Expert advice for NQTs on using research in the classroom


Evidence-based practice is important for teachers at all stages in their career. We all want the approaches and innovations we use to be the ones that have the greatest impact on our young people – and we don't want to waste our precious time and energy on teaching strategies and interventions that just don't work.

But there is a lot of education research out there and most NQTs don't have heaps of spare time (or the confidence) to be poring over paper after paper. So one of our NQT surgeries looked at using research and included a range of topics, including:

  • How/where to find research?
  • Tips on how to know if a paper will answer your questions
  • How to read and get useful information from research
  • What makes robust research? How do you know?
  • Once you find something that sounds like it could work for your students, how do you go about implementing it?

Our experts included:

Jill Berry – former headteacher, associate for the National College for Teaching and Leadership, completed a part-time doctorate in education.

Bradley Busch – a registered psychologist and director at InnerDrive

Gary Jones – fellow of the Centre for Evidence-Based Management at the University of Winchester.

John Socha – a primary school educator in Yorkshire and the creator of

Ben Ward – assistant vice principal for teaching and learning at Manchester Enterprise Academy.

Our panel of experts had a huge supply of useful advice for teachers (old and new) who want to make sure their practice is evidence-based. We've rounded up the highlights below. Don't forget to visit EdResearch, our treasure trove of summaries of and links to the latest findings. If you want to discuss your practice, debate ideas or share resources, visit EdConnect – our newly launched network where teachers can meet up, share ideas and support one another.

Where should NQTs begin with education research?

Ben Ward: If you are looking for a good way into how ed research can shape your practice, @C_Hendrick & @robin_macp's excellent book 'What Does This Look Like In The Classroom' would be a great place to start

I'd also recommend joining @CharteredColl; their impact journal is superb, plus lots of blogs and articles on their website. Good place to start.

Gary Jones: A general tip - if reading research - start with systematic reviews - not much can be learned individual pieces of research

And what are some good places to find reliable research?

Jill Berry: There are some useful digests out there. See this, for example, from @teacherhead …

Colleen Young: Agree - these examples so useful for busy teachers, have been creating my own collection!

John Socha: Sutton Trust has some excellent research on the various shibboleths which dominate our practice: homework, supt assistants, etc.

Gary Jones: I'd also look at @AceThatTest website - as long with How2s @olivercavigliol

I'd also have a look at the @deansforimpact and their recent handbook on deliberate practice

Building a diverse and wide-ranging professional network is vital and easy to do with twitter and email

Jennifer Wilson: I'm wary of anything that claims to have 'the solution'. Sometimes that makes me want to read it, others I avoid.

Ellie Russell: You'd do better finding who in your school is already doing reading and signposting for others... and talk to them!

Ben Ward: Before looking - it's helpful to have thought about what question you are seeking to answer, as that may govern where you look

How should NQTs respond when dealing with seemingly contradictory research on a topic?

Ben Ward: It's then that the work starts - read the details; how was the study constructed, how have conclusions been drawn etc.? There are no silver bullets and little is 100% certain, that's the nature of ed research

Jill Berry: I'm thinking of @dylanwiliam's comment that 'Everything works somewhere & nothing works everywhere.' Context is important

Action research is a valuable way of trialling approaches, evaluating systematically & learning from the process.

When pushed for time, how much should NQTs be prioritising reading research?

Jill Berry: I think research can SAVE you time in the long run, encourage reflection & improve practice, but balance is important.

When teaching I would focus on reading one educational book in each holiday - I found it hard in term time! Start with that?

Jennifer Wilson: I agree. Sometimes this is where choosing who to follow on Twitter carefully can be good. Useful signposts but not too much

Bradley Busch: I worry that some nqts try to do everything all at once.Nail the basics. Don't sacrifice your wellbeing to try to read everything

Gary Jones: Absolutely - the focus should be making the most of the expertise around you and not re-inventing the wheel

Ben Ward: The 'focus on improving one thing' is the key for #NQTs here - you can't improve everything at once. So pick the area where you can have the biggest impact first (e.g. your AfL, your questioning or your direct instruction)

How should you go about implementing something that sounds like it could work in your classroom?

Ben Ward: Take the time to understand it first. What are the key ingredients to the approach, what needs to change in your practice and how will you enact that change?
@DrGaryJones and @jillberry102 have already mentioned the importance of ongoing evaluation

Are there any pieces of research that you would recommend?

Bradley Busch: I think if there is one study every teacher needs to know it would be this one... …

Gary Jones: Sweller and cognitive load also essential reading

this is also worth a look … @ProfCoe

Jill Berry: @ChrisMoyse Research in 100 words posters

John Socha: An old one but its conclusions are as pertinent as ever: Cambridge Primary Review

​A guide to optimism and how to develop it among y...
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