Standards and status – supporting the role of evidence in a College of Teaching

By Kelly Kettlewell

Friday 12 December 2014

On Tuesday this week the Government announced plans to develop a College of Teaching, to ‘drive forward the culture change which is already starting to make teaching a more evidence-based profession which confidently grounds its practice in robust research and evaluation’. It will be supported by, but independent of, government and a consultation is now live.

The announcement responds to a groundswell of support for such an organisation and builds on work of the Prince’s Teaching Institute, which developed a blueprint for a potential College earlier this year. This not only highlights support for an evidence-based profession, something NFER firmly believes in, but also illustrates the appetite across the sector for action.

The appetite for action was evident on Monday, the day before the announcement, when NFER helped host the final Coalition for Evidence-Based Education (CEBE) event of the year at the Wellcome Trust in London. Attended by teachers, policymakers and researchers, the event built on learning from previous CEBE events and developed a set of tangible actions to take forward to 2015.

This was no easy task – the issues and barriers to creating an evidence-based education sector have been well documented (indeed we’ve covered these in numerous blogs before) so won’t be repeated here. Yet despite these barriers, experts from across the education sector worked hard to develop a set of propositions to improve interactions between policy, practice and research, with the overarching aim of improving education for all.

With one of the discussions focusing on policy levers, it is no surprise that participants discussed the role CEBE could play in a proposed College of Teaching. The idea of a College of Teaching has been in development for a few years but the Department for Education had, up until this week, been quiet.

One important role of a College of Teaching will be to promote and support evidence-based approaches to school improvement and professional practice. Participants felt CEBE would be ideally placed to help advise the College on how best to achieve this. Many of the participants have been working in this area for years and, like NFER, have a strong interest in improving the way research evidence is accessed, and used, across the sector.

In fact, given that the focus on creating an evidence-based profession shines through the Government’s consultation, most of the other propositions that emerged from the CEBE event could also link to the work of the College. Many of these build on work that is already underway through existing networks and infrastructures across the sector. Other propositions included career-long teacher development underpinned by evidence-based approaches; every school having a named research lead or equivalent; the creation of research hub schools; and the provision of guidance for schools on research engagement, based around case studies.

It is now for CEBE to consider these propositions and come up with a set of actions for 2015.
And as proposals for the development of a College of Teaching develop, let’s firstly remember that there is a lot of excellent evidence-informed practice out there already, upon which the College should build (discussions at the event were testament to this); and secondly that there are existing collaborations between practitioners, policymakers and researchers. We should take advantage of these pockets of good practice and use them to benefit a strong and sustainable College model.