The value and challenges of educators' collaborative use of research

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


There are growing expectations internationally for educators to use research in practice. This is due, in part, to an increasing evidence base that connects teachers’ research use with improvements in teaching and learning outcomes, and teachers’ own professionalism (e.g., Malin & Brown, 2020; Mills et al., 2021). One focus has been on collaboration. Within the educational research use literature, there is increased recognition for the role of relational processes in effective research use (e.g., Brown et al., 2018; Rickinson & Edwards, 2021). However, unlike the topic of teacher collaboration, which has been variously described and differentiated in the literature (e.g., Vangrieken et al., 2015), collaborative research use tends to be described in ‘general’ terms, with little in-depth study to date investigating these processes. Two needs then arise: firstly, to understand collaborative research use in more detail; and secondly, to explore the benefits and challenges of educators leveraging collaboration in different forms to support improved research use.

Addressing these needs, this paper presents findings from Australian educators about what they believe is involved in using research well in collaborative ways. The first aim of the paper is to explore how collaborative research use can be differentiated based on educators’ descriptions of using research in their practice. By exploring this, the paper seeks to move towards a framing of collaborative research use that can be empirically substantiated. The second aim is to investigate the usefulness of such a frame in helping educators to plan for and use research better in practice.

The paper is part of the broader work of the Monash Q Project and draws on survey (n=492) and interview (n=27) responses that were gathered in 2020. Survey data included responses to five open-text questions focused specifically on the ideas of using research well and poorly that made up part of a larger survey (Rickinson et al., 2021). Interviews were undertaken as a follow-up to the survey and aimed to gain deeper understandings of how research was being used within schools. The data were analysed using a reflexive thematic analysis process (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2020) which aimed to identify patterns shared across educators’ responses. Four iterative stages of coding, informed by in-depth discussions between the researchers and engagement with theoretical literature, generated a continuum that: i) outlined common characteristics in educators’ descriptions of research use collaborations; and ii) delineated the ‘density’ of the collaboration by the type of research use task being undertaken.

The continuum comprises five common elements that were identified across educators’ descriptions including: i) educators’ voice and influence in the partnership; ii) the roles educators took on and their expectations for certain levels of co-operation; iii) the ways in which external partners were brought into collaborative partnerships; iv) the temporal nature of the collaborations; and v) the types of conversations educators engaged in. The continuum then delineates between different forms of collaboration in relation to specific research use tasks. As research use tasks moved from ‘finding’ to ‘adapting’ and then ‘trialling and implementing’ research, educators’ descriptions suggested an increased need for ‘denser’ collaborations. For example, with regards to the nature of the co-operation and educators’ roles, their expectations moved from ‘quick transactions’ to ‘co-operation’ and then ‘interdependent partnerships’. Additional statistical analyses indicated significant relationships between these different forms/densities of collaboration and different research use tasks.

To explore the usefulness of this continuum in practice, this paper overlays the continuum as a ‘thinking tool’ in two case studies of research use in Australian schools. The first involves the implementation of a research-informed phonics teaching approach in one primary school, and the second involves the development and embedding of a strategic Teaching Excellence Framework in another. The case studies showcase the relational needs of teachers at certain points of their research-use initiatives, and the different ways leaders in each of the schools considered and addressed these needs. Overlaying the continuum illuminates the challenges of planning for and differentiating collaborative approaches given the research use task. It also highlights how implementation outcomes can vary significantly depending on how well differentiated collaborative research use is considered and executed.

The paper has two key conclusions. Firstly, a more nuanced understanding of collaborative research use is important to educators and can contribute to improving practice in schools. Secondly, the continuum framing contributes to our growing knowledge of what constitutes using research well in practice, and is a useful way for school leaders to think about, apply and support different collaborative research use structures.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2023 - Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 202314 Sept 2023


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2023
Abbreviated titleBERA 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Educators
  • Research use
  • Evidence use
  • Collaboration
  • Using research well
  • Quality use of research evidence

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