Methodological expertise

We draw on our unique multi-disciplinary expertise to deliver complex projects, which reach the heart of education practice and policymaking.

Some of our areas of specialist technical expertise includes:

Our team is adept at designing qualitative studies and evaluation approaches that provide the data necessary to answer your key research questions. We draw on a range of qualitative research methods to provide in-depth understanding of education systems. We conduct:

  • documentary analysis
  • in-depth interviews
  • focus groups
  • classroom observations
  • ethnographic research
  • participatory approaches and workshops
  • single and comparative case study research

We use computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software and thematic coding to draw out comprehensive and insightful observations on the views, attitudes and behaviours of those involved in the education system.

Further details on our qualitative research, particularly in the UK, can be found at Qualitative Research

Analysing existing education data can offer new insights on policy and practice questions. At NFER, we are skilled in applying secondary data analysis methods to key education datasets to create such insights, as part of both research and evaluation projects.

We are experienced in applying advanced methods, including hierarchical linear regression models, cluster analysis, and working with national assessment data and with data from international large scale assessment datasets such as PISA that have complex sampling designs. We are equally confident in providing simple, descriptive analyses that help to clarify and communicate the important messages from complex data.

Further details of our analysis of education datasets, particularly in the UK, can be found at Analysis of Large Datasets

We are able to use mixed methods to develop a greater understanding of education issues.  We apply both quantitative and qualitative research methods to gather data and evidence on the research question to deepen and broaden the scope of our findings.

Our methodological expertise includes the use of experimental and quasi-experimental designs, such as propensity score matching and difference-in-difference. We are also able to carry out value for money analysis for clients.

We have experience in both sequential and parallel data gathering techniques in mixed methods research. Our particular expertise is in mixed method theory-based evaluations, and in contribution analysis, especially Qualitative Comparative Analysis.

Further details of our mixed method studies, particularly in the UK, can be found at Evaluation

We are experienced in trial design, trial management and trial data analysis. Our team of experts have a track record in overseeing a trial’s protocol and testing arrangements, understanding the strict methodological requirements of randomised controlled trials and liaising efficiently with delivery partners.  

Further details of our trials work can be found at NFER Education Trials Unit

NFER literature reviews are rigorous, succinct and independent. They inform our clients’ policy, practice and commissioning decisions.

We have extensive knowledge of education research and education systems worldwide. From rapid reviews to more in-depth evidence summaries, we can provide a full suite of evidence review options for clients. 

Further details of our reviews and evidence scioping, particularly in the UK, can be found at Reviews & Evidence Scoping

Accurately measuring the development, skills, attitudes, opinions, well-being and behaviours of pupils, students, practitioners and senior leaders is vital for much of our clients’ research and assessment work.

Our expertise includes developing simple yet robust tools to measure literacy and numeracy, as well as for measuring 21st century skills such as empathy and self-management; and more formal, standardised assessments providing the highest level of rigour for measuring individual student learning.

We also develop structured, semi-structured and open-ended tools to gather data from students, parents, teachers and other key stakeholders in the educational landscape.

Our work on instrument design is underpinned by our expertise in psychometrics.

Further details of our instrument and design testing, particularly in the UK, can be found at Psychometrics.