Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Environmental Education Research Group

Re-imagining futures in STEME

What Works? Developing a Scientific Agenda to Inform Teaching and Learning Policy and Practice

The widely promoted policy-oriented ‘what works?’ agenda aims to offer advice to teachers and schools based on a scientifically generated evidence base. It has been criticised by educational research for several decades but remains a preference for policy makers and reform advocates. One of the claims for this agenda made by its protagonists is that it is scientific – being based in methodologies such as the Randomised Control Trial (RCT) tried and tested in such fields as medicine. In this seminar/symposium we seek to explore what it might mean for educational research to be ‘scientific’ in the sense of a social science, how the ‘what works’ agenda in its various forms might meet of fail to meet scientific requirements, and what alternative or companion research programs might be pursued that can produce valid forms of evidence for both government policy framing and school or classroom practice.

Our aim is to develop a position paper advocating a more nuanced and useful approach to policy framing and practice for schools and classrooms, rather than simply critique current orthodoxy. Speakers will offer 20 minute ‘provocations’ followed by group discussion and debate.


9.50 am Introduction: Framing questions of evidence Russell Tytler, Deakin University

10.00 Advising teachers what to do – what evidence is relevant for informing complex classroom practice? Vaughan Prain & Russell Tytler, Deakin University

10.50 Morning tea

11.00 What evidence is needed for framing policy at the system level? Barry McGaw, University of Melbourne

11.50 Evidence based practice, educational research and teacher education in Australia. Jill Blackmore, Deakin University

12.40 pm Lunch

1.40 Lost in translation: Where ‘what works’ doesn’t work and what can be done about it. Jason Lodge, University of Queensland

2.30 “What works for whom?” The problem of agency in the educational research agenda. Julian Williams, University of Manchester

3.20 Panel discussion and debate

4.00 Finish


Posted Jan 25, 2018

12 February 2018, 12:00am

Deakin Downtown