Reflections on conducting rapid reviews of educational research

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Background: Rapid reviews involve a streamlined approach to knowledge synthesis. They are used to identify high-quality evidence for the purpose of informing decisions and initiatives, completed over relatively short timeframes, and have been found to reach conclusions that do not differ extensively from full systematic reviews. Although common in the health sector, rapid reviews are not as widespread in education. Purpose: This paper reflects on the experiences of conducting a rapid review that applied review guidance from the health sector to a topic situated within education: effective Professional Learning (PL) for school-based educators. Our purpose is not to share the rapid review’s findings: rather, our interest lies in exploring the process of undertaking the review. We sought to investigate the methodological decisions we made for the education context as we carried out the review. Methods: As part of a large-scale investigation focusing on practitioner use of research evidence in education, we undertook a rapid review to understand what is known about effective PL. Drawing on methodological literature from the health and education sectors, we documented the procedure involved in conducting our rapid review in education. At each step, we reflected on methodological issues encountered, decisions taken and the procedural adjustments we made to align the process to the education context. Findings: Our reflections identify the key adaptations we made to ensure that review guidance was carefully attuned to the context of the education field and the wider purpose of the review: in our case, to inform an initiative in education. Considerations highlighted by our procedure also included the role of reviewer judgement in quality appraisal and attending to collaborative review team processes. These reflections support the notion that the use of research to inform decisions in education needs to be a dynamic, contextualised, and collaborative process. Conclusion: Rapid reviews have a crucial part to play in efforts to strengthen evidence-informed practice in the education sector. Our methodological exploration offers insights for those conducting, using, and commissioning rapid reviews to provide systematic and transparent evidence-based guidance for initiatives in education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-390
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • education policy
  • educational research methodology
  • evidence
  • Rapid review
  • synthesis
  • systematic reviews

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