There are increasing calls within Australia and internationally for schools to be research-engaged, for teaching to be research-rich and for researchers to engage with end-users. Such aspirations raise important questions about whether and how Australian schools are engaging in and with research. This paper reports on an empirical study, Catholic Education Melbourne’s Understanding School Engagement in Research project, which sought to better understand research engagement amongst 67 Catholic schools in Melbourne. Drawing on the findings of this project, coupled with a subsequent analysis of wider international literature, this paper shows how schools are selective about their research involvement; are discerning about what the research is on and how it is conducted; access research in indirect and informal ways; value research more than they use it; and need much more than research access. The paper concludes by synthesising these five themes into a conceptual framework for understanding and improving school research engagement, and outlining the implications for research organisations, schools and jurisdictions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anwaruddin, S. M. (2015). Teachers’ engagement with educational research: Toward a conceptual framework for locally-based interpretive communities. Education Policy Analysis Archives,23(40), 1–22.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, AITSL. (2014). Australian professional standard for principals and the leadership profiles. Melbourne: AITSL.
Australian Research Council, ARC. (2016). Engagement and impact assessment consultation paper. Canberra: ARC.
Australian Research Council, ARC. (2017). Making a difference. Canberra: ARC.
Befort, C., Lynch, R., James, R. L., Carroll, S. L., Nolleen, N., & Davis, A. (2008). Perceived barriers and benefits to research participation among school administrators. Journal of School Health,78(11), 581–586.
Bell, M., Cordingley, P., Isham, C., & Davis, R. (2010). Report of professional practitioner use of research review: Practitioner engagement in and/or with research. Coventry: CUREE, GTCE, LSIS & NTRP.
Biddle, B. J., & Saha, L., (2002/2005). The untested accusation: Principals, research knowledge, and policy making in schools. Wesipon: Ablex Publishing & Lanham.
Biddle, B. J., & Saha, L. J. (2006). How principals use research. Educational Leadership,March, 72–75.
Bielick, S. (2017). Surveys and questionnaires. In D. Wyse, N. Selwyn, E. Smith Smith & L. Suter (Eds.), The BERA/SAGE handbook of educational research (pp. 640–658). London: SAGE.
Biesta, G. (2007). Why “What works” won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational Theory,57(1), 1–22.
Boaz, A., Davies, H., Fraser, A., & Nutley, S. (Forthcoming, 2019). What works now? Evidence-informed policy and practice revisited. Bristol: The Policy Press
Borg, S. (2010). Language teacher research engagement. Language Teaching,43(4), 391–429.
British Educational Research Association (BERA) & Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce (RSA). (2014). Research and the teaching profession: Building the capacity for a self-improving education system. London: BERA/RSA.
Brown, C. (Ed.). (2015). Leading the use of research and evidence in schools. London: Institute of Education Press.
Brown, C., Daly, A., & Liou, Y. (2016). Improving trust, improving schools: Findings from a social network analysis of 43 primary schools in England. Journal of Professional Capital and Community,1(1), 69–91.
Brown, C., & Zhang, D. (2016). How can school leaders establish evidence-informed schools: An analysis of the effectiveness of potential school policy levers. Educational Management Administration & Leadership,45(3), 382–401.
Cain, T. (2015). Teachers’ engagement with research texts: Beyond instrumental, conceptual or strategic use. Journal of Education for Teaching,41(5), 478–492.
Cherney, A., Povey, J., Head, B., Boreham, P., & Ferguson, M. (2012). What influences the utilisation of educational research by policy-makers and practitioners? The perspectives of academic educational researchers. International Journal of Educational Research,56, 23–24.
Coburn, C., & Penuel, W. (2016). Research-practice partnerships in education: Outcomes, dynamics and open questions. Educational Researcher,45(1), 48–54.
Commonwealth of Australia. (2018). Through growth to achievement: Report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
Cooper, A. (2013). Research-brokering organizations in education across Canada: A response to evidence-based policy-making and practice initiatives. In S. P. Young (Ed.), Evidence-based policy-making in Canada: A multidisciplinary look at how evidence and knowledge shape Canadian public policy (pp. 67–92). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
Cordingley, P. (2015). The contribution of research to teachers’ professional learning and development. Oxford Review of Education,41(2), 234–252.
Cordingley, P., Wilson, J, Seddon, K., & Thomas, F. (2002). Encouraging discerning research involvement by schools and developing CPD co-ordinators: The contribution of the National Teacher Research Panel. Paper presented at British Educational Research Association Conference, Devon.
Dagenais, C., Lysenko, L., Abramai, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Ramde, J., & Janosz, M. (2012). Use of research-based information by school practitioners and determinants of use: A review of empirical research. Evidence & Policy,8(3), 285–309.
Davies, P. (1999). What is evidence-based education? British Journal of Educational Studies,47(2), 108–121.
Department of Education and Training, DET Victoria. (2015). The education state: School improvement initiatives. Melbourne: DET.
Dimmock, C. (2016). Conceptualising the research-practice-professional development nexus: Mobilising schools as ‘research-engaged’ professional learning communities. Professional Development in Education,42(1), 36–53.
Figgis, J., Zubrick, A., Butorac, A., & Alderson, A. (2000). Backtracking practice and policies to research. In Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, The Impact of Educational Research. Canberra: DETYA.
Finnigan, K. S., & Daly, A. (Eds.). (2014). Using research evidence in education. Dordrecht: Springer.
Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (2012). An introduction to systematic reviews. London: Sage.
Hammersley, M. (2004). Some questions about evidence-based practice in education. In G. Thomas & R. Pring (Eds.), Evidence-based practice in education (pp. 133–149). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Hargreaves, D. H. (1996). Teaching as a research-based profession: Possibilities and prospects (teacher training agency annual lectures 1996). London: Teacher Training Agency.
Hedges, H. (2010). Blurring the boundaries: Connecting research, practice and professional learning. Cambridge Journal of Education,40(3), 299–314.
Huberman, M. (1990). Linkage between researchers and practitioners: A qualitative study. American Educational Research Journal,27, 363–391.
Huberman, M. (1993). Linking the practitioner and research communities for school improvement. School Effectiveness and School Improvement,4(1), 1–16.
Huberman, M., & Levinson, N. (1984). An empirical model for exchanging educational knowledge between universities and schools. International Review of Education,30(4), 385–404.
Ion, G., & Iucu, R. (2014). Professionals’ perceptions about the use of research in educational practice. European Journal of Higher Education,4(4), 334–347.
Judkins, M., Stacey, O., McCrone, T., & Inniss, M. (2014). Teachers’ use of research evidence: A case study of United Learning schools. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.
Kawulich, B. (2017). Coding and analyzing qualitative data. In D. Wyse, N. Selwyn, E. Smith Smith & L. Suter (Eds.), The BERA/SAGE handbook of educational research (pp. 769–790). London: SAGE.
Landrum, T. J., Cook, B. G., Tankersley, M., & Fitzgerald, S. (2002). Teacher perceptions of the trustworthiness, usability and accessibility of information from different sources. Remedial and Special Education,23(1), 42–48.
Levin, B. (2004). Making research count more. Education Policy Archives, 12(56), 1–20.
Levin, B., Cooper, A., Arjomand, S., & Thompson, K. (2011). Can simple interventions increase research use in secondary schools? Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy,126, 1–29.
Lingard, B. (2013). The impact of research on education policy in an era of evidence-based policy. Critical Studies in Education,54(2), 113–131.
Lingard, B. (2015). Think Tanks, ‘policy experts’ and ‘ideas for’ education policy making in Australia. Australian Educational Researcher,43, 15–33.
Lysenko, L. V., Abramai, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Dagenais, C., & Janosz, M. (2014). Educational research in educational practice: Predictors of use. Canadian Journal of Education,37(2), 1–26.
Nelson, I. A., London, R. A., & Strobel, K. R. (2015). Reinventing the role of the university researcher. Educational Researcher,44(1), 17–26.
Nelson, J., & O’Beirne, C. (2014). Using evidence in the classroom: What works and why?. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.
NSW Government. (2017). School excellence framework. Sydney: NSW Government.
Nutley, S., Walter, I., & Davies, H. T. O. (2007). Using evidence: How research can inform public services. Bristol: Policy Press.
Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, OECD. (2007). Evidence in education: Linking research and policy. Paris: OECD.
Penuel, W. R., Briggs, D. C., Davidson, K. L, Herlihy, C., Sherer, D., Hill, H. C., Farrell, C. C., & Allen, A. (2016). Findings from a national survey of research use among school and district leaders (Technical Report No. 1). Boulder, CO: National Center for Research in Policy and Practice.
Prendergast, S. (2017). Understanding school engagement in research (USER) project. Melbourne: Catholic Education Melbourne.
Proctor, R. (2015). Teachers and school research practices: The gaps between the values and practices of teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching,41(5), 464–477.
Productivity Commission. (2016). National Education Evidence Base, Report no. 80. Canberra: Productivity Commission
Reid, A. (2016). The use and abuse of research in the public domain. Australian Educational Researcher,43, 75–91.
Rickinson, M. (2005). Practitioners’ use of research. London: National Educational Research Forum.
Rickinson, M., de Bruin, K., Walsh, L., & Hall, M. (2017). What can evidence-use in practice learn from evidence-use in policy? Educational Research,59(2), 173–189.
Scott, S., & McNeish, D. (2013). School leadership evidence review: Using research evidence to support school improvement. London: Department for Education.
Sharples, J. (2013). Evidence for the frontline. London: Alliance for Useful Evidence.
Shore, S., White, S., Nuttall, J., Mills, M., Down, B., Woods, A. & Bussey, K. (2017). A Research-rich teaching profession: Insights from the field. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Canberra.
St. Clair, R., Chen, C., & Taylor, L. (2003). How adult literacy practitioners use research. Occasional Research Paper 2. College Station: Texas Centre for Adult Literacy and Learning.
Stenhouse, L. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heinemann.
Teh, L., Hogan, D., & Dimmock, C. (2013). Knowledge mobilization and utilisation in the Singapore education system: The nexus between researchers, policy makers and practitioners. In B. Levin, J. Qi, H. Edelstein, & J. Sohn (Eds.), The impact of research in education: An international perspective (pp. 41–63). Bristol: Policy Press.
Todman, J., Crombie, I., & Keighren, J. (1990). Protracted intrusive research in schools: Why us? Educational Studies,16(2), 141–149.
Tseng, V., & Nutley, S. (2014). Building the infrastructure to improve the use and usefulness of research in education. In K. S. Finnigan & A. J. Daly (Eds.), Using research evidence in education (pp. 163–175). Dordrecht: Springer.
Vanderlinde, R., & van Braak, J. (2010). The gap between educational research and practice: Views of teachers, school leaders, intermediaries and researchers. British Educational Research Journal,36(2), 299–316.
White, S. (2016). Teacher education research and education policymakers: An Australian perspective. Journal of Education for Teaching,42(2), 252–264.
Williams, D., & Coles, L. (2007). Teachers’ approaches to finding and using research evidence: An information literacy perspective. Educational Research,49(2), 185–206.
About this article
Cite this article
Prendergast, S., Rickinson, M. Understanding school engagement in and with research. Aust. Educ. Res. 46, 17–39 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-018-0292-9
- Research engagement
- Research use
- Evidence use