IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New paper examines the link between education research and practice

14 May 2020

A new UCL Institute of Education (IOE) paper on close-to-practice research in education has been published in the British Educational Research Journal.

Headteacher and teacher in leadership discussion. Image: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

The paper, by Professor Dominic Wyse, Professor Sandy Oliver, Ximena Poblete (IOE) and Professor Chris Brown (Durham University), looks at the relationship between education practice and research. It specifically examines the quality of close-to-practice research.

Close-to-practice research puts practitioners at the heart of the research process, focussing on issues defined by them as relevant to their practice, e.g. problems identified by teachers relevant to their teaching. This type of research involves collaboration between people whose main expertise is in research, in educational practice, or both. 

Although there was evidence of some world-leading examples the authors discuss key steps to improve the quality of close-to-practice research. It was found that the best close-to-practice research robustly connects theory, research design and practice in order to develop richer understandings of educational issues. This is done through an iterative process of research and application. 

As part of the study, the researchers completed a rapid evidence assessment (REA) that reduced the initial search of 1,343 abstracts down to 47 full papers that were analysed in full. The study also included interviews with people with in-depth expertise in the practice and strategic leadership of research. In the final analysis, six close-to-practice studies were assessed as high quality, including one that was UK-oriented. 

The paper also examines the implications for education as a discipline in universities. The relationship between education practice and education theory is part of the history of education in universities. Some have argued that this relationship reflects an inherent weakness. However, the work reported in this paper suggests otherwise.  

Professor Dominic Wyse said: “Education research has faced recurrent criticisms. As I argued in my BERA Presidential Address the time is long overdue for a more assertive and confident advocacy for education and education research. The work in this paper provides evidence of this high quality, but also steps that should be taken to make further improvements.”

‘Education research and educational practice: The qualities of a close relationship’ was published online on 12 May 2020.



Credit: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education