Evidence Use In Educational Policy: A Pilot Study In Victoria

Year: 2015

Author: Rickinson, Mark, Hall, Matthew, Du Bruin, Kate, Walsh, Lucas

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Calls for evidence-based policy have become increasingly widespread across many areas of public policy. Within education, there is increasing emphasis on the need for research evidence to be used in the development of educational policy in Australia and internationally. From a research perspective, however, the ways in which educational policy-makers interact with and make use of different kinds of evidence in the policy development process are not well understood.
This paper will present early findings from an ongoing one-year pilot study that is exploring the use of evidence by policy-makers within the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET). Developed as a co-funded, collaborative inquiry between Monash University and DET, this pilot study seeks to: explore in detail the nature and dynamics of evidence use and non-use within DET policy processes; contribute to and inform future capacity building efforts around evidence-based policy making in Victoria and beyond; and trial methods and clarify concepts for a future larger study on the use of evidence in educational policy and practice.
Thus far data collection has focused on two past policies (Towards Victoria as a Learning Community and School Performance Framework) and has involved in-depth interviews with 15 DET staff who had leading roles in the development of those policies (e.g. as lead policy writers, strategic advisors, background researchers) coupled with detailed documentary analysis of policy documents and background papers. Drawing on interim analysis of the interview data and documentary evidence, this paper will share early findings, in-depth examples and emerging ideas around:
(i) the nature of evidence use in policy (What types of research evidence have been used, in what ways and for what purposes?)
(ii) the dynamics of evidence use in policy (What challenges are involved in using evidence, and what helps and/or hinders evidence use to happen?)
(iii) the building of capacity for evidence use in policy (What could be done to improve the use of evidence in the future?)
The discussion of each of these issues will seek to show how this study’s findings connect with and contribute to wider research on the role of evidence in public policy. In particular, it will highlight how making sense of policy-makers’ use of evidence through a ‘policy narratives’ lens seems to have more analytical power than approaching it using an ‘instrumental, conceptual or strategic use’ lens.