Changing models of research to inform educational policy

This contribution explores changes in the way that educational researchers engage with policy-makers in England. The traditional relationship between research and policy was linear, with funders supporting the efforts of researchers, who carried out research and then disseminated it to those responsible for shaping and implementing policy. This model of 'knowledge transfer' is fast being supplemented and sometimes replaced by one of 'knowledge exchange' as policy-makers participate in new forms of research. 'Knowledge exchange' consists of collaborative problem-solving between researchers and decision-makers that happens through linkage and exchange. This contribution uses one large-scale English study to illustrate the new relationship between research and policy. The Effective Pre-school and Primary Education (EPPE) project is a longitudinal study of the effects of pre- and primary school on the academic and social development of more than 3,000 children in England. The study's findings have been used as part of the 'evidence base' for UK policy on universal pre-school provision as well as targeted services in disadvantaged communities, for example, Sure Start and Children's Centres. From the earliest days of the study researchers worked in partnership with policy-makers. Although the overall design was agreed at contract-stage, major modifications to sampling, assessments, and analyses were made as the study progressed. The researcher/policy-maker engagement continued throughout the study and consisted of sustained interaction, shared decision-making and mutual respect. Supportive organisational structures allowed two-way exchange and decision-making. Although the researchers were responsible for scientific integrity in all phases, there was shared ownership of the findings with regular and collaborative review and amendment to suit emerging policy needs. The EPPE project was one of the first in the UK to work interactively with Government partners in the shaping of both 'research' and 'policy' outputs. This partnership enabled the research to have a significant impact on UK policy. The contribution concludes with discussion of how the Furlong and Oancea 'quality assessment framework' can be applied to research based on policy partnerships.

Sylva, Kathy
Melhuish, Edward
Taggart, Brenda
Sammons, Pam
Siraj Blatchford, Iram
p. 155-168
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Educational research
Early childhood education
Primary education

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