Towards a Better Understanding of Quality of Evidence Use

Year: 2019

Author: Rickinson, Mark, Cirkony, Connie, Walsh, Lucas

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is a growing expectation in Australia and internationally that teachers and school and system leaders will use research evidence to underpin and inform their improvement efforts (e.g., White et al., 2018; Nelson and Campbell, 2019). But what does it mean to use research evidence well as an educator or a leader? And how can we move from a focus on the quality of the evidence to a focus on the quality of the use?

In his recent book on The Politics of Evidence, Parkhurst (2017: 170) argues that ‘To improve the use of evidence in policy requires an explicit engagement with the question of what constitutes better use from a political perspective’. This paper aims to do exactly this but in relation to education – that is, to engage with the question of what constitutes better use of evidence from an educational perspective.

It will present early ideas emerging from the Q Project, a new 5-year study that focuses onimproving the use of evidence in Australian schools. The starting point will be that understanding quality of evidence use needs to encompass both quality of evidence and quality of use. To date, there has been long-standing discussion and debate about what counts as quality evidence, but far less deliberation about what counts as quality use. This is changing as certain researchers within and beyond education have started to explore the issue of evidence use quality (e.g., Earl and Timperley, 2009; Farley-Ripple, 2015; Rutter and Gold, 2015; Brown and Rogers, 2015; Parkhurst, 2017).

Drawing on analysis and synthesis of such work across education, health and social care, this paper will outline a conceptual framework for making sense of quality evidence use in schools. Quality use will be framed in terms of two core components (i.e., appropriate evidence and thoughtful use) and four enabling components (i.e., skillsets, mindsets, relationships and systems). Through elaboration of these early ideas about quality use, this paper will invite feedback and discussion about how this framework might be further developed in collaboration with schools and school systems.