Evaluative Thinking: A missing factor in translating research into improved student outcomes

Year: 2021

Author: Paproth, Hayley

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Despite significant investments in the last decade by education systems across Australia, we are yet to see an impact on student outcomes at a large scale. Practices shown to be effective by researchers are often found to lose impact when scaled up. Evidence-based programs and policy have demonstrated success in pockets, but these are yet to improve student outcomes at a state or national level significantly. There appears to be a missing factor that allows schools and systems to apply research and evidence-based improvement initiatives successfully. I suggest that this missing factor is Evaluative Thinking (ET). ET describes a set of mindsets (such as a belief in the value of evidence and a willingness to challenge assumptions) and behaviours (such as collecting and analysing data, systematic questioning, reflecting, critical thinking, and making evidence-based decisions) that are associated with thinking and working evaluatively. Teachers and leaders who think evaluatively understand how to read educational research, apply it to their own context, set goals, monitor implementation against the desired outcomes, and adapt accordingly. It has been shown that ET improves outcomes of programs and initiatives; however, this is yet to be fully understood and leveraged in education. This presentation will investigate ET, explore the limited literature regarding ET in education, discuss how it is expressed in schools, and explain how teachers and leaders who think evaluatively may be the missing link in translating quality education research into improved student outcomes.