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Being critical

Although engaging with research can support choices that you make in teaching, it is important to critically evaluate the strength of the research and its relevance to a classroom setting. Some useful questions to consider are:

  • How many people did the study look at?
  • Did the research look at children or adults?
  • In what context did the research take place, and is this comparable to your context?
  • Did the study take place in a controlled laboratory setting or in a real classroom?
  • What do other researchers say about it?
  • How old is the study? If the research is very recent, there may not have been time for other researchers to replicate the findings or to evaluate it.

In this course we will be referring to research articles from the science of learning field of study, but we would like you to critically reflect on the relevance of the research to classroom practice. In your professional development, you may come across academic papers or research reports (such as the one in the task below).

A good starting point is to find the ‘abstract’ or ‘executive summary’, as this often contains the contextual information and key finding which helps you assess the relevance of that research. You can then read the full article or report to explore findings in more depth.


Reviewing research

Imagine that you have just been presented with the following research report, for example in a staff development session or briefing email:

Using the information provided in the executive summary of the report (available on the webpage linked above), compare the research context to your own context. Pick one or two of the questions we introduced above the task to answer, and post your thoughts below.

What further questions might you need to explore when thinking about applying that research to your own teaching context?

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This article is from the free online course:

The Science of Learning

National STEM Learning Centre