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How evidence informs teaching and learning

In a keynote address at Research Conference 2018, ACER CEO Professor Geoff Masters AO explored the theme of ‘evidence-based practice’ in teaching. He explains the phrase’s origins in medicine and what it means for education in his latest blog.

Writing in ACER’s Teacher magazine, Professor Masters says the term ‘evidence-based’ is now firmly entrenched in the education lexicon, with good reason; improvements in student learning and educational outcomes depend on the wider use of reliable evidence in classroom practice. The concept of evidence-based practice has its origins in medicine, with the essential idea that decisions made by medical practitioners should be based on the best available evidence collected through rigorous research – ideally, through randomised controlled trials.

Professor Masters writes, ‘Evidence-based teaching similarly involves the integration of reliable, local, practitioner-collected evidence with evidence from systematic, external research. Policies and discussions of “evidence-based teaching” sometimes overlook the importance of this broader, more integrated understanding of the role of evidence in teaching and learning’.

Professor Masters explains that evidence-based teaching involves the use of evidence for three purposes.

A first, essential form of evidence for teaching is information about the points individual learners have reached in their learning.

‘This usually means establishing what they know, understand and can do as starting points for teaching and to ensure that individuals are provided with well-targeted learning opportunities and appropriately challenging learning goals.’

A second form of evidence for promoting student learning is evidence from research into effective teaching strategies and interventions.

‘Which interventions are likely to improve students’ levels of understanding and skill? What teaching strategies have been shown to work in practice? For which learners? Under what conditions? Answers to questions of this kind are derived from rigorous, systematic research and professional teaching experience.’ Professor Masters writes.

A third form of evidence for teaching is used to evaluate student progress and teaching effectiveness.

‘Evidence about the progress students make is crucial information for teaching. It provides a basis for establishing whether, and how effectively, individuals are learning. Low levels of progress may indicate lack of student effort and/or ineffective teaching, and so warrant closer investigation. Information about progress provides the most direct indicator of teaching effectiveness, as well as being key to the evaluation of educational policies, programs and teaching methods,’ Professor Masters writes. ■

Read the full article:

‘The role of evidence in teaching and learning’ in Teacher.

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