If you ask a teacher how they evolve their classroom practice, you’re likely to receive an enormous range of answers. There’s no shortage of sources for inspiration: School colleagues, Twitter, CPD courses, and INSET days, to name just a few.

One source is likely to be conspicuous in its absence. Educational research, and in particular, articles published in research journals, are infrequently used by teachers to inform their practice. This reflects a phenomenon that has long been acknowledged in the world of education: a gap exists between research and classroom practice1, 2, 3.

The research-practice gap persists despite clear messaging from the Department for Education, Ofsted, and the Chartered College of Teaching: teachers should be using research to inform their decision making4.

The benefits of research

Recent research presented by the Education Endowment Foundation is helping schools move away from practices that are high-effort and high-cost, yet low-impact on pupil progress.

At its best, research helps teachers by letting them learn from the mistakes of others. Using research allows teachers to evolve their practice without having to make mistakes themselves in the classroom5.

Research gives teachers a wider view of whats going on in the profession – and it can be eye opening to read. For example, recent research presented by the Education Endowment Foundation is helping schools move away from common practices that are high-effort and high-cost, yet have a low impact on pupil progress6.

The influence of research is not necessarily prescriptive. Engaging with research is shown to help teachers expand their teaching mindset and their general approach towards teaching4, often by taking ‘what works’ in one scenario, and successfully applying it elsewhere in their practice.  

So why aren’t more teachers using research to influence their practice?

The problems with research

A common complaint is that research isn’t always relevant to teachers. This because there are many end-users of educational research, including policymakers, local councils, school leaders, and classroom teachers. Finding relevant articles is an immediate barrier to engagement.

The issue is compounded by the fact that teachers generally do not have access to academic journals, or the time to search, filter, and digest the recommendations.

On the occasions when both the medium and the content are accessible, there are concerns that teachers struggle to successfully implement the suggestions from research, finding them at odds with their classroom practices7.

These factors combine to form an inadvertently effective deterrent to teachers who want to engage with research.

Helping teachers access research

A new initiative is helping teachers overcome these barriers so that they can engage with relevant research in a time-efficient way. 52 Papers aims to cut down the time required for teachers to engage with research by presenting summaries of research in a digestible format.

52 Papers does all the searching and filtering to find journal articles that are relevant for classroom teachers, and publishes the key points a 5-minute read, once per week.

This little-and-often format is designed to help teachers stay engaged with research – without it becoming another laborious task on the todo list. This means that both teachers and students can benefit from the latest in education research.

For more information on 52 Papers visit the website: 52papers.org, and subscribe to their weekly digest.

  1. Biesta, G., 2007. Bridging the Gap Between Educational Research and Educational Practice: The need for critial distance. Educational Research and Evaluation, 13(3), pp. 295-301.
  2. McIntyre, D., 2005. Bridging the gap between research and practice. Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(3), pp. 357-382.
  3. Bartels, N., 2003. How teachers and researchers read academic articles. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(7), pp. 737-753.
  4. Cain, T., 2019. How teachers are really using research. [Online] Available at: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/how-teachers-are-really-using-research/
  5. Potter, I., 2020. BERA Bites issue 5: Research used or produced in schools: Which informs practitioners most?, London: British Educational Research Association.
  6. Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Teaching and Learning Toolkit [Online] Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/
  7. Brown, C. & Flood, J., 2018. Lost in translation? Can the use of theories of action be effective in helping teachers develop and scale up research-informed practices?. Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 72, pp. 144-154.


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