How much of what a school does is evidence-informed? Interesting study

Maybe this study shouldn’t be a study but a service to schools. Jane Pegram and colleagues examined the different interventions and programs used by 10 schools in Wales and checked the evidence base for these interventions. The results are sobering in several ways:

The last decade has seen an increased focus through policy and research for schools to move towards an evidence-informed practice. Although some practitioners now access the external research evidence when deciding which interventions to adopt in their school, research suggests many still do not. Instead, approaches to teaching and learning are often informed by trends and the opinions and experiences of practitioners. Little is known about what intervention programmes/approaches are used in schools and whether they are evidence-based. We conducted this study to assess the range and evidence of interventions used in a school cluster in Wales, which comprised two secondary schools, seven primary schools and one special school. Using questionnaires, we evidenced 242 interventions. Following screening, we included 138 of these in the analysis and categorised them according to the ‘SEN Areas of Need’. We then conducted a rapid systematic review of the literature for these interventions and found that 30% had some evidence of positive impact on pupil outcomes, 67% had no published evidence, and 3% had causal evidence to suggest they were ineffective. One year later, we conducted a follow-up study to assess if schools’ knowledge of the evidence for the interventions, presented through a summary report, had an impact on their provision. Our data suggest that the reports had very little impact on existing provision, and some schools continued to use the same interventions. The limitations of this study and directions for the cluster, policy and research are discussed.

Or put differently:

The findings suggest that schools adopt a large number of interventions that have a very limited evidence-base, with few having evidence of causal-effect. The results suggest that when presented with summary reports of evidence, not all schools use this information to make informed decisions. The results, will be used to inform cluster provision and help move them towards a more evidence-informed approach to improving provision.

So maybe it shouldn’t be offered as a service because the schools kept doing things despite the report given to them.

To be clear: I’m not proposing that everything done in schools be based on research. Why? Because there is still a lot of stuff that hasn’t been examined thoroughly or where the evidence is inconclusive. But still: if a school could easily find what could work and what is less sure bet, that would be great. But then again, there was also this study earlier this week.

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