How should we gather evidence?
What role does published research play in your work?
To get a complete picture, it is important to take a systematic and ongoing approach to collecting, analysing, and interpreting data in order to gain a wide variety of useful evidence. ‚ÄúUseful evidence‚ÄĚ is evidence that helps provide answers to the questions or hypotheses being investigated. This means that the tools and approaches used to gather data must relate to the purpose of the inquiry and the context in which it is taking place. Site-based inquiry can draw on informal evidence, such as observations and interviews, and formal evidence, such as standardised achievement data. Related research findings by others from outside the immediate context are another valuable source of evidence, provided it too is collected and actively interpreted for the purpose and the context.
In Case 4 (see video Clip 4), a teacher and an ISTE refer to an Effective Literacy Practice handbook to ensure that the teacher‚Äôs practice is informed by national and international research evidence.
Reid, 2004, page 8
The distinction between inquiry and research also points to the centrality of research to a culture of inquiry. Published research should be a rich source of information for those engaged in reflecting on their work practices or in developing policy, provided that it is not simply transferred unproblematically but is read in the context of the issues being explored through inquiry.
The use of published research is not a straightforward process; indeed, Cordingley (2003) says that ‚ÄúThe use of research and evidence-informed practice needs to be understood as at least as complex and technically demanding an activity as conducting the research in the first place‚ÄĚ (page 108). This means that the research selected has to be relevant to the context and to the desired outcomes.
Stoll et al. (2003) cite the following criteria for evaluating external knowledge:
- sophistication ‚Äď quality of the information source, including appropriateness and rigour
- credibility ‚Äď believability of the information, and expertise of those disseminating it
- relevance ‚Äď whether the knowledge was considered useful and practical
- communication quality ‚Äď clarity, style and readability
- content ‚Äď whether the content confirmed or conflicted with existing knowledge, and whether it was valued, positive, and covered a topic in sufficient depth and breadth
- timeliness ‚Äď if it was disseminated at an appropriate time and delivered in an ongoing manner.
The Conducting Inquiry chapter describes a number of approaches to help in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data so that it is useful for meeting student/teacher/school leader/ISTE learning needs within a particular context.
You can download a copy of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education‚Äôs ethical guidelines from NZARE.
There are often complex ethical decisions to be made in gathering data for site-based inquiry. While the goal must always be to conduct a rigorous inquiry that will have worthwhile outcomes for students, inquirers must also treat participants with respect. Ethical decision making involves consideration of two fundamental principles:
- participants should not be harmed
- participants should give their free and informed consent.