The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 65–87 | Cite as

Educational research for professional practice: More than providing evidence for doing ‘x rather than y’ or finding the ‘size of the effect of A on B’

  • Bev Rogers


Educational research has been criticised by governments and practitioners. For some politicians and policy makers, there is a tendency to look for direct links between research and successful, effective and efficient practice. Research is needed to inform their evidence-based practice as policy makers, and to provide the kind of research teachers need to base their practice on the best available evidence for doing ‘x rather than y’ (Hargreaves 1996) or predicting the ‘size of the effect of A on B’ (Blunkett 2000). There is no doubt that both teachers and policy makers do make decisions on a daily basis based on some form of evidence. This paper explores Hargreaves’ notion of evidence-based practice, providing a range of criticisms. It also examines Carr’s historical account of ‘praxis’ and ‘poiesis’ to suggest a notion of evidence-based praxis based partly on the historical notion of ‘phronesis’ — practical wisdom. The basis for this is the argument that wise and practical ethical and moral judgements are central to an understanding of teachers’ daily work. What to do in a specific educational situation cannot be determined solely by theoretical beliefs or by ‘techne’. However the ethical dimension is not the only consideration. The paper suggests that evidence-based praxis use Stenhouse’s notion of ‘actionable evidence’, which includes the ethical dimension, but also Thomson’s concept of ‘thisness’, which describes the unique contextual characteristics of a school. If disadvantaged schools can make some sort of difference to learning opportunities for students, it is argued that teachers might engage in evidence-based praxis which involves them in reflecting on, and theorising what is happening in classrooms, schools and neighbourhoods. This ‘praxis’ also involves them in modifying their theories, critically analysing ‘what works’, questioning how they know and developing ideas about how things might be done differently. There will be an element of developing knowledge about teaching and learning strategies (Hargreaves’ ‘body of knowledge’), but it will be in the context of the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with education. It will take up the question of local differences as well as a realistic approach to what constitutes actual school improvement. Evidence-based praxis is also essentially a collective activity not an individual approach. Future development of the notion of evidence-based praxis might also include involving students in a more reciprocal and open learning process like that highlighted by researchers who focus on student participation linked to school reform.


Educational Research Professional Practice Educational Practice Moral Dilemma Engineering Model 
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Copyright information

© Australian Association for Research in Education 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bev Rogers
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South AustraliaAustralia

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