Evidence-Based Teaching Guidelines

Evidence-based teaching is teaching that benefits from research into what works best in the classroom. It takes its point of reference from research conducted principally in the field of education psychology.

Knowledge bank

Much of what we do in the classroom is influenced by our own experience - evidence-based teaching takes this one step further by using the experience of thousands of teachers, and of expert researchers into teaching and learning, to design the most effective learning experiences.

The body of evidence that supports this approach is located principally within research journals into education - especially so-called 'meta studies' that draw together findings from many (sometimes hundreds) of previous studies.

An important principle embodied by evidence-based teaching is that while there are many potential teaching and learning approaches that have been shown to get positive results, teachers need to be able to distinguish those that have the maximum benefit.

Evidence-based teaching seeks to place education on the same footing as medicine and other fields of endeavour that are informed by objective evidence of what does and does not work. While acknowledging the complexity of education compared to other more 'scientific' research disciplines, advocates of evidence-based teaching maintain that there is much we do know that can be used by teachers to design more effective learning experiences.

Evidence-based research principally uses findings from the field of education psychology - the closest we have to the 'science' underpinning effective teaching. Rigorous studies based in schools are, however, surprisingly rare and we often rely on more carefully controlled research carried out in other settings.

The education consultant Geoff Petty has done most to put evidence-based teaching on the map in the UK, thanks to his influential writings on the subject.

There are clear links between evidence-based teaching and the concept of research in education generally.

Ask yourself

  1. To what extent is your current teaching based on research evidence?
  2. What are the main sources of evidence you use as a teacher to make judgements about the techniques you use? How reliable are these?
  3. What are the main challenges confronting a teacher wishing to use evidence-based approaches in their classroom?

To do list

  • Make time to scan an education research journal once a term in order to learn more about the latest approaches. If you're finding it difficult to track down a suitable publication, encourage your school's CPD coordinator to subscribe to the British Educational Research Journal for your staff library.
  • Consider engaging with some action research in your own school - partnerships can often be made with higher education institutions, or you could form a research group with like-minded colleagues.
  • Education research conferences are great ways to learn about new and exciting approaches, as well as allowing you to mix with researchers and the world of education psychology. Find out about one in easy reach of your school and get involved.