Research School Network: Engaging with Evidence A tool to help in-school teams engage with the evidence base


Engaging with Evidence

A tool to help in-school teams engage with the evidence base

by Kingsbridge Research School
on the

Being evidence-informed means going beyond what Professor Becky Francis has called surface level compliance’ to the evidence, the biggest threat to any change in education’.

In other words, it’s not enough to look at the headline claims. If evidence is informing a decision we’re making in school, we need to engage with it to understand whether it fits the purpose, issue and context we have in mind. We need to know where the evidence comes from and how robust it is. If we do this, we emerge with an explicable narrative, one we can communicate and evaluate.

But how do we engage with the evidence? Kingsbridge Research School and Cornwall Associate Research School are working in several partnerships at the moment:

  • A metacognition project with all the schools in Cornwall Learning Education Trust
  • A secondary literacy and teacher training programme with secondary schools across Plymouth
  • The Devon Right to Read project, a KS2 literacy programme with 90 primaries

One benefit we’ve seen from this partnership work is that there are more opportunities for long-term conversations around the evidence than there are in shorter, standalone courses. For example, following a professional development session on a particular aspect of the evidence, we have been able to work with schools’ Implementation Teams to construct in-school PD that explicitly aims not to add anything new, but to prompt deeper discussion of the evidence.

Evidence “only leads to sustained change if there is time for informed debate and teachers can see the impact in practice”

(Coldwell et al., 2017, p. 28)

Using evidence really is a social process. Engaging with evidence means talking about the evidence. By doing so, we get under the surface, confront the implications, realise what we know and, just as important, what we don’t yet know or what we may have misunderstood.

Meaningfully engaging with evidence requires “communication, collaboration and interactions through networks within and beyond the school”

(Godfrey, 2019, p. 209)

To help make this kind of engagement easier, we’ve put together the following tool. Although by no means exhaustive, it draws together several prompts and existing tools to help in-school teams structure their discussion of the evidence base.

You can download a PDF copy below.

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The Engaging with Evidence tool
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The Engaging with Evidence tool

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Coldwell, M., Greaney, T., Higgins, S., Brown, C., Maxwell, B., Stiell, B., Stoll, L,. Willis, B., & Burns, H. (2017). Evidence-informed teaching: An evaluation of progress in England.…

Godfrey, D; (2019) Moving forward – how to create and sustain an evidence-informed school eco-system. In: Godfrey, D and Brown, C, (eds.) An ecosystem for research-engaged schools: reforming education through research. Routledge: London, UK

Francis, B., 2021. Why superficial compliance with research is dangerous. [online] Tes. Available at: [Accessed 15 May 2021].

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