Evident that Evidence Use Needs Support

Teachers see the value in evidence-based practice, barriers remain.
Feb 7, 2023
Evidence in teaching practice is valued but there are limits to how far teachers will go in using it.

The good news is that evidence is used widely by teachers and leaders across Australian schools to inform their teaching, but they need structure to gain confidence in using it effectively and value coaching and support from their leaders to get there.

While they see the value in evidence, many teachers would hesitate to go so far as to encourage each other to change their practice based solely on the evidence.

Only 45% of respondents from AERO’s evidence use survey “agree” or “strongly agree” they would encourage colleagues to stop using an instructional practice if evidence from academic research shows it doesn’t work and 36% “agree” or “strongly agree” they will encourage colleagues to stop using an instructional practice if evidence they collected from their classroom shows it doesn’t work.

Teachers tend to believe what they have seen and observed themselves, valuing evidence generated in schools above that provided by research.

School teachers and leaders more frequently report using teacher-generated evidence than research evidence: 67% reported using forms of teacher-generated evidence “often” or “very often” and 41% report using forms of research evidence “often” or “very often”.

Teachers and leaders who are confident in their skills in assessing the quality and relevance of academic research, are around twice as likely to report that they “often” or “very often” consulted academic research to improve their knowledge about the effectiveness of an instructional practice.

Some 54% of teachers and 81% of leaders who were confident in their skills reported consulting academic research “often” or “very often”. Only 29% of teachers and 37% of leaders who were not confident in their skills reported consulting academic research “often” or “very often”.

Teachers value encouragement to use evidence, opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange, and state that availability of suitable professional learning opportunities will encourage evidence use.

Interestingly, while over 80% of teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” their leaders encourage them to use evidence or to share and discuss evidence, it seems more programs to support evidence use could be made available; 64% have regular access to coaching to help them use evidence to change their practice.

Some 73% report that at their school, they have set aside regular times or meetings to discuss evidence and 66% indicate that their school system (Government, Catholic or Independent) provides easily accessible information, resources, training or other support to help them use evidence when they teach.

Dedicated time is particularly important, as many teachers report time as a barrier to engaging with evidence. This professional learning can take many shapes, including formal training courses as well as opportunities for collaboration, and knowledge-exchange to build skills to assess quality, rigour and relevance of evidence.

Over three quarters of Australian teachers who respond to international educational surveys report regularly using evidence-based practices. Explicit instruction and formative assessment are most frequently reported, and some practices seem to be more frequent in classrooms with younger students.

But not all evidence-based practices are used frequently. Classroom management, through the enforcement of rules and routines at classroom and school level is the least implemented among the evidence-based practices.

Only 66% of Year 4 students, 60% of Year 4 teachers and 38% of Year 8 teachers agree that the school’s rules are enforced in a fair and consistent manner and only 61% of teachers frequently tell students to follow classroom rules.

It also seems some teachers may not be making use of the full range of strategies that evidence-based practices recommend, meaning it is only partly used and might not be providing the full benefit to students.

Image by lil artsy