Combining the best of two worlds: a conceptual proposal for evidence-informed school improvement

Chris Brown, Kim Schildkamp, Mireille Hubers

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    Background - Data-based decision-making (DBDM) and research-informed teaching practice (RITP) are key to teacher and school improvement. Currently, however, DBDM and RITP represent two distinct approaches to developing evidence-informed practice (EIP) and do not correspond to the all-encompassing notion of EIP envisaged by many academics and commentators.

    - DBDM and RITP are usually employed independently of each other. Each is associated with its own theoretical perspectives and research base, and each has its own pitfalls and strengths. Yet the approaches employed appear to be complementary, suggesting that there might be value in combining DBDM and RITP into one overarching process for achieving EIP. This paper presents the conceptual analysis and arguments for this proposal.

    Sources of evidence
    - Drawing from literature and previous research in the fields of DBDM, RITP and EIP, we describe both DBDM and RITP, before comparing and contrasting the integral aspects of each.

    Main argument - Our analysis leads us to suggest that not only is there overlap between these two approaches, but the strengths of each appear to mirror and compensate for the weaknesses of the other. As such, we argue that it is important that decisions in education are based on a combination of personal judgement, research evidence and local school data. This is because such a combination is likely to lead to equitable, effective and efficient decisions that are informed by values and preferences, grounded in context and steeped in practices that have been shown to be effective elsewhere.

    Conclusions - We suggest that an effective strategy for EIP might be to achieve ‘the best of two worlds’ by integrating DBDM and RITP. In line with evidence-informed practices in medicine and management, this means EIP in education can finally be engaged in as a holistic approach to educational decision-making that critically appraises different forms of evidence before key improvement decisions are made. Our proposed approach, Evidence informed School and Teacher Improvement, is thus designed with the aim of enhancing the quality of educational provision by employing these evidence types as part of a systematic cycle of inquiry, focused on continuously improving the quality of learning in schools.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)154-172
    JournalEducational Research
    Issue number2
    Early online date20 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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