables filled up?
  • Do schools need someone on/attached to SLT who has been given the time and training to really focus on the research that is out there?

I have been lucky enough to have been given an early copy of Carl and Robin’s book on this topic and it is truly excellent. I’ll write more on it soon but I would urge anyone who has a serious interest in improving their classroom practice to pick up a copy. It is incredibly user-friendly whilst still being rigorous. It could be a real game-changer for schools up and down the country.

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