The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education

Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education

Learning from International Contexts

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(28 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvii
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Abstract

This introductory chapter to “The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education: Learning from International Contexts” describes the volume's purpose/intended contribution, analytic framework, and organization. Accordingly, first it provides a definition of evidence-informed practice while also outlining challenges and benefits of broadly bringing it about. This chapter explains how comparative analyses using systems approaches – which have, to date, been scarce and limited – can hold great potential for achieving context-specific insights regarding how to foster EIP. The present volume, as noted in the chapter, aims to do just this: It houses a massive, international comparative study of educators' patterns of evidence use across a range of global contexts. Volume contributors each followed a particular, dual analytic framework, which is detailed in this chapter. The chapter concludes with a description of how the volume is organized and provides a brief thematic analysis to showcase the volume's intended contribution.

Part 1 Hierarchist Systems

Abstract

This chapter examines the potential and barriers for evidence-based practices in Californian schools. In a large and complex school system, the state plays an important role in legitimating the use of certain types of evidence, but evidence-based practices are heavily determined by the resources, actors, and prevailing cultures in a local district environment. Until recently, high-stakes accountability policies mandated improvements in student test performance and intrusive interventions for failure. In recent years, the state has shifted to a different accountability approach that emphasizes local control and the use of multiple measures of school performance to pursue continuous improvement around locally developed goals and interventions. Amid this context, two stories arise about evidence-based practices in California. In one story, a set of major and highly touted districts have led the way in demonstrating evidence-informed continuous improvement district-wide. In these districts, the new state accountability approach, enabling leadership, long-term commitments to collective learning, networked opportunities to learn, and access to elite external expertise have contributed to fairly extensive practices of disciplined team problem-solving involving rich data. In a second story, schools and districts that face resource scarcity, high turnover, and conflict and in which past high-stakes accountability left a deep imprint on prevailing norms and routines, leaders and teachers have had difficulty establishing a conducive context for collective learning. However, given ingrained practices and limited absorptive capacity, it is not entirely clear how to enable productive evidence-based practices in such contexts.

Abstract

Teachers across the globe have been called upon to employ evidence-informed practices to guide instructional decision-making. Using a social regulation/cohesion matrix and institutional theory analytic lens can help illuminate the barriers and enablers shaping teachers' efforts to use evidence in different policy contexts. In the US, there is social cohesion with respect to public schooling as well as a high degree of regulation with respect to accountability. In this chapter, we closely examine the work of a teacher team in a California middle school that we studied for four years using case study methods. While teachers on this team shared an interest in evidence use and were open to trying research-based practices in their own classrooms, doing so consistently was challenging. The teacher team's use of evidence to inform practice was shaped by three themes. First, several capacity-building opportunities provided teachers with support for drawing on research-based practices as well as eliciting student thinking as a form of evidence on student learning. However, lack of cohesion across these opportunities functioned as a barrier to effective implementation of strategies. Finally, a strong focus on accountability ultimately constrained the team's ability to consistently use evidence to inform daily practice. Lessons for policy and practice are discussed.

Abstract

Educational change and innovation have been a clear priority in educational systems across Europe in recent years. In this chapter, we reflect on the role played by educational evidence in shaping school practices in the Catalan context. Situated at a crossroads between social cohesion and strong regulations, Catalan schools are navigating a hybrid system marked by increasing autonomy and the educational tradition with an increased interest in accountability and quality assessment through rigid standards and designs.

Despite the Catalan administration's recent promotion of several initiatives to engage schools and teachers with the use of evidence, this process is still irregular and fundamentally depends on decisions made by the school or teachers' commitment.

The factors shaping the teachers' engagement with evidence cover a wide spectrum: from teachers' and educational leaders' conception of the nature of evidence, to given teachers' willingness to use evidence and whether school environments are favourable (or not) to the use of evidence. Acknowledging these factors allows us to specify the direction of action at the system, organisational and class levels. At the system level, promoting a vision of practice based on evidence requires coherent and responsible actions among all actors. At the organisational level, the development of the capacity to use evidence requires leadership that is sensitive to research and favours a positive organisational culture. At the classroom level, teachers' motivation, individual orientation towards the use of evidences, research conception and the capacity to use it, are the key factors.

Abstract

This chapter addresses evidence-informed teaching in the English context. The chapter makes the case for considering England as having elements of both high and low social cohesion, with an increasingly narrow role for Local Authorities (districts) alongside the growth of more powerful but smaller Multi-Academy Trusts. Within the context of a highly regulated accountability regime, this places England in the hierarchist, with elements of fatalist, quadrant of the cohesion/regulation matrix. England has a well-developed infrastructure for supporting research use, including the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a very well-resourced charity acting as the What Works Centre for school education. Despite this, use of research evidence amongst teachers is low, and this has changed little since the mid-2010s. The chapter draws on institutional theory to explain this finding. The following explanations are provided: a lack of resources, coupled with a strong, politicised accountability system and a hollowed out middle tier to support schools, contributing to a lack of prioritisation amongst school leaders. However, England's well-developed infrastructure has enabled the EEF to play a significant and evidence-led role in supporting schools in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter concludes by suggesting a series of suggestions to improve use of research in England. These include alignment of policy with research evidence; support for school leaders; work to explicitly link research to the evidence forms and supporting research brokerage.

Abstract

Evidence-informed practice (EIP), broadly conceived as a data and research-based approach to enhance practice, has recently come to the fore of the Irish education system. With changes to the structure and duration of professional education over the last decade, most notably Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs, coupled with the implementation of a school leadership framework upon which a mandatory data-informed school improvement process of school self-evaluation (SSE) is based, multiple reforms connected to EIP have been introduced. Furthermore, in terms of compulsory education, assessment practices at the lower secondary level have also been significantly reformed. EIP has now become a core element of almost all educational reform initiatives in Ireland. This is a remarkable achievement given that prior to the Education Act (Government of Ireland, 1998) the conception that data and research-informed decision-making should form a core component part of school life was rarely conceived if at all in the policy discourse of educational reform. We draw on the Malin et al. (2020) interpretation of Hoods (1998) social cohesion/regulation matrix to describe and classify the Irish system. The chapter concludes with a discussion of key lessons for policy and practice based on Ireland's experience over the course of the last decade.

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss the case of the Knowledge Network for Applied Education Research (KNAER) to illustrate the context for evidence-informed practice (EIP) in Ontario, Canada. KNAER (www.knaer-recrae.ca) is an initiative to strengthen relationships between research producers, users, and the communities that schools serve to improve outcomes for students in four priority areas: mathematics, equity, well-being, and Indigenous knowledge. As developmental evaluators for KNAER from 2017 to 2019, we reference and integrate two main sources of data: a research model created to inform the network's planning and activities, and semistructured interviews with network leaders (N = 11) and policymakers (N = 3). Reflecting on our findings, we discuss five key lessons for EIP: the need to build reciprocal streets of engagement, the need to shift data use from accountability and compliance to partnership learning, the need to coproduce and identify specific entry points of change, the need to focus on capacity building and leveraging brokers across partnerships, and the need to use communication as a problem-solving tool to assess and adjust innovations and implementation rather than passive reports of activities.

Abstract

Sweden is characterised by high social regulation and an overall high social cohesion of context and structural elements of the school system and thus could be described as a hierarchist system. This position is strong and longstanding in Sweden and, with the exception of a short period of decentralisation and deregulation from the 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s, it has strengthened during the past two decades. However, diversifying elements threatening the social cohesion have been observed in Sweden. Severe school segregation is observed, which undermines the democratic values for a school for all. It is plausible that the deregulation during the 1980s and 1990s enabled successful schools to develop, meaning that teachers and school leaders could make use of research in relation to local needs and preconditions. However, this also meant that the deregulation worked as a barrier to evidence-informed practice within unsuccessful schools, as they were left alone. Since their improvement capacity was low and they lacked professional networks, teachers and school leaders got segregated and isolated when it came to making use of research. This situation paved the way for a wave of re-regulations aiming at supporting unsuccessful schools. Successful schools seem to use these regulations for enabling improvement; however, it is questionable how it works for unsuccessful schools. The regulations on a national level concerning curriculum, marking changes, and a clear focus on professional learning and instruction, seem to have enabled the national goal achievement. Nevertheless, there are a large group of schools where the regulated and national support work as a barrier to challenge the local school culture and enable change.

Abstract

The United Arab Emirates has made great strides in terms of its overall educational system with a variety of educational reforms to meet the nation's strategic vision. In this chapter, we utilize Hood's (1998) social cohesion/social regulation theory and DiMaggio and Powell's (1991) institutional theory to examine the evidence-informed teaching practice in the UAE. It is evident that the UAE educational model sits in the top two quadrants based on this chapter's analysis – a high social cohesion with high social regulation (i.e., “a hierarchist way”) and at times exhibiting fatalism with high social regulation and low social cohesion. Although the findings reveal substantial diversity in terms of enablers and barriers to evidence-informed practices, they provide a space to reflect on the complex cultural and social contexts behind such a diverse set of perspectives and responses.

Part 2 Fatalist Systems

Abstract

This chapter discusses the development of evidence-informed practice in Australian education. It highlights growing system-wide aspirations and support for Australian teachers, school leaders, and jurisdictions to be engaging productively with research and evidence. Our aim here is to step back from these developments and consider them in the context of: (1) the nature and distinctive characteristics of the Australian school system; (2) what is known (and not known) about Australian educators' use of research and evidence; and (3) recent insights into enablers and barriers to research use in Australian schools. We argue that the development of evidence-informed practice in Australia needs to take careful account of the complex history and fatalist nature of the wider school system. This will make it possible to identify and work with the productive places that exist within a system of this kind. It is also important to recognize that research use in schools is a topic that has been investigated surprisingly little in Australia relative to other countries internationally. Current policy aspirations around evidence-informed approaches therefore need to be matched by greater efforts to understand the dynamics of research engagement in Australian schools and school systems.

Abstract

This chapter describes the Chilean market-oriented educational system, which has a marked individualist culture while simultaneously introducing policies and strategies to encourage collaboration among teachers to use research evidence to improve their practices. Using Hood's (1998) cohesion/regulation matrix, we argue that two system approaches are in place in Chile. First, a fatalist way where cooperation among peers is mandated solely to meet rule-bound approaches to regulate schools' and teachers' practice. Second, an egalitarian way promoted by a political discourse that has highlighted the importance and value of collaboration and support among peers to promote effective teaching practice. In this chapter, we inquire how teachers navigate this complex scenario to use evidence to inform their practice by conducting a systematic literature review of studies about Chilean teachers' use of evidence for their teaching practice. The systematic review addressed the following research questions: What is the nature of the literature on the use of evidence for teaching practice among Chilean teachers? What type of evidence is used by Chilean teachers to support their teaching practice? And, to what extent do Chilean teachers engage with peers while using evidence for their teaching practice? Findings show that research on the use of evidence for teaching practice in Chile is still scarce and quite recent, and that teachers face significant challenges to collaborate in a context that systemically rewards competition.

Abstract

This chapter presents an analysis of evidence-informed teaching practice in the context of Chilean formal education. The concept of evidence-informed practice (EIP) is tackled from the use of data from standardized assessments of learning by agents of the educational system in Chile, analyzing the relationship between the use of standardized assessments and the institutional characteristics of the educational system.

First, the Chilean educational system is characterized according to its regulation and cohesion, utilizing the Hood's matrix (2000). With the current predominance of accountability regulation with high stakes, the Chilean system presents a high degree of regulation and low cohesion. Then, the main uses of assessments in Chile are described based on the available evidence, with emphasis on the National Assessment System (SIMCE) a high-stakes assessment and an alternative assessment system (SEPA) of low stakes. Thirdly, the institutional theory is applied to analyze the factors that facilitate and obstruct EIP in schools. Finally, the chapter concludes by providing some implications for educational policy and practice.

Abstract

The idea of Evidence-Informed Practice (EIP) was introduced in Denmark at a national policy level with the 2013 national school reform. After 10 years of gradual development towards an output-oriented, accountability-based school system, the school reform fully realized the idea of a school system, which was oriented towards learning objectives and based on capacity building and supporting professional capital. One element of professional capital was EIP, and this idea was supported financially both by the parliament and large private foundations (e.g. the Maersk Foundation). However, for different reasons, the national reform created a lot of resistance among teachers and the national teacher union, including a number of pedagogical researchers. Partly, the reform was underfunded, and partly it represented a qualitative change from understanding teaching as craft to observing it as a rational, research-informed professional practice. The result was that EIP was met with scepticism among many teachers. After 6–7 years of EIP development, the current status is that one can identify a small, yet statistical significant positive correlation between teachers' professional, evidence-informed collaboration, and their job satisfaction. However, there have been no significant changes to student achievement, well-being and teaching experiences. Part of the explanation seems to be that EIP has been introduced with a combination of high social regulation and low social cohesion, pointing towards a fatalist system approach. However, this is not an expression of an intentional approach, but rather the result of a lack of teacher acceptance. One important reason for this was that the reform was underfunded. Consequently, it was combined with a labour market conflict followed by an increase of teachers hours without an increase of salary. This resulted in a legitimation crisis, which negatively influenced the teachers' acceptance of the school reform, including the idea of EIP.

Abstract

The German evidence-based model of educational governance is bureaucratically regulated, but teachers and schools are autonomous in their way of implementing requirements in schools. Accountability is ensured by regularly monitoring educational outcomes with reference to national educational standards, e.g. in the form of mandatory comparative performance tests. In this context, it is worth determining the process stages of research engagement with which the available data or evidence is associated and which purposes they can serve in teacher education and practice. Building on that, an overview is provided of the state of (mainly German) research on teachers' and school leaders' research engagement and influencing factors. This research field has flourished in the wake of the Empirical Shift in German education. By now the understanding has emerged that ultimately the depth of inferential processes is vital for sustainable development and this in turn is influenced by data, context and user characteristics. On the individual level, in particular, positive affective-motivational dispositions and research literacy are deemed important, whereas the feeling of being controlled has detrimental effects. On the school level, school culture and leadership are of impact, whereas a certain continuity of measures on the governance level proves meaningful for the engagement with data and evidence in educational practice. With regard to the German experience, it is concluded that more (funded) dialogue opportunities between different actors and professional groups in education are needed and that initial and further training should strive even more to impart a meta-reflective stance or enquiry habit of mind.

Abstract

This chapter examines Massachusetts (USA) public primary and secondary educators' use of evidence-informed practices (EIPs). We pay special attention to the role of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in this regard while employing the dual analytical frame laid out in this handbook's introduction. The first section provides relevant background/context and tentatively classifies the system according to the matrix. The next sections describe educators' use of evidence, and provide context, insights, and analyses in relation to the patterns presented. We note how certain forms of data are routinely being used (and describe DESE's role in facilitating and shaping such use), and we describe some bottom-up (and DESE-supported) research that is occurring within districts. Applying institutional analysis to this case, EIP in Massachusetts is skewed top-down in important ways, but there is also recognition of, and some earnest efforts also/instead to promote, more bottom-up EIP in and across Massachusetts schools and educational organizations. Overall, we advance this case as providing an example of a robust infrastructure at the macrolevel (DESE) that can facilitate and shape EIP, and especially in relation to providing relevant and timely data and supporting its use by educators. Accordingly, our final section focuses on how/why DESE has been successful in these endeavors, as a way of drawing out key lessons. This chapter also includes an appendix containing links to a variety of tools, reports, and resources, which may be of interest to readers interested in further exploring or applying similar approaches.

Abstract

In the early stages of the animated film Aladdin, the main character finds himself in a hidden cave full of treasures and artefacts beyond his wildest dreams; a ‘Cave of Wonders’. This chapter explores how annotated documentary evidence collected by early childhood teachers as part of the Proficient Teacher accreditation process in New South Wales (NSW), Australia may be a ‘Cave of Wonders’ for evidence-informed practice (EIP) in the early childhood education (ECE) sector. This is needed as most evidence currently comes from academic research and big datasets. While valuable, these types of evidence do not convey the whole picture as they miss the nuances that can be captured in teacher-generated evidence – the yet untapped ‘Cave of Wonders’. The chapter begins with a discussion of the narratives influencing the NSW early childhood sector. This information is then used to classify the ECE system according to Hood's (1998) social regulation/cohesion matrix. What follows is an exploration of the role teacher accreditation can play within this fatalist system to support ECTs engage in EIP by using and generating evidence. The chapter closes with key lessons for policy and practice.

Abstract

South Africa is a developing country with an education system that remains in crisis, despite three decades of democracy. The vestiges of South Africa's oppressive past continues to plague a system where repeated efforts at top-down transformation and curriculum renewal have failed to create the change required (Roodt, 2018). Extensive country-wide research attests to persistent inequalities linked to poverty, unemployment, and poor educational outcomes, effectively trapping disadvantaged communities in downward spirals (World Bank, 2018). As in most other countries, evidence-informed practice (EIP) has been widely discussed and advocated for in South Africa, with the matric (school leavers') results resurging the conversation annually. Unfortunately, as is the case in many developing countries, it is well documented that the actual implementation of EIP is not as widespread as desired.

This chapter reviews and analyzes the use of EIP in South Africa through an exploration of the various spaces where EIP is reported to occur within the broader education landscape. Examples of teacher and school level EIP innovations, led by a wide variety of actors within the system, are evident – this despite the pervasive lack of resources, support, and effective leadership within the formal education system. Through reflecting on these ‘pockets of hope,’ which were found to exist not only within, but also outside and alongside the system, we hope to gather insights and initiate debate on how the uptake of EIP might be better informed and facilitated within the broader South African public education system.

Part 3 Individualist Systems

Abstract

The global challenges and growing diversity in schools require an educational system that is responsive and agile, putting evidence-informed practice (EIP) at the center of the policy and research agenda. The rationale behind this is obvious: using data and research evidence should lead to better-informed policy, higher quality decisions, more effective practices, and, in turn, improved and fairer outcomes. Because EIP in schools is likely to be influenced by the educational system in which they are embedded, in this chapter I discuss the (non) use of EIP in the educational system of Flanders. The Flemish educational system can be defined as “the individualist way,” characterized by individual approaches within loosely coupled, competing systems that protect their own norms and beliefs. This chapter discusses how this can influence policymaking and the implementation of EIP. Drawing on institutional theory, I also investigate the impact of drivers and obstacles at the school and individual level. At the school level, evidence seems to be used mainly ad hoc rather than strategically and policy is largely driven by short-term solution-focused actions based on experience and quickly available data. At the individual level teachers strongly rely on their expertise and feel less competent and motivated in using data or research. Key lessons for policy and practice are discussed at the end of this chapter.

Abstract

In Hong Kong higher education, students' learning outcomes are increasingly treated as evidence to inform course and teaching improvement. Therefore, outcome-based teaching and learning (OBTL) has been encouraged by the University Grants Committee (UGC) since 2007. OBTL has gradually been implemented by Hong Kong higher education institutions (HEIs) to enhance student learning outcomes. Relating OBTL to the social cohesion/regulation matrix, this chapter aims at analyzing how OBTL is being implemented by the HEIs in Hong Kong. Given the high institutional autonomy and academic freedom afforded to individual HEIs, each university has established its own systematic framework for integrating outcome-based approaches into its teaching, learning, and assessment. Unlike other higher education systems in Asia with strong government supervision, the government in Hong Kong acts as an enabler and facilitator, leaving the UGC to invite international experts as an independent audit body to assure the quality of student learning. As a result, this chapter chooses the eight UGC-funded universities to investigate how they engage their faculty members in OBTL, and what the enabling and hindering factors are. Based upon the social cohesion/regulation matrix, the Hong Kong higher education system is featured by the individualist way of promoting OBTL. Nonetheless, while universities are empowered with institutional autonomy to decide upon teaching, and student learning matters, their strong orientation with OBTL means they cannot simply do whatever they like. Adopting a robust quality assurance mechanism in evaluating university performance through University Accountability Agreements, the institutional autonomy that universities enjoy rests heavily upon their performance in teaching and student learning, which is assessed through rigorous international benchmarking via the Quality Assurance Audit conducted by the UGC and research performance through the Research Assessment Exercise. This chapter discusses the unique university governance of Hong Kong through the critical review of OBTL being adopted in teaching and learning in Hong Kong universities.

Abstract

The Italian system of education is characterised by weak school autonomy, strong teacher autonomy, and lack of collegial cultures. From the point of the cohesion/regulation matrix, the Italian case is rather of an individualist type with some fatalist notes, given a widespread culture of pedagogical egalitarianism and the existence of formal collegial bodies. There are many barriers to the introduction of evidence-based practice in Italian teaching. At the same time, some major enablers at the school level are as a self-evaluation school rapport and a school improvement plan. At the school system level, the Institute for school evaluation is as a key player contributing to the advancement of a culture of EIP. We argue that an enduring centralization model with weak coordination mechanisms at the school level is not suitable to mobilize academic research knowledge across the Italian system. A new governance mechanism based on widely disseminated policies would be of critical importance in the Italian case, in order to improve the use of EIP in schools and to enhance the skills of teachers and school leaders through professional development.

Abstract

This chapter gathers information about the highly decentralized and deregulated education system in Switzerland. After a brief introduction giving a first glimpse of an education system organized in an individualistic way, we will then introduce the compulsory schooling of the education system. We will briefly explain the sources used to write this chapter. The main body of the chapter is organized in two parts. The first classifies the education system and underscores this classification with facts from diverse documents illustrating the principle characteristics of the system. In the second part, we explore the ways in which evidence and research are used in the educational context: in schools during performance measures and quality improvement, in teacher education and further education programs, by principals and in exchange among and within schools. We will close with key lessons and the highlight that collaboration and partnership are mutual processes forcing changes on both sides.

Part 4 Egalitarian Systems

Abstract

The Austrian education system can be classified as an egalitarian system. This is due to the fact that although it is a centrally governed system, the implementation of reforms is the responsibility of the schools. Regarding this implementation, in turn, there is a low level of accountability for the schools to the education administration. Consequently, this has implications for the way how and from whom evidence is handled within the system. Despite the increased emphasis on evidence-informed decision-making, current trends are leading away from nationally coordinated approaches (abolition of the regular and external assessment of national educational standards) and towards locally based initiatives (informal competences assessments). In this context, extended autonomy for schools plays a crucial role as schools received more responsibilities for decision-making. After a detailed description of the Austrian education system, the following article shows how evidence-informed practice is supported within the system by means of selected instruments and projects. Furthermore, relevant groups of actors are identified and analysed in terms of their competences and thus responsibilities for evidence-informed practice. From the analysis, facilitating and hindering factors for evidence-informed teaching and leading are identified.

Abstract

This chapter describes the experiences of a researcher involved in creating a new evaluation policy for the Ministry of Education and Culture in Cyprus. This included reforms to school evaluation and school self-evaluation. How was it informed by scholars, by previous policy, and by recent developments in several EU and non-EU countries? What was the role of different stakeholders in it? While designing the new evaluation policy, different education policies and practices were studied, and all stakeholders had the opportunity to voice their opinions, challenges and needs. From this approach, it was evident that change is no linear process, and it involved constant readings and discussions to revisit major points presented by each stakeholder, thus allowing a holistic view. This became a critically important feature of the approach as it allowed the members of the committee to examine and re-examine different aspects of all stakeholders' opinions. It is evident that it was not enough to study factors associated with the success or failure of the latest policy to solve the change challenge. The evaluation itself is a controversial issue where scholars and scientists intend to approach it from a different angle than government officers, policymakers, citizens, school leaders, who themselves approach it differently than the evaluatee. For this reason, the committee preferred to approach this matter by merging top-down and bottom-up opinions and acting in a collegial way.

Abstract

We first outline the history of the relationship between lesson study in Japan and research evidence. This explanation is meaningful for understanding the situation of EIP in Japan and how to utilise it. We then consider examples of educational efforts of two local governments to identify the ways in which the social cohesion/social regulation matrix is found in each case, what rules and norms are used as the basis for the activities of the organisation, and the extent to which teachers implement research evidence in their teaching practice. Finally, we take generalisable lessons from education in Japan that can be applied to improve evidence-informed practice (EIP) in other areas.

Abstract

This chapter reports on how teachers engage with research evidence in New Zealand (NZ). NZ is classified as a mixture of egalitarian and individualist ways, as it has low social regulation but is ‘centre right’ on social cohesion according to Hood’s (1998) matrix. That is to say, as it is self-governing school system, it has low social regulation with fewer hierarchical accountability systems, but there is evidence of both high and low social cohesion in the system. While the system values and promotes research engagement and establishes initiatives that require it, such engagement is not yet as fully embedded as the related policies and initiatives would hope. Many teachers are unlikely to engage with research without sufficient support, conducive conditions and adequate resourcing that support that aspiration. Enablers include: a research-derived and research-promoting model of pedagogy in the national curriculum, and initiatives that promote connections between practitioners and research/researchers. Barriers include: limited system-wide mechanisms to ensure that the policy mechanisms are working as intended, the ‘translation’ of research to practice, and research accessibility. We discuss three lessons from the NZ case: systematic and system-wide efforts to ensure high-quality tools and capability-building initiatives, the potential of research-practice partnerships to build research engagement capability, and how enquiry can support appropriate use of research evidence.

Abstract

This chapter draws on the school improvement research of EducAid, a small NGO with schools in Sierra Leone. We review the challenge of school improvement in the context of a low-income country still emerging from the aftermath of civil war, historically low expenditure on education as a per cent of GDP, low levels of trust between people and the government and lack of a reliable evidence base on which to plan school improvement. As predictable consequences of these challenges, the Ministry of Education recognises weaknesses in teacher recruitment and training, resulting in low student attainments. In a critique of adaptations of Hood's (1998) social cohesion/social regulation matrix we argue that it may not provide a coherent framework for understanding the process of school improvement in a low-income country such as Sierra Leone. Specifically, high social cohesion, when focussed on educational improvement, is likely to be necessary for school improvement, but the concept of social regulation is more complex. Although the structure is hierarchical, both at national and local levels, implying high social regulation, lines of accountability seldom work effectively, resulting in low social regulation. The picture is further complicated by evidence that socioeconomic status may be less influential in predicting students' attainments in low-income countries than in those with high and middle incomes. We argue that a professional learning network for head teachers is a necessary starting point for head teachers to stimulate debate on change strategies within their own schools.

Index

Pages 389-405
Content available
Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education
DOI
10.1108/9781800431416
Publication date
2022-01-31
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80043-142-3
eISBN
978-1-80043-141-6