Accelerating evolution? The phenomenon of ‘research-invested schools’

Year: 2021

Author: Chilton, Hugh, Holbrook, Allyson, Twining, Peter, Munday, Caitlin

Type of paper: Individual Paper

It is no longer especially novel to think of schools as sites of research, or to hear calls for teachers to be ‘research-engaged’ or ‘research-informed’ professionals. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers require all teachers to ‘structure teaching programs using research and collegial advice about how students learn’, and ‘engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities’. It is well recognised that practitioner research is an effective way to enhance professional learning and cultivate a climate of experimentation and review.  In addition, Government-backed education research institutes devoted to influencing policy and practice have proliferated in recent years, among them the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK, the What Works Clearinghouse in the US, and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. The Gonski 2.0 Report recommended creating a national evidence and research institute, and with $50 million of federal seed funding, the Australian research education Organisation launched early in 2021, while the Q Project located at Monash University seeks to understand the use of evidence in Australian schools. Alongside these top-down approaches, a bottom-up movement is also in evidence as schools increasingly strive to embed ‘research-informed practice’ as a key part of their professional learning and improvement agendas. In the last 7 years, more than 30 Australian schools have either established a research centre or institute of some description or appointed a ‘research lead’ to explicitly focus on research. This paper seeks to distinguish the characteristics of this group of what we have termed ‘research-invested’ schools, where research engagement and the professional growth research skills development and knowledge creation affords become embedded in school goals and institutional identity. The paper traces the growth of this phenomenon and how research-invested schools  have evolved within the increasingly fluid landscape of research development and training in Australia.