Research Questions About Education

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What questions are the Department for Education currently researching about education in our schools?

This document is part of a broader engagement between the department and the research community and sets out areas where the DfE is interested in more research and new evidence.

The purpose of this Areas of Research Interest (ARI) is to raise awareness amongst the external research community of the main DfE research priorities. I’ve re-posted some of the questions highlighted in this document. It is important to look at this document for the full set of research questions.

Early Years Research Questions

1. What is the prevalence of different pedagogical approaches in different early years settings? How does this vary across the workforce? Which of these approaches have the greatest impact on development?

2. How can schools best manage the transition from early years to school and minimise any negative effects on children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Schools Research Questions

3. What types of approaches lead to better outcomes for condition-specific learning needs in mainstream schooling? What works for SEND outreach work, for example from special schools to support learners in mainstream schools?

4. Which interventions are most effective at recruiting and retaining good teachers within a constrained funding envelope – particularly in shortage subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Modern Foreign Languages, and in the most challenging schools/areas?

5. What can cognitive science and neuroscientific developments tell us about effective teaching approaches?

6. Amongst poor performing schools, is it possible accurately to predict which will improve and which will remain poor or deteriorate?

7. What are the underlying drivers of geographical differences in educational attainment?

8. How can schools best identify children’s mild to moderate mental health needs, and what role can early intervention play in preventing escalation?

9. What are the factors associated with teacher and pupil wellbeing, and what interventions and approaches are effective in supporting and promoting wellbeing of all in schools and colleges?

Further and Higher Education Research Questions

10. What impact do further education, technical education and apprenticeships have on improving earnings and career progression for learners?

11. What are the influences on young people’s decision making at key education transition points, including subject and qualification choice at key stage 4 and 5? How do these choices influence their later economic outcomes?

12. How can the performance of England’s systems be monitored relative to systems in these other countries?

In terms of approaches to answer the questions, the DfE are interested in both primary qualitative and quantitative research, secondary data analysis, and literature reviews/synthesis of existing evidence.

What Research Questions Would You Ask?

If I could pose any research questions, I would add the following to the Government’s list:

  1. Why do teachers leave the profession after an OfSTED inspection?
  2. How do we know the current OfSTED framework is applied fairly to all schools?
  3. Why are so many qualified teachers, not teaching?
  4. Why are there not enough head teachers?
  5. Could a cross-political party be created to protect education policy? If so, how could it operate?

The Department for Education say, …

“… given the broad policy agenda of the department, it is not practical to provide an exhaustive list of research questions of interest. Instead this is a targeted list of areas which are both key departmental priorities and where we feel the research community is currently well placed to add to our evidence base.”

5 thoughts on “Research Questions About Education

  1. A great read, and I agree with the questions you’ve added to your list. I think my question would be: ‘Are there any immediate adjustments that can be made to teacher terms, conditions, workload or progression that would signal sufficient benefits to retain teachers on the edge of leaving?’ And (sub question: ‘How do these compare in cost/impact terms to the provision of substantial tax-free bursaries to attract new teachers, or plans to introduce sabbaticals?’

      1. How can teachers improve instruction for ESL learners in mainstream classes using personalised learning(differentiation)

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