Using Evidence in the Classroom: What Works and Why?

Julie Nelson, Clare O'Beirne

20 January 2014

Research summary

This review is published by NFER as part of the Teacher Development strand of our Research Programme. It synthesises research on effective approaches to the creation of a more evidence-informed teaching profession. Specific review foci are to:

  • draw together recent UK evidence (2010 onwards);
  • identify factors that enable effective use of evidence within schools;
  • discuss ways in which evidence is being produced and used in practice;
  • analyse evaluations of the effectiveness of different approaches to evidence use;

Topics for attention and action:

  • Systemic issues – If the whole education profession is to become more evidence informed, system change is needed, which requires coordinated action. This can potentially be supported by government, but the impetus needs to come from professional teaching associations, leadership bodies, ITT and CPD providers.
  • From evidence production to use – Ensuring that useful evidence finds its way to classrooms is not a linear process. If evidence is to be effectively utilised then it needs to be transformed. This requires social interaction, possibly via intermediaries, and the production of teacher-relevant guides and resources.
  • The role of teacher-led research and enquiry (R&E) – There is a lack of clarity about the role of teacher R&E. It can be valuable if its purpose is clearly defined, and if it is seen as a means to an end – improved practice or pupil outcomes. Teachers who engage in R&E are more likely to engage with wider research evidence.
  • The evidence base – There are very few recent evaluated examples enabling us to determine the relative effectiveness of different approaches to evidence use. There is a need for better understanding of the most reliable methods so that useful research evidence can be embedded in schools in the best ways possible.