Welcome. This free tool from NFER shows you how to use evidence and enquiry to make a difference in your school or college. Once you have reviewed how research-engaged your school or college is against eight key statements, the tool generates a personalised chart and report and then signposts key resources to help you move forwards.
Review how engaged in research you believe your school or college is. Use the Quick review to see how it works, then set up an account for your school or college to do the free Full review.
To access more features and save your results, complete the Full review. This allows you to see changes over time. By asking all your staff to use the school/college login, you get the full picture. This service is free to use and once logged in, takes the same time as a Quick review.
To get a full school or college review of research engagement, it is best to gain the opinions of as many staff as possible across various roles.
To do this, you will need to create an account which allows multiple users to contribute to the same review. The results for your whole school or college will be an average of all the contributions. You will have the option to filter this by role as well.
By setting up an account for your whole school or college, you can ask all your staff to complete this review. You will then get a summary for the school as well as options to filter by role and date. This is a free service.
Please note, an email will be sent to the Headteacher when you create this account, letting them know an account is being set up on behalf of the school. You will need a valid DfE number and postcode for your school or college to set up an account.
The Username you enter below is for your whole school (you and your staff). The General Password is one you will share with your staff, allowing them to be matched to your school when they login. The Admin Password is for you only as the main contact.
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Don't forget to complete the tool whilst logged in to your account to ensure your results are stored.
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NFER, with help from school leaders and partners, have developed eight key statements that we believe are important factors to becoming a research-engaged school. For each statement, simply mark what stage you believe your school is currently at. Use the examples in the table below the descriptions to help you make your evaluation.
This process is anonymous, however to help understand your perspective, please complete your role below.
Where reference is made to 'school' or 'schools' this can be applied to other educational organisations including colleges, early years settings and training providers. The term 'school' is used generically to apply to all these organisations for space-saving reasons.
This item invites you to consider the commitment of senior leadership to engaging with research and in enquiry as a powerful approach to school improvement and professional development. It asks you to consider how commitment is reflected in action.
The introduction of evidence-informed enquiry has yet to be introduced as an approach to CPD.
Research evidence is sometimes shared with staff by the senior team.
Evidence-informed enquiry is undertaken by small groups of staff as part of their individual or department development programme.
Research evidence is used by some groups to inform developments.
Evidence-informed enquiry is a feature of the CPD programme for most staff.
Research evidence is available to most staff to inform developments.
Evidence-informed enquiry is a significant element of the CPD programme and there is documented evidence of its impact on pupils and staff.
Research evidence is regularly used to inform developments.
In addition to the criteria described at the Established phase, the school takes opportunities to participate in research activities with other organisations.
Leaders are beginning to develop the staff as a community of learners. Opportunities for collaborative enquiry and open dialogue are yet to be established.
Leaders are developing the staff as a community of learners. There is some opportunity to work collaboratively on projects.
Leaders have developed all the staff as a community of learners. There are regular opportunities to engage in collaborative enquiry.
Leaders have a clear and sustained commitment to developing a community of learners. There is a climate that encourages open dialogue about practice and how it can be improved.
The school participates actively in local and/or national communities of practice.
Engagement with research and in evidence-informed enquiry is infrequently used by leaders as an approach to change.
Engagement with research and in evidence-informed enquiry is beginning to be used by leaders as an approach to change.
Engagement with research and in evidence-informed enquiry is frequently used by leaders as a force for positive change. It is possible to see its growing influence on decision-making. For example, it is beginning to shape the School Improvement Plan.
Engagement with research and in evidence-informed enquiry is highly valued by leaders. It produces powerful insights to support positive change. Impact is evident in policies and practices.
Research and evidence-informed enquiry is used by the organisation to build leadership capacity, e.g. research into leadership is used to question belief and assumptions about how positive change happens.
This item invites you to consider the extent to which the whole school or college community has an opportunity to engage with research and in enquiry. It asks you to consider how well these opportunities contribute to developing reflective practitioners.
Organisational culture can be risk-averse and opportunity for dialogue is sometimes constrained.
The climate for learning offers opportunity for reflective dialogue. Staff are beginning to access academic research to inform discussion about practice
The climate for learning is open. Most staff feel comfortable engaging in honest reflection and dialogue about their own practice and the implications for practice from academic research.
The climate for learning encourages innovation with open and honest dialogue that can, at times, challenge existing custom and beliefs. Academic research is actively critiqued and teachers are encouraged to expand their teaching approaches/methods, taking evidence-informed managed risks.
Participation in activities that extend beyond the school add value. The use of external projects and critical friends, for example, often act as a catalyst to stimulate innovative thinking, challenge some assumptions and enhance practice.
Students, and the wider school community, have few opportunities to influence school improvement.
Students, and the wider school community, have some opportunities to participate in school improvement initiatives.
Students, and the wider school community, have regular opportunities to contribute to school improvement initiatives. The school encourages student feedback.
Students are actively engaged in enquiry as important stakeholders in improving learning.
The wider school community has the opportunity to participate in activity and enquiry to enhance student outcomes.
Students are supported to act as researchers and investigate themes they identify as features of high-quality learning. Their findings are valued by the organisation.
This item invites you to consider the availability and use of resources, including access to high-quality research materials and methods.
Formal roles and responsibilities have yet to be established.
A named person is identified to organise research and enquiry activities. They liaise with the senior leadership team.
There is a research lead linked closely to the development of the CPD programme. They identify links between the research evidence base and priorities for school development.
There is an effective research lead linked to the development of the CPD programme. Well-established methodologies underpin activity and the impact on learning outcomes is evaluated.
The research lead actively participates in local and national research networks (e.g. researchED) creating mutual benefit for external partners and the school.
Little time has yet to be ring fenced for collaborative enquiry and reflective dialogue.
Time is made available for some staff to participate in collaborative enquiry and reflective dialogue.
Time is managed to allow some opportunity for most staff to participate in collaborative enquiry and reflective dialogue.
Time is scheduled throughout the year to allow adequate time for collaborative enquiry and reflective dialogue as part of ongoing CPD for all staff. Time is available for the research/CPD lead teacher to perform effectively.
The senior team schedule time annually to evaluate the impact of research and enquiry on practice. This evaluation informs the next cycle of the school development plan.
Many teachers are unclear about sources of reliable research evidence.
Teachers have access to sources of research evidence. The evidence is sometimes not available in an easily accessible format. Some teachers lack confidence in applying it to their own practice.
Many teachers have access to authoritative research evidence from a number of sources. It is often made available in a manageable and practical form. There is growing confidence in applying research evidence to their own practice.
All teachers have access to authoritative research evidence from a number of sources* in a manageable and practical form. They are confident in applying research to their own practice.
The school pro-actively monitors sources of authoritative research and the potential implications for school development. Reputable sources are used to shape action.
(* Sources such as EEF Toolkit, What Works Centres York, Durham, NFER make evidence available in accessible formats)
Access to external expertise (for example, a partnership with a local university or research organisation) is limited.
External expertise is sometimes available to support one-off projects.
External expertise is available to support projects.
External expertise is available to support projects when required. e.g. specialists are often used as critical friends offering expertise and challenge.
External expertise is available through ongoing and sustained relationships with research partners.
This item invites you to consider the extent to which your priorities are based upon an analysis of needs. Consider how well developments are informed by research evidence.
Few tools are used to identify needs
(There may be, for example, an over-reliance on a single source of evidence such as a set of test results or a questionnaire with a small sample size)
More than one tools is used to build a picture of practice and identify needs.
A number of quantitative and qualitative tools, are used to build up a picture of practice in order to identify needs and set priorities.
A variety of tools are used to build a well-rounded picture of practice upon which to base action. Quantitative and qualitative evidence is triangulated and the perspectives of different stakeholders are taken into account.
(For example, work samples, pupil surveys, peer observations as well as pupil performance data)
In addition to displaying the features of the Established stage, the school's engagement with the wider education community will involve the use of tools that contribute to exploring national or system level needs and priorities (e.g. a national pilot).
Professional learning is often driven by external agendas. (E.g. changes to Inspection regimes or new national assessments).
Professional learning priorities take account of both internal and external agendas.
Professional learning priorities are identified by the school and carefully balanced against external agendas.
Professional learning priorities are identified by the school based on a comprehensive analysis of current practice. School priorities are carefully balanced against external agendas.
The school is proactive in using its expertise in evidence-based learning to support others.
Authoritative research evidence is not yet used to shape action or identify areas for future developments.
Authoritative research evidence is beginning to be used to shape action or identify areas for future developments.
Authoritative research evidence is used to inform action and suggest areas for future activity.
Authoritative research evidence is frequently used to inform action, stimulate professional reflection and identify areas for future activity.
Authoritative research evidence is used to both affirm and, at times, to challenge and test practice.
This item invites you to consider the rigour with which enquiries are undertaken.
Enquiries are undertaken but sometimes lack rigour as few of the quality indicators listed below are in place.
Enquiries are undertaken with a degree of rigour as some of the quality indicators are in place.
Enquiries are undertaken with increasing rigour as most of the quality indicators are in place for projects.
Enquiries are rigorous and all of the quality indicators are in place. The school has developed and uses a recognised methodology for enquiry and the methods are applied with thoroughness.
Quality assurance often comes from using well-designed tools and methods.
Projects are often quality assured by working with an external research partner or critical friend.
This item invites you to consider the how well evidence-informed enquiry impacts on the quality of teaching and learner outcomes.
Development projects and enquiries take place but do not always have well captured starting points.
Development projects and enquiries capture starting points against which impact can be evaluated.
Development projects and enquiries use a number of methods to capture starting points and baselines against which impact can be evaluated. (e.g. work samples, test scores, questionnaires, observation tools).
Development projects and enquiries routinely capture starting points and credible baselines against which impact can be evaluated. They use a variety of tools that will allow evidence to be triangulated and, where appropriate, make reference to external benchmarks.
Where possible, the school/organisation seeks to benchmark results against credible and appropriate external benchmarks. They may, for example, use national or international data sets (e.g. NFER pupil surveys, data on qualifications).
Evaluation can rely on anecdotal or impressionistic evidence (e.g. based on the views of a few colleagues or pupils).
Evaluation attempts to draw on a few sources in addition to the views of colleagues or pupils.
Evaluation benefits from the use of a number of qualitative and quantitative sources of data.
Evaluation benefits from the use of a variety of qualitative and quantitative sources of data. Staff are supported in choosing methods that are fit for purpose and, where appropriate, secure expert help with research design, analyses and interpretation of results.
See above. Also active participation in research communities sometimes leads to larger projects that may, for example, use methodologies such as randomised control trials to evaluate impact.
Professional learning is beginning to be enhanced by engagement in enquiry.
Professional learning benefits from participating in enquiry. For example, there is an increase in the frequency of dialogue about pedagogy.
Professional learning is enhanced by participating in enquiry. The quality of dialogue about pedagogy is deepened by engagement with research
Professional learning is significantly enhanced by enquiries undertaken honestly and with integrity. There is opportunity for reflection, especially when findings are unexpected or challenging. The school can identify a number of improvements in teaching and learning.
The school is recognised as a critical user of research evidence and enquiry as a vehicle for professional learning. It is open to sharing and supporting the learning of others.
This item invites you to consider the extent to which the whole school is able to learn from its engagement with research and enquiry. In particular, you should consider how well it embeds and sustains successful outcomes into the ongoing life of the school/organisation.
Arrangements to capture and share knowledge from research and enquiry are not yet established.
The arrangements to capture and share knowledge from research and enquiry are under development. Individuals and groups make their findings available to others.
Arrangements to capture and share knowledge from research and enquiry are in place. Lessons learned from enquiry and research are made available to all teachers.
The arrangements to capture and share knowledge from research and enquiry are organised and efficient. Lessons learned from enquiry and research clearly supports the future development of individuals and the school.
Knowledge is shared across networks for the potential benefit of others and the wider educational system. (e.g. journals and educational press).
Opportunities to discuss the implications that arise from research and enquiry is yet to be systematically identified.
There are opportunities to discuss the learning that emerges from research and enquiry.
It is not always clear how the outcomes will be built into ongoing practice.
There are opportunities for staff to discuss and act upon learning that emerges from research and enquiry.
There are opportunities for staff to discuss and act upon learning that emerges from research and enquiry.
In schools where enquiry is well-established teachers are able to demonstrate the practical ways that new learning has been successfully built into the ongoing practice.
The school is generous in sharing its expertise with others and the wider system. Some staff, for example, offer workshops or act as coaches to others within and beyond the school. At the same time, the school exercises caution and is discriminating, e.git does not present unrepresentative research to others.
This item invites you to consider how well the school/organisation participates in and benefits from collaborative learning, both within and beyond itself.
Practical approaches to support collaborative learning are yet to be established.
Practical approaches to support collaborative learning are being developed and piloted by some groups.
A range of practical approaches is available to all teachers to support collaborative learning.
A range of practical approaches is in place and they sustain high quality collaborative learning, e.g. lesson study, journal clubs, mentoring and cross-school collaboration.
Support for collaborative learning extends beyond the school/organisation and is mutually beneficial to all participants.
The school has yet to develop links with other organisations as a source of support, expertise and critical friendship.
(These might include regional networks of schools, universities, research organisations).
The school is beginning to explore links with other organisations as a source of support, expertise and critical friendship. At times, expertise and evaluation can be constrained to what is 'in-house'.
The school has some links with other organisations as a source of support, expertise and critical friendship. A degree of rigour is offered by the external challenge.
The school is outward looking and has ongoing and active links with other organisations and/or networks. These networks provide support and challenge and are a useful source of expertise and critical friendship.
The school is generous with its expertise and often makes a contribution to the development of other organisations and individuals.
Opportunities to recognise individual and collective learning through formal accreditation or schemes are yet to be developed.
Opportunities for individuals to seek recognition through formal accreditation are being developed.
There are opportunities for individuals to seek recognition through formal accreditation.
There are opportunities to recognise individual and collective learning through formal accreditation (credits towards Masters Degrees) or schemes (such as The NFER Research Mark and Enquiring Teacher scheme). Encouragement and support is available to teachers wishing to participate.
The school/organisation has a track record in supporting staff to successfully participate in external projects and along accreditation pathways.
Here is your review of your school's current level of engagement with research and enquiry. The chart gives a visual representation of where you are. You can also access a report for your school and suggested resources to help your school become more research-engaged.
Here is a report showing how you have reviewed your school's research engagement and how this could be moved forward.
NFER has developed this Self-Review Tool as a free online resource for staff in schools and other educational organisations. It helps you to answer the question: 'how can engaging with research help my school to improve?' It enables you to review your school/organisation’s research engagement against eight key statements.
There is much evidence that engagement with research and in enquiry helps schools improve. Schools that use academic or professional research findings to support change often have the best outcomes (Schleicher, 2011). Schools that adopt a culture of enquiry, underpinned by an understanding of academic or professional research, are also most likely to improve teaching and learning and improve outcomes for young people (CUREE, 2011). Our tool is designed to help you on this journey.
Research-engaged schools are self-critical, evaluative and adaptive. Research is embedded in whole-school improvement processes and continuing professional development (CPD). They access and apply findings from others' research, conduct their own enquiry and often work in collaboration with other schools and/or researchers.
There are many different types of research. Throughout the tool you will see that we use the terms 'with research' and 'in enquiry'.
Schools are key partners for us and we continually work to develop ways to help teachers and school leaders improve student learning, teaching and assessment. We use our evidence from research to provide accessible information, to help schools demonstrate improvement.
As a not-for-profit organisation and a registered charity, we plough all our income back into supporting our mission to improve the lives of learners, hence why this tool has been developed as a free resource.
The tool adopts three simple steps:
There are two ways to use the Self-Review Tool:
So, why not try out the tool first using the Quick Review and then extend it to the Full Review when you want to do it more formally and widely?
Please note, this tool does not work on Internet Explorer 8 or earlier versions.
This tool can be used by schools, colleges, early years settings and training providers. The term 'school' is used generally to apply to all of these organisations for space-saving reasons.
NFER would like to acknowledge the experts and authors whose work has helped to shape this Self-Review Tool. In particular we would mention:
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Centre for the Use of Research & Evidence in Education (2011). Report of Professional Practitioner Use of Research Review:
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Handscomb, G. and MacBeath, J. (2003). The Research Engaged School. Chelmsford: Essex County Council.
Hargreaves, D. (1996). 'Teaching as a research-based profession: possibilities and prospects.' Paper presented at the Teacher Training Agency Annual Lecture, April [online]. Available: Click to view PDF [13 January, 2015].
Judkins, M., Stacey, O., McCrone, T. and Inniss, M. (2014). United Learning Teachers’ Use of Research Evidence. Slough: NFER [online]. Available: Click to go to website [13 January, 2015].
Lawson, A. (Ed) (2009). Action Research: Making a Difference in Education (Volume 1). Slough: NFER.
Lawson, A. (Ed) (2008). Research Tool-kit: the How-to Guide from Practical Research for Education (Volume 1). Slough: NFER.
Lawson, A. (Ed) (2011). Research Tool-kit: the How-to Guide from Practical Research for Education (Volume 2). Slough: NFER.
Levin, B. (2013). ‘To know is not enough: research knowledge and its use’, Review of Education, 1, 1, 2–31.
National Foundation for Educational Research (2014). Creating a Research engaged School: a Guide for Senior Leaders. Slough: NFER [online]. Available: Click to view PDF [13 January, 2015].
Nelson, J. and O’Beirne, C. (2014). Using Evidence in the Classroom: What Works and Why? Slough: NFER [online]. Available: Click to view PDF [13 January, 2015].
Nutley, S. (2013). ‘Reflections on the mobilisation of education research.’ In: Levin, B., Qi, J., Edelstein, H. and Sohn, J. (Eds) The Impact of Research in Education: an International Perspective. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Pollard, A. with Anderson, J., Maddock, M., Swaffield, S., Warin, J. and Warwick, P. (2008). Reflective Teaching: Evidence-informed Professional Practice. Third edn. London: Continuum. Saunders, L. (2010). ‘The changing role of research in education’, Education Today, 60, 2, 16–21. Schleicher, A. (2011). ‘Building a High-Quality Teaching Profession: Lessons from around the world’, OECD PublishingSebba, J., Kent, P. and Tregenza, J. (2012). Joint Practice Development: What Does the Evidence Suggest are Effective Approaches? Nottingham: NCSL.
Sharp, C., Eames, A., Sanders, D. and Tomlinson, K. (2005). Postcards from Research-engaged Schools. Slough: NFER [online]. Available: Click here to visit website.
Sharp, C., Eames, A., Sanders, D. and Tomlinson, K. (2006). Leading a Research-Engaged School. Nottingham: NCSL.
Sharples, J. (2013). Evidence for the Frontline. London: Alliance for Useful Evidence [online]. Available: Click to view PDF [13 January, 2015].