“They want to make a difference, they want to have an effect”: Australian teachers, educational data and evidence-informed practice

Year: 2018

Author: Mockler, Nicole, Stacey, Meghan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent years have seen not only a burgeoning of educational data available to schools and teachers but also an increased push toward 'evidence-based practice' in education across many national jurisdictions (Goldacre, 2013; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012), including Australia. Despite the ongoing policy rhetoric around evidence-based practice, until recently, there has been minimal focus on sufficiently equipping teachers to collect, analyse or interpret educational data (Mills & Goos, 2017)as part of their work. Further, recent research has highlighted systemic and professional barriers to teachers using and conducting educational research in their classrooms in different national contexts such as Canada (Lysenko, Abrami, Bernard, Dagenais, & Janosz, 2014)the UK (Evans, 2017), Turkey(Beycioglu, Ozer, & Ugurlu, 2010)and Greece (Papasotiriou & Hannan, 2006). These barriers are identified variously as relating to contextual factors (such as school and system expectations and support) and to individual factors (such as personal orientations toward research and professional confidence in one’s capacity to interpret and conduct research), and the links between the two.
This paper reports on a study designed to respond to current policy demands around data use in schools, by shedding light on Australian teachers’ engagement with educational data, research and evidence-based practice. The study aims to explore questions around how teachers understand and engage with educational research and data, how they understand and collect evidence of their practice, and to what end. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 primary and secondary teachers located in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and South Australia and used iteratively to inform a questionnaire comprising both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, distributed broadly to Australian primary and secondary teachers. The paper reports on the data collected via both means, drawing conceptually on the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis, Wilkinson, Edwards-Groves, Hardy, Grootenboer, & Bristol, 2014) to develop an understanding of teachers’ practice as it relates to data and research, and the cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political ‘arrangements’ that enable and constrain their engagement with research and data in the various sites and policy contexts in which their practice is enacted.