Research Learning Communities

This project aims to test whether evidence champions are effective at promoting research use in their school, when supported by a research community of peers from local schools and an academic facilitator. Evidence champions are those with informal influence on people’s actions and behaviours – e.g. a teacher who is listened to in the staffroom, and well-connected within and outside the school. This project will bring these individuals and senior leaders together, with input and support from the Institute of Education’s London Centre for Leadership in Learning. It will assess how far evidence champions and senior leaders are able to introduce evidence into their schools’ practice, and the impact that this has on pupil attainment. The Institute of Education will help identify the most suitable participants from the schools, provide facilitators for the research learning communities and provide research content to be used within the communities.

Why are we funding it?

This project is one of several being funded by the EEF that will test ways of improving teachers’ awareness, understanding and use of research. Given the emphasis on teaching school alliances as a new infrastructure for school-to-school support, this project has potential to identify an effective model for these emerging networks.

The Institute of Education has already run a similar professional learning community with early years practitioners. Participants reported improved understanding of research findings and improved use of research to inform their day-to-day practice. However, there is no strong evidence yet that such approaches in schools feed through to changes in the classroom or impact on pupil attainment. This project will test whether key individuals within schools are effective at promoting research use, when supported by a community of peers and academic facilitators.

How are we evaluating it?

The evaluation will be undertaken by a team from Bristol University, led by Jo Rose. It will be structured as a randomised controlled trial involving 110 schools from the Institute’s Research Network. Approximately 55 schools will be allocated to the treatment group, with an evidence champion and senior leader from each school attending the research learning communities. The primary attainment measure will be Key Stage 2 maths and English results. Impact on teachers’ awareness, understanding and use of research will be collected through surveys to all teachers in both treatment and control schools.

The evaluation is set up as an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions (e.g. when being delivered by the intervention’s original developer) in greater than 10 schools.

Click here to view the evaluation protocol. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2017.