Evidence for the Frontline – Research in the hands of practitioners
The aim of the Evidence for the Frontline (E4F) scheme is to develop and test ways of enhancing educational practice by linking practitioners with researchers, high quality evidence, evidence-based programmes and colleagues in other schools.
The project is a collaboration between Sandringham School in St Albans and the Institute for Effective Education, based at the University of York, working with 12 schools to develop the process and a further 20 to pilot it.
The process is based around a hub at Sandringham School which receives enquiries from participating schools, by phone, email or social media, about issues for which they are seeking research evidence. Staff at the school’s E4F office discuss the issue with the enquirer and help decide on a next step, which might be to:
- contact a research expert prepared to answer the question and discuss the evidence base with the school
- provide a range of research resources that help to answer the question
- connect them with a previous answer to their question, and the discussion on the website that resulted,
Over time, a database of academic experts, resources and school contacts is being built up at the Institute for Effective Education together with feedback from people who had previously engaged in the process. This will be used to inform subsequent enquiries.
The plan has been developed over three years by a group of individuals in the Coalition for Evidence-Based Education, keen to see greater use of research evidence in practice. The ultimate intention is to provide a sustainable service open to schools, colleges and other frontline organisations. To reach this position the scheme has passed through two preliminary stages: developing the process with a small group of developer schools and piloting the process with a wider group:
- A Development Phase, from April 2015, with developer schools who worked with Sandringham School and the Institute for Effective Education to shape the scheme as a whole.
- A Pilot Phase from October 2015 to July 2016 with a cohort of 20 new schools joining the developer schools. The pilot has been independently evaluated.
The approach has been developed in the light of recent evidence about effectiveness in using research to inform public services. Much of this suggests that simply providing access to research literature is no guarantee that it will be used effectively to improve practice. More interaction is needed between the parties to overcome the inherent difficulties of using evidence in practice.
The future plan is to build on the broadly positive outcomes of the evaluation of the pilot. The next step is to continue to scale up the approach, moving towards a public service available to all educational providers. This would need to be sustainable, so would probably entail a subscription. The evaluation suggests adaptations that need to be made but at this stage stops short of recommending a more detailed trial ito determine its effectiveness in improving outcomes for learners.
The project is being supported by the Education Endowment Foundation. More details are available here - http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects/evidence-for-the-fro..., including the evaluation report, published in March 2017.