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									Connecting Research and Practice:
     A scientific approach


                       Neil Herrington
                  University of East London
                  CCEAM Conference 2006
    A word from our President

As BERA members well know, the relationship
between research, policy and practice in education
has been high on the agenda of the research and
policy communities for a number of years now. In the
UK it was highlighted in the mid 1990s, when a
succession of commentators questioned the value
and quality of much of the work of our community. It
then became a particular issue for New Labour with
its proclaimed commitment to evidence-informed
policy and its emphasis on finding out and
disseminating what works. (Whitty 2006 p159)
            What counts as research?
    Tierney (2000) lists three assumptions about research in the
     traditional university faculty:
      –   The goal of research is to uncover truths
      –   The manner in which such discovery occurs is by disengagement
          and objectivity
      –   Those who are the best judges of the veracity of one’s findings are
          other disengaged intellectuals. (p186)
     These assumptions are rewarded through funding which, as
      Mortimore (2000) states:
    ‘ illustrates the systematic nature of the problem. We are driven
      by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) introduced by
      politicians – but are then criticised for presenting our work in a
      form which is not user friendly to those same politicians.’ (p15)
                   ‘Unscientific’

   The DfEE (1998) press release that accompanied
    the Hillage report asserted that ‘too much research
    neither helps teachers by showing them what works
    best in the classroom, nor provides policy makers
    with rigorous research on which to build their ideas’
    (Mortimore 2000). This came at a time when much
    criticism was being levelled at educational research
    as ‘unscientific, non-cumulative, uncollaborative and
    inaccessible’ (Oakley 2002)
            What does Science do?

   The report Policy through Dialogue declares an interest in how engagement with the public
    on science and technology based issues could help government to develop and shape
    policies that carry broad public consent. In doing so it acknowledges that the term
    Engagement is widely used as an umbrella term to encompass a great diversity of activities
    and processes.
   The CST report advocates ‘structured processes that create a space in which these
    the public, policy makers, stakeholders and experts can engage in deliberative
    dialogue.’
   These processes of dialogue should:
     –   provide a forum for reflective, considered and informed discussion between people with a range of
         views and values. Structured conversations between experts, non-experts and policy-makers can
         permit all to re-evaluate their perspectives and assumptions in the light of those of others, evolve
         their thinking, and explore areas of mutual and convergent understanding.
     –   engage a diverse range of people. In particular, to engage with people who have no strong pre-
         existing interest in the area and so enter the discussion with a fresh perspective that helps to open
         up debate, and avoids capture by any special interest groups.
     –   stimulate exploration of the interconnections between … issues, and identify the point at which an
         issue becomes essentially political.
                                         Policy through dialogue: informing policies based on science and technology
                                                        A report from the Council for Science and Technology, March 2005
‘far reaching alterations in the nature and
   distribution of resources and the roles of
   science, industry and the state could hardly
   occur without wrenching political conflict.’

                                   Jasanoff (2005)
Three phases of public engagement in
science policy

   Phase 1: Public understanding of science
     –   The initial response of scientists to growing levels of public detachment and mistrust
         was to embark on a mission to inform

   Phase 2: From deficit to dialogue
     –   Implicit within Public Understanding of Science ‘movement’ was a set of questionable
         assumptions about science, the public and the nature of understanding. It relied on a
         ‘deficit model’ of the public as ignorant and science as unchanging and universally
         comprehensible.

   Phase 3: Moving engagement upstream
     –   The House of Lords report detected ‘a new humility on the part of science in the face
         of public attitudes, and a new assertiveness on the part of the public’. HM
         Treasury/DTI/DfES, Science and Innovation Investment Framework2004–2014
         (London: HM Treasury, July 2Wilsd004), p 105

                                      Wilsdon, J. and Willis, R. (2004) See-through Science
How to engage? Methods of public
involvement
   Deliberative polling
      –     In a deliberative poll, a large, demographically representative group of perhaps several hundred people conducts a debate, usually including the
            opportunity to cross-examine key players. The group is polled on the issue before and after the debate.
   Focus groups
      –     Focus groups may also help to identify the factors (which large-scale surveys rarely do) that shape attitudes and responses, including trust or
            mistrust. They also help in the design and interpretation of quantitative public opinion surveys.
   Citizens’ juries
      –     A citizens’ jury (or panel) involves a small group of lay participants (usually 12–20) receiving, questioning and evaluating presentations by experts on
            a particular issue, often over three to four days. At the end, the group is invited to make recommendations.
   Consensus conferences
      –     By convention, a group of 16 lay volunteers is selected for a consensus conference according to socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.
            The main differences between a consensus conference and a citizens’ jury or focus group are the greater opportunity for the participants to become
            more familiar with the technicalities of the subject, the greater initiative allowed to the panel, the admission of the press and the public, and the higher
            cost.
   Stakeholder dialogues
      –     This is a generic term applied to processes that bring together affected and interested parties (stakeholders) to deliberate and negotiate on a
            particular issue.
   Deliberative mapping
      –     This is a process in which expert and citizen assessments are integrated. In a deliberative mapping exercise, citizens’ panels and specialist panels
            are convened and interact with each other, allowing participants to interrogate each others’ views and knowledge, and exposing framing assumptions
            made by both sides. Deliberative mapping seeks to bring together the views of ‘experts’ and ‘public’, through face-to-face deliberation between these
            two groups.
   Internet dialogues
      –     This term is applied to any form of interactive discussion that takes place through the internet. It may be restricted to selected participants, or open to
            anyone with internet access. The advantages of internet dialogue include the ability to collect many responses quickly and to analyse them using
            search engines.

                                                                                                            Wilsdon, J. and Willis, R. (2004) See-through Science
Engagement in Education

  A short paper entitled ‘Research Resources for
  Practitioners’ carrying contact details of staff at the
  DfES and the TDA states that:
  ‘[a]n increasing body of evidence shows that
  practitioner engagement with research plays an
  important role in improving teaching and learning,
  school improvement and retention of teachers in the
  teaching workforce. By ‘engagement’, we mean in
  this case practitioners being able to access
  relevant and robust evidence in user-friendly
  formats…’
Open Sources – their use in
developing dialogue

    Mulgan et al (2005) suggest three broad categories of activity
    observed in projects inspired by open source ideas:

   Open knowledge. These are projects where knowledge is provided
    freely, and shaped, vetted and in some cases used by a wide
    community of participants. In these cases the common value of the
    knowledge being created is the primary concern

   Open team working. The loose communities of interest that work
    together through the internet to build projects

   Open conversations. These extend traditional forms of public
    discussion by constructing online conversations capable of handing
    more participants in more effective ways than previously possible. In
    these cases the process is as important as any goal
                              For Example

   Open public learning collaboratives
     –   The public sector has been experimenting in recent years with new ways of organising
         learning. Networks of schools, subject associations and academic institutions all
         potentially have an interest in joining and supporting open collaboratives, as long as
         the focus of problem-solving is sufficiently relevant and the interfaces used for
         communication and exchange relatively easy to operate.

   Open review in academia
     –   Peer review is at the heart of both academic practice and successful open source
         projects. Both produce results that tend to be of higher quality than non-peer-reviewed
         work but the differences between the two types of peer review are striking. In
         academia, peer review is a one-off test; publication is the reward. In open source,
         peer review is a continual process

   Open Space Conferences
     –   Often supported by social software interaction, Open-Space Conferences are
         collaborative planning instruments.
          Open Space Conferences

   Whoever comes is the right person
    –   It's the quality of interaction that counts, not how many
        people come nor who they are
   Whenever it starts is the right time
    –   creativity doesn’t pay attention to the clock. Instead
        participants are urged to work within the spirit of the event
   When it's over, it's over
    –   This format encourages participants to take the time that is
        needed and let go when there is no more to say. Some of
        the workshops might be finished before the scheduled time,
        others might take longer. In the latter case, a ‘new’
        discussion can be announced at the next round
         Policy Unplugged

Policy Unplugged has been developed by a
team of former policy makers, technologists,
bloggers and anthropologists to explore new
more collaborative, participative approaches
to policy formulation. Using a blend of new
social software and emergent large meeting
formats they are creating a new community
marketplace for policy entrepreneurs.
               http://www.policyunplugged.org

								
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