Research into supporting science teachers to engage with and carry out research

NFER Senior Research Manager, Julie Nelson

28 March 2022

Supporting science teachers to engage with and carry out research
Research Report: March 2022
- (pdf file)

Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)

This mixed methods study extends the knowledge base on how science teachers engage with and carry out research, the impacts of doing so on their teaching and schools, and effective approaches to brokering pedagogical research for use in schools.

Key Findings

Supporting teachers to engage with, use or carry out research can improve science teaching:

  • A statistically significant, positive relationship was found between participants’ involvement in the programme and enhanced science pedagogical practices.

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to effectively brokering the use of pedagogical research, instead CPD needs to be tailored to participants’ school phase, career stage/pathway, interests, and available time:

  • Different types of structured support were associated with increased research use and enhanced science practice. These included: in depth engagement with research (for example, through Journal Clubs); lighter touch engagement with ‘nuggets’ from research summaries (for example, from the EEF Improving Secondary Science Guidance); carrying out research (for example, small-scale classroom randomised controlled trials (RCTs); as well as the provision of research-informed lesson plans and teaching and learning resources.

School leaders can increase the likelihood of research being used to improve science teaching by fostering a collaborative school culture, where teachers come to together to discuss research and plan lessons and curricula and are encouraged to experiment with their practices. They need to back this up with appropriate time and resources.

  • Time and workload were the main barriers to teachers’ use of research.
  • Research use was more widespread where teachers engaged in collaborative planning of lessons and curricula.


The research report includes:

  • The findings of a change-over-time analysis of outcomes in relation to research engagement and use and science pedagogic practice
  • In depth insights into how teachers engage with and carry out research and the factors that enable and impede this.
  • Key learning for CPD providers intending to broker research use.