It's not that hard but it can't be too easy: Conducting quality educational research in Australian schools

Year: 2012

Author: Stevens, Robert, Liyanage, Shantha, Warne, Christine, Tremblay, Pascal

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


State education departments receive hundreds of applications to conduct research in schools. They are often regarded as risk-averse gatekeepers whose primary concern is duty of care as they manage what researchers might seem to be an onerous research approval processes. This paper provides an insight into the processes that support the submission, review and approval (or not) of research applications. These are likely to involve ensuring applications are of a high quality and feasible; that they address departmental priorities, meet the educational needs of students and/or, improve teacher professional practice and, ultimately have the potential to add to the evidence base which informs policy decisions. Further, the paper explores the ways in which mutually beneficial partnerships between education departments and researchers can be established, how researchers can access existing departmental data and how ethical practice is understood. In addition to ethical academic professional practice (as signed off by university-based Human Research Ethics Committees), there are departmental considerations, for example, informed consent for participation in research activities, the impact of "in-kind" support for research from school staff and students, and specific risks when researching children in the school context. Overall the paper raises challenges and opportunities for researchers working with education departments for improving the quality and relevance of educational research, particularly when conducted in the field.