Building on research that has already been done is a huge challenge. The internet has shown just how much replication of research takes place. Thousands of small scale studies can be found in some areas and no research can be found in others. This problem in finding evidence makes it difficult to professionally evaluate a proposed idea or intervention in education.
Consequently, groups of educators are experimenting with different approaches to literature reviews making their evaluations accessible online in a review summary. Could educators build this through collective action world wide?
For an impressive example of international collective action in systematic reviews of the evidence-base in health look at the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent global network of health practitioners, researchers, patient advocates and others committed to synthesising research evidence to make medical research useful in practice. Colleagues work voluntarily in small groups or find small amounts of funding to fund the reviews.
The Campbell Collaboration also engages volunteer educators in undertaking substantial systematic reviews. Other initiatives include the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development literature reviews, the UK EPPI Centre and UK Home Office rapid evidence assessments. Because of the large volume of published educational studies and the lack of coverage of thousands of topics relevant to teaching across ages, stages, abilities and subjects, the education sector needs a system for undertaking meta-analyses/syntheses of research by teacher groups who want to explore particular topics.
Thanks are due to Teacher Fellows from the 80-school-strong network the Bedford Borough Learning Exchange in Bedfordshire, UK who undertook preliminary work developing Tool 3 early in 2015.
An interesting approach to synthesis is evident in articles published by Professor Keith Topping who has a long history of summarising research for the purpose of advising policy makers and practitioners. He has agreed to be an adviser to Review Groups. His published reviews show the value of this approach.
Professor Topping’s contact details are as follows:
Keith Topping, Professor of Educational and Social Research School of Education, University of Dundee Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK email email@example.com. For further information see http://www.dundee.ac.uk/eswce/people/kjtopping.htm.
Research Aggregators such as the UK Education Evidence Portal and the Evidence Informed Policy and Practice in Education in Europe Search Portal provide useful tools for finding research which has been done before. Google Scholar and the USA What Works Clearing House are major resources providing access to existing research.
This page was updated by Karen Taylor Burge and Marilyn Leask, September 2015.