Internationally, there are widespread efforts to improve the use of research across many sectors, including education (e.g., Révai, 2022). Alongside increasing investments in system initiatives and infrastructure intended to connect research and practice, important questions arise about two issues within the research use literature: firstly, a lack of work on ‘quality of use’ as distinct from quality of evidence; and secondly, a lack of research use models based on practitioner, as opposed to researcher, perspectives.
Responding to these issues, this paper presents findings from an investigation into Australian educators' views on using research well in practice. In particular, it examines practitioners’ perspectives in relation to a previously developed conceptual Quality Use of Research Evidence (QURE) Framework (Rickinson et al., 2020, 2022). The first aim of this paper is to explore the extent to which the views of practitioners align with or differ from the components of this framework. By exploring potential alignment, the paper seeks to move towards a framing of quality use that is empirical as well as conceptual, and informed by practitioners as well as researchers. The paper’s second aim is to explore whether and how the views of practitioners can provide new or deeper insights into the quality use of research in action, thereby contributing to richer conversations within, and potentially beyond education, about what it means to use research well in practice.
The paper is a part of the broader work of the Monash Q Project, and draws on practitioners’ survey (n=492) and interview (n=27) responses that were gathered in 2020 and analysed thematically (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2020). Survey data included responses to three open-text questions focused specifically on the idea of using research well that made up part of a larger survey (Rickinson et al., 2021a). While the design of the overall survey was informed by instruments developed and used in previous studies of research use in education (e.g., Nelson et al., 2017; Penuel et al., 2016), the inclusion of questions about ‘quality use’ was not something that had been done before. Interviews were undertaken as a follow-up to the survey and aimed to gain deeper understandings of how research was being used within schools. Importantly, the survey and interviews involved asking open questions and made no references to the QURE Framework or its components. Findings from ten domain codes (from a final codebook of 34 domain codes) are presented, all of which relate to the QURE Framework as follows: two core component codes (i.e., appropriate research evidence, and thoughtful engagement and implementation); three individual enabling component codes (i.e., skillsets, mindsets, and relationships); three organisational enabling component codes (i.e., leadership, culture, and infrastructure); and two system-level component codes (i.e., jurisdictions, and wider education system).
Findings provide an early indication of the empirical validity of the QURE Framework as a way of framing and conceptualising quality research use within the field of education. There was considerable alignment between educators' views and the QURE Framework (Rickinson et al., 2021b). The two core components and three of the six enabling components (skillsets, mindsets, and leadership) featured strongly in both interview (89 to 96 percent) and survey (64 to 99 percent) responses. The remaining three enabling components (relationships, culture, and infrastructure) featured strongly in interviews (93 to 96 percent) but were less prevalent in survey responses (30 to 40 percent). System-level influences featured marginally in both the interview (33 percent) and survey (3 percent) data. Using the original framework component definitions as a basis for comparison (Rickinson et al., 2020), findings not only reflected these conceptualisations, but provided deeper descriptions of aspects of using research well that were important to educators. For example, educators’ descriptions emphasised different elements of components that they felt enabled quality research use, such as the criticality of role modelling of research-informed practices by leaders or the provision of protected time for collaborative research use discussions within school schedules and structures. These descriptions provide system and school leaders with important cues as to what supports can be targeted for practitioners’ increased and improved use of research.
The paper concludes by arguing that while these findings are significant, more work is needed on the quality of research use and the perspectives of users, particularly the measurement of use, the investigation of using research well over time, and the exploration of enablers and barriers in different contexts.