Building an Evidence-Informed Education System and Inspectorate
Last night, EPPE Members attended a talk from Prof. Daniel Muijs on the importance of an evidence-informed approach to education and inspection. Hosted by the University of Glasgow, What Works Scotland and the Robert Owen Centre for Education Change, the presentation focused on Prof. Muijs's work in the newly created role of Head of Research for OfSTED. For those who were not able to join us, here is an overview of the evening's discussion.
Prof. Muijs began by making the case for an evidence-informed approach. Highlighting the moral duty of education professionals to act on the basis of evidence to improve the education experiences and outcomes of students, Prof. Muijs was quick to emphasise the social justice implications of an ineffective education system for those pupils that depend on it the most. The problem he said, is that the majority of evidence that we have is too technical, too expensive to access and there's too much of it. Most educators are not in a position to purchase, filter and interpret evidence from academic sources due to time and resource constraints. This, Prof. Muijs argues, is where intermediaries become crucial. Acting as trusted translators of academic research, organisations and individuals that process and publish research in manageable and accessible formats are a vital element of the evidence ecology.
Nonetheless, the onus to adopt an evidence-informed approach cannot rest solely with practitioners. Policy and inspection systems must also make use of the research at their disposal to maximise the effectiveness of interventions says Prof. Muijs. As a result, OfSTED is conducting a number if its own research projects that both gather original data and synthesise existing literature in the field. The intention is to create an 'intelligent' inspection framework, able to produce change directly through feedback and consequences for schools and colleges, while also indirectly influencing stakeholder activities and setting expectations. Ultimately, this is intended to help develop an evidence-informed approach to education more broadly. Prof. Muijs was nonetheless clear in acknowledging the limitations of an evidence-informed approach. Political and resource constraints, along with the continuing subjectivity of judgements involved in inspection remain significant, he argued.
Throughout the event and particularly in audience questions, there was much discussion of the high-stakes nature of English school inspection and the impact this can have on the reliability of data collected in schools, as well as curriculum and teaching methods. Prof. Muijs stated that OfSTED is increasingly looking at lessons as part of a curricular whole in order to minimise this impact, having abolished individual lesson grading. Nonetheless, questions remained about the ability of an evidence-informed approach to be fully effective in a context where consequences of a poor inspection are so drastic for schools, staff and pupils.
Prof. Muijs finished his presentation with three questions for the audience. If any of our members have suggestions or comments on the following topics, we encourage you to contact Prof. Muijs via Twitter.
1. What have Glasgow schools done to tackle knife crime so effectively?
2. What methods are used to inspect curriculum in Scotland?
3. How has Scotland managed to maintain such low expulsion rates in its schools?
If you have any additional thoughts on the presentation, please leave your comments below or get in touch via our Twitter account.