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Changing models of research to inform educational policy

Sylva, Kathy and Taggart, Brenda and Melhuish, Edward and Sammons, Pam and Siraj-Blatchford, Iram (2007) Changing models of research to inform educational policy. Research Papers in Education, 22 (2). pp. 155-168. ISSN 0267-1522

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Abstract

This paper explores changes in the way that educational researchers engage with policy-makers in England. The traditional relationship between research and policy was linear, with funders supporting the efforts of researchers, who carried out research and then disseminated it to those responsible for shaping and implementing policy. This model of ‘knowledge transfer’ is fast being supplemented and sometimes replaced by one of ‘knowledge exchange’ as policy-makers participate in new forms of research. ‘Knowledge exchange’ consists of ‘collaborative problem-solving between researchers and decision-makers that happens through linkage and exchange. Effective knowledge exchange involves interaction between decision-makers and researchers and results in mutual learning through the process of planning, producing, disseminating, and applying existing or new research in decision-making’ (Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, 2007). This paper uses one large-scale English study to illustrate the new relationship between research and policy. The Effective Pre-school and Primary Education (EPPE) project is a longitudinal study of the effects of pre- and primary school on the academic and social development of more than 3,000 children in England (Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford & Taggart, 2004). Compared to children with no pre-school experience children who attended preschool had better academic and social behavioural outcomes at age 5 (Sammons, Sylva, et al., 2002; Sammons, Sylva, et al., 2003). By age 7 they still showed higher academic scores when compared to children without pre-school (Sylva et al., 2004). These findings have been used as part of the ‘evidence base’ for UK policy on universal pre-school provision as well as targeted services in disadvantaged communities, for example, Sure Start and Children’s Centres. From the earliest days of the study researchers worked in partnership with policy-makers. Although the overall design was agreed at contract-stage, major modifications to sampling, assessments, and analyses were made as the study progressed. The researcher/policy-maker engagement continued throughout the study and consisted of sustained interaction, shared decision-making and mutual respect. Supportive organisational structures allowed two-way exchange and decision-making. Although the researchers were responsible for scientific integrity in all phases, there was shared ownership of the findings with regular and collaborative review and amendment to suit emerging policy needs. The EPPE project was one of the first in the UK to work interactively with government partners in the shaping of both ‘research’ and ‘policy’ outputs. This partnership enabled the research to have a significant impact on UK policy. The paper concludes with discussion of how the Furlong and Oancea ‘quality assessment framework’ can be applied to research based on policy partnerships.

Item Type: Article
Controlled Keywords: Children (not specific age group), England, Pre-school, Research partnerships , Policy, Early Years
Divisions: IOE Departments > Departments > Early Years and Primary Education
Depositing User: IOE Repository Editor (2)
Date Deposited: 21 May 2010 12:26
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2013 12:00
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