Research School Network: 3 Principles of an Evidence-informed Approach Mark Miller on guiding principles for evidence-informed practice


3 Principles of an Evidence-informed Approach

Mark Miller on guiding principles for evidence-informed practice

by Bradford Research School
on the

Bradford Research School sits within Dixons Centre for Growth. One of the challenges of working across a growing academy trust is how to communicate evidence effectively.

As a trust, we aim to make evidence-informed decisions. It’s important that we can communicate clearly the why for our approaches, the evidence base that informs them, the optimal conditions for implementation, the active ingredients, the nuance, the possible lethal mutations. But if the research’ is held only in the centre, then there is a danger that we lose autonomy, innovation, and leave ourselves open to unforeseen consequences.

We want to support everyone to find evidence, weigh it up, make decisions and implement effectively. To help, we have designed meta-messages. These are ways of thinking, and are heavily influenced by the EEF’s Implementation guidance. We try to promote these meta-messages explicitly with our teams, as well as implicitly through how we act.


Better decisions

Evidence can help us to make decisions– because as Sir Kevan Collins says, if we’re not using evidence, what are we using?‘

We talk in terms of best bets’, rather than any guarantees
. And we use the evidence, along with our own professional judgement to decide what these best bets are.

We focus on the how, as well as the what,
asking not just what works’ but how it works. This means identifying the active ingredients, the elements of the approach that are crucial to its success.

Rich evidence picture

We build a rich evidence picture by looking at more than just individual pieces of research in isolation. We know that we may be prone to biases , so it’s important not to simply look for evidence that confirms our existing beliefs and remain open to that which challenges our thinking. Evidence includes our own school data and what our students and staff do.

We use trusted sources
because our time to read evidence is finite. Finding trusted sources who can explore, synthesise, curate, filter and communicate the evidence is crucial. These might be the Research School, the EEF, the Chartered College, subject or professional associations, academics, authors, and our own Dixons Evidence Leads. See, for example James Dyke’s articulation of the role of routines:

The What and Why of Routines in School Culture

Establishing Effective Routines in School Culture

Evolution Not Stagnation

We explore the nuance, looking beyond the surface, avoiding blanket statements that the evidence doesn’t support. We know some things work well in one context but not another, and that average effects hide nuance.


And finally, Implementation is key. 

We make evidence-informed decisions on what to implement. We are clear what we are looking to achieve by adopting a new programme or practice. We systematically identify the right approach to achieve these goals and locate reliable evidence that it can have the desired impact, if implemented well.

Once we have codified the active ingredients’ of an approach, we clearly communicate these active ingredients, and ensure that approaches are delivered with fidelity.

This thinking is still very much a work in progress, but we hope that by making these messages explicit, we will develop a healthy approach to evidence-informed implementation.

This post is adapted from a Dixons Opensource video. You can see the full video below. 

Evidence-informed principles

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