WHY DO SCHOOLS ENGAGE IN AND WITH RESEARCH, AND WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Year: 2017

Author: Prendergast, Shani, Rickinson, Mark, Hall, Matthew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
There are increasing calls within Australia and internationally for universities to be 'engaging with research end-users', for schools to be 'research engaged' and for jurisdictions to be 'evidence ecosystems' (e.g. Australian Research Council, 2016; Dimmock, 2016; Sharples, 2013). Efforts to create new evidence and find out 'what works', mean schools are regularly approached by researchers and jurisdictions to participate in research projects. But how much is known about if, how and why Australian schools engage in, and with research?

This paper reports on a study that sought to explore this question amongst Melbourne Catholic schools (Prendergast et al., 2016). Initiated by Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM), the Understanding School Engagement in Research (USER) project involved consulting schools about their involvement in research projects and their engagement with research evidence. Through an online survey, focus groups and school visits, 73 schools provided rich feedback on:
- their responses to requests to participate in research projects (e.g. how many requests they receive, how many they say Yes to, why they say Yes or No, research topics they are more/less interested in); and
- their views and practices around using research evidence (e.g. whether/how much they value and use research and evidence, how they access research and evidence, what helps/hinders).

Drawing on the findings of the USER Project, coupled with an analysis of the wider international literature on schools' research engagement, this paper will share insights and raise questions about:

- schools receiving many requests to participate in research, but choosing very few;
- the need to better align researchers' interests with schools' needs and priorities;
- schools valuing research and evidence, but often not using it in practice; and
- the need to connect evidence availability with building school capacity for engagement.

The discussion of these issues will explore their potential implications for educational researchers and educational jurisdictions, and their relationships with schools. As schools are critical stakeholders in educational research, this paper will invite further discussion about how to engage schools more meaningfully in, and with research.

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