Assessing Claims in Education

When teachers and school leaders look for evidence in order to help them make important choices in the context of their classroom practice or school-level interventions, they are frequently presented with a multitude of claims and counter-claims, supported by varying kinds and qualities of research. Given most educators don’t possess a background in research methods or statistics, how can we help them to better navigate this evidence?

Assessing Claims in Education (ACE) draws upon the work of the Informed Healthcare Choice project (Chalmers et al, 2018), which identified a number of key concepts which can help people to make better decisions about their medical and healthcare needs. For example, a sample of these concepts were developed as education materials for use by primary aged children in Uganda. The study found that, with suitable support, children were successfully able to apply these ideas to critically appraise claims about the benefits and harms of health care treatments (Nsangi et al, 2016). Could these concepts, identified as relevant, useful and teachable in the context of healthcare, be adapted to help educators navigate the research claims they encounter?

A CEBE team, working with some of the researchers who developed the Informed Healthcare Choice project, has been examining how these key concepts can be translated into an education context. By identifying a manageable range of useful heuristics and translating them into an education context, the hope is that they might form a useful resource which can feed into future teacher and school leader professional development programmes. We know that educators often have to make difficult choices about how to best use resources or identify the best support to help their pupils succeed in school. By helping educators to engage more critically with claims about education and more constructively with the research evidence, we can help them better navigate the ‘evidence jungle’ and make the most informed decisions.

Chalmers, I., Oxman, A. D., Austvoll-Dahlgren, A., Ryan-Vig, S., Pannell, S., Sewankambo, N., ... & Mahtani, K. (2018). Key concepts for informed health choices: a framework for helping people learn how to assess treatment claims and make informed choices. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine23(1), 29-33.

Nsangi, A., Semakula, D., Glenton, C., Lewin, S., Oxman, A. D., Oxman, M., ... & Fretheim, A. (2016). Resources to teach primary school children in low-income countries. Informed Health Choices Working Paper.