Scientific Evidence-Based Teacher Education and Social Impact
Contributions from diverse sources of knowledge have offered multiple reflections on the power of education for students’ social inclusion, regardless of their social and economic contexts. This places governments, universities, schools, and others in charge in a crucial position, in order to increase children’s future opportunities. The consensus on the effect that teachers and their teaching’s quality have is ever-growing. In this regard, there is a wealth of research on effective teacher education, which promotes students’ and their educational communities’ educational and social improvement. These are the promotion of teacher education based on scientific evidence and the monitoring of its effectiveness according to social impact.
However, it is necessary to advance in fundamental aspects: first, how to achieve the transferability of those actions in which teachers are trained to the classrooms; second, how to gather evidence on the way in which training based on scientific contributions impacts on the improvement of school performance, social cohesion, and equity; and finally, how to expand spaces of dialogic creation of knowledge among educational communities.
In-service teacher education based on scientific evidence promotes teachers’ enchantment with their profession, because it provides them with greater capacities to succeed in enabling all children with no distinction to prosper socially with equal opportunities.
Scientific and Human Excellence Research for Social Inclusion
Research on social impact is at the initial stage, but the possibilities for social improvement that its identification implies have made it a crucial issue in the agenda of European and international research. There is a consensus on the fact that social impact cannot be studied only through publications and count of cites in databases but that it requires a multidimensional analysis that encompasses diverse monitoring (Besselaar et al. 2018).
The seventh Framework Programme IMPACT-EV (2014–2017) Evaluating the impact and outcomes of EU SSH research project defines social impact when the transferred results of research lead to an improvement in the societal objectives. These objectives are those that have been defined collectively by societies, such as the sustainable development goals and target by 2030. Therefore, the evaluation of social impact goes beyond the dissemination and transfer of the results, providing evidence of the social improvements in relation to such objectives in a quantitative and qualitative way (Besselaar et al. 2018). This way of evaluating research by the precision of the social transformations it contributes allows the reencounter with the dreams of many people who, throughout history, cherished a production of scientific knowledge at the service of citizenship (Soler-Gallart 2017).
The present chapter advances a reflection on the most adequate indicators for the creation and evaluation of social impact in the specific field of teacher education in the short, medium, and long term.
What Do We Know About the Social Impact of Teacher Education in the Present?
Historically, teacher education has been considered a key factor for education. This interest has currently reverted in an increase of studies on types of teacher education which positively influence students’ educational and social improvement.
When analyzing some of them comparatively, the most relevant features that are observed are, on the one hand, that there is a great coincidence in evaluating teacher education not only through satisfaction surveys but through evidence of improvements of students’ results. Another coincidence is the importance of evaluating training programs by the degree of transferability to practice in the classroom and the influence that the creation of trust and solidarity networks among in-service teacher education has on it. In this regard, the studies emphasize the relevance of teacher education and the promotion of networks of pedagogic leadership in an interdependent way. Lastly, it is important to highlight that, even knowing that there needs to be a good knowledge of the subject to be taught, training centered specifically on the contents of the subject does not seem to be a concurring factor linked with students’ success.
In this sense, training that links theory, research, and educational practice in an effective way is demanded. It is what in some contexts has been named “Teacher Education based on Evidence or on Science.” This teacher education is conceived as training in the reading of scientific and theoretical literature, as well as essay composition, analysis of case studies, and other methods related to research. This training contributes to the promotion of teachers by enabling them to inform their pedagogic decisions on theoretical and scientific bases. Therefore, its main task is not the production of new knowledge on research, but to look into how to transfer these implications to teaching practice. Taking one of J. Bruner’s illustrations, teaching research is not “something new to discover,” but rather “polishing and getting impact” to which we already know that works, and this is “how the new things are going to come out.”
Dialogic Teacher Education
The theory of dialogic learning was first published in Spain in the 1990s, and in this theoretical framework, the dialogic teacher education (DTE) movement arose through dialogic pedagogical gatherings (DPG).
DTE orientates the development of teacher education toward successful education, guarantor of inclusive societies. With this aim, it promotes moving from assumptions in education to those actions evidenced for the improvement of academic results. DTE is teacher education spaces based on the most relevant theoretical and scientific sources on education at the international level. In this regard, it allows the overcoming of one of the most important challenges that teacher education presents, which is the promotion of democratic training models, in accordance with scientific and human quality criteria, and evaluated due to their improvement of students’ performance. In other words, DTE avoids the incorporation of educational myths and misleading practices in schools, protecting children’s education (Flecha 2015; Roca et al. 2015).
In accordance to other internationally known teachers’ training models, DTE is spaces of collective construction of knowledge through the connection of theory, practice, and research. This training framework allows teachers to be critical and make independent pedagogic judgments.
As a result of the sixth Framework Programme INCLUD-ED: Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion from education in Europe Integrated project (2006–2011), the only Social and Economic Sciences research selected among the ten success stories of European research due to its added value for society, DTE acquired a strong leadership when incorporating teacher education on Successful Educational Actions (SEA) as a priority. SEA are those which obtain improvements in instrumental learning, in feelings and values, and in the social cohesion of educational communities. SEA are effective regardless of the context and, therefore, are transferrable to other schools and communities (Flecha 2015).
Another challenge that DTE tackles is the transfer of the learnings acquired to the schools’ practice. Diverse studies have showed a positive association between students’ results and teachers’ collective efficacy. In this regard, DTE has contributed to opening teacher education to the educational community and to diverse agents who intervene in education. This is the way in which DTE expands collaboration and leadership relationships in the larger educational communities and contributes with the expansion and democratization of scientific knowledge on how to offer the best possible education to all children (Garcia-Carrion et al. 2017).
Dialogic Pedagogical Gatherings
Dialogic pedagogical gatherings (DPG) have their antecedents in dialogic literary gatherings, one of the SEA selected by the INCLUD-ED project. Their origin is found in a university training seminar of the Community of Research on Excellence for All (CREA) located at the University of Barcelona. Since 2008 it works under the name of Jesús Gómez Seminar, promoted by the Jesús Gómez Foundation (http://www.fundacionjesusgomez.org/wp/?lang=es) in the memory of one of its most influential members.
DPG are bringing the theoretical and scientific bases of the SEA closer in a more direct and deeper way. Currently, they are being carried out in multiple training contexts such as universities, schools, teacher education centers, and educational administrations, and they have been extended to different countries such as Spain, England, Portugal, Mexico, and Brazil.
In the DPG teachers, together with other agents of the community (family members, educational guidance professionals, teachers, advisers, educational inspection, administration technicians, etc.), share the reading of books and scientific articles. In these gatherings, the internationally relevant original theoretical bases of pedagogy, sociology, or psychology, among others, are read. The reports of the highest-level research on education are also discussed, as well as the publications in ranking journals. Through the shared reading, DPG allow access to these advances and put them at the service of educational communities (Roca et al. 2015).
How Is a Dialogic Pedagogical Gathering Organized?
The gathering is developed around a reading which has been previously agreed upon, from which each person chooses a paragraph they want to share with the group, indicating the page number and the reason why it has been chosen. At the gathering, a moderator guarantees equal opportunities for participation facilitating the biggest possible number of voices possible to be heard. Through the chain of dialogues generated, and without losing sight from the text on that which participants want to reflect or criticize, a dialogic construction of knowledge is produced. This collective interpretation incorporates the voices of all participants through dialogic communicative acts (Searle and Soler 2004), that is, through those in which dialogic interactions prevail over power interactions. In order to reach this understanding, validity is given to contributions and dialogues based on reasoning supported by corroborated theoretical and scientific bases and by the social values that humanity has created, not according to the power status of the participant. The guide to boost its functioning and expand the gathering’s impact is in making the seven principles of dialogic learning real (Flecha 2015). The interactions established between the author’s discourse, our own, and the multiple interpretations extracted from the reading are interiorized, leading to important transformations of the participants’ intrasubjective dialogues, from which they approach their educational interventions. This is how the gatherings allow bridging popular pedagogy and theoretical pedagogy (Roca et al. 2015). The epistemological and, at the same time, solidarity and even friendship interactions of the DPG are contributing to an increase of professional and personal coherence. A successful experience that has achieved scientific impact was gathered by the School Education Gateway (Europe’s online platform for school education) as a tool directed to teacher education that contributes to the success of diverse students (https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/resources/toolkitsforschools/detail.cfm?n=5864).
A Proposal for the Evaluation of Teacher Education’s Impact in the Social Inclusion of Educational Communities
Indicators for the evaluation of the scientific, political, and social impact in teacher education
Indicators of social impact
SIOR 1 – Connection of research with the social priority goals of sustainable development
UNESCO 2030 General Education Strategy: To guarantee inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote permanent learning opportunities for all. In the teacher training subject, it is carried out in five fundamental fields (https://en.unesco.org/themes/teachers)
SIOR 2 – Percentage of improvement achieved regarding the departure situation
Educational impact on students
S2.1 Index of improvement of learning in the schools where teachers work
S2.2 Percentage of improvement in social inclusion: learning results obtained in the school above the associated socioeconomic and cultural index
Educational impact on schools
S2.3 Transfer of teachers’ dialogic education to the school (transferability %)
S2.4 Transfer of Successful Educational Actions to the school (transferability %)
Educational impact on teachers
S2.5 Professional competence: Percentage of teaching based on scientific evidence
S2.6 Pedagogic leadership: Percentage of teachers who are trainers and promoters of new teacher networks and educational projects based on evidence
S2.7 Narratives of social impact: Percentage of teachers who lead projects for the overcoming of educational and social inequalities
Impact on the socio-educational environment
S2.8 Opening of socio-educational dialogue groups and spaces with scientific basis
S2.9 Organization of training spaces based on scientific evidence open to citizenship
S2.10 Creation and transfer of professional knowledge
S2.11 Improvement of social capital in the teaching community (increase of teachers trained in scientific evidence)
S2.12 Transferability of Successful Educational Actions to other educational centers external to this Teaching Action
SIOR 3 – Transferability of the impact: If the actions based on the project’s results have been successfully applied in more than one context
S3.1 The Teaching Action is transferred to other educational and social contexts in the territory
S3.2 The Teaching Action is transferred to other training contexts at the national level
S3.3 The Teaching Action serves as an exchange and improvement to other teacher training spaces at the national territory
SIOR 4 – Scientific, political, and social dissemination. Publications
S4.1 The training space teaches the Successful Educational Actions contrasted at the international level in educational subject
S4.2 The training space transmits actions gathered in journals, publications, and research studies with scientific impact
S4.3 Incorporation of the educational science in schools’ educational practice through the training space
S4.4 Link between the training space and the increase of the scientific literacy of educational communities
S4.5 The training space is disseminated in a diversity of forums with scientific and academic relevance
S4.6 The work of the Teaching Action is reflected in educational dissemination journals
S4.7 Link of Teacher Education Action with the introduction of the contributions to educational politics
S4.8 Research collaboration agreements are established between the Teaching Action and the ones in charge of educational politics
S4.9 Presentation of Teaching Action and its contributions to political forums
S4.10 Contributions of the Teaching Action are introduced in the regulations and action plans of schools, teacher education centers, NGOs, unions, family associations, etc.
SIOR 5 – Sustainability of the impact achieved
S5.1 The training space continues the work, expands and/or maintains the number of participants
S5.2 The training spaces replicated through this training space are sustained in time
The main reference in the development of the proposal is the IMPACT-EV project (2014–2017). One of its most relevant contributions has been the creation of a repository of the social impact of research called SIOR (Social Impact Open Repository). The proposal for the evaluation presented in this chapter takes the monitoring criteria of the social impact that SIOR proposes, recreating them in the field of teacher education. In this regard, the evidence search is formulated on five levels of monitoring. The conjunction of all of them estimates the degree of social impact achieved.
The scoring criteria established by SIOR (http://sior.ub.edu/jspui/indicators.jsp) with a general character can be taken as reference. Table 1 is a proposal of indicators which facilitates gathering evidence of the social impact of teacher education. Next, each of them is briefly introduced.
SIOR-1, the first level of analysis that evaluates the connection of the teacher education action’s impact with the social priority goals of sustainable development. In this case the adherent ones to teacher education in the general UNESCO 2030 have been chosen.
SIOR-2, the second level of analysis, the Socio-educational Impact and the improvement degree achieved through teacher action. In this level of analysis there is less agreement on how to gather the evidence. This proposal of indicators has been elaborated taking the contributions made by three studies in the educational field and university and nonuniversity training as a reference. These studies are the INCLUD-ED project (2006–2011), the HertsCam Network (2013–2017), and the E3M, European indicators and ranking methodology for university third mission (2008–2011), which analyzes the identification, evaluation, and comparison of the activities with social impact at universities.
In relation to these studies, indicators that value the index of improvement have been extracted under a multidimensional focus, that is, on students, schools, teachers, and the socio-educational environment. In all of them, the most complex assessment is how to monitor the link between training and students’ improvement (S2.1). After reviewing the scientific literature, this proposal takes the improvements achieved in the educational results of students’ external evaluations as a measure (or other similar monitoring modalities in the case where these tests do not exist). What is most interesting is not the levels achieved by students, but the level of improvement achieved independently from the results from which we depart. The proposal is to monitor test results and to analyze them annually. This part of the instrument will continue widening in the future in order to make proposals that allow the gathering of not only the improvement of instrumental learnings but also the improvement of social cohesion.
Another key factor which allows the estimation of the impact in the students’ social transformation is the reference to the results in the standardized tests compared with the standardized indexes of the families’ socioeconomic and cultural level. As long as a school achieves better results in its students’ performance than the expected ones regarding the associated socioeconomic and cultural index, it is a sign that the elements that improve the educational and social equity are being contributed.
SIOR-3, the third level of analysis monitors the transferability of the educational and social impact generated, that is, whether the teacher education action has been successfully applied in more than one context. It monitors its capacity to extend to other fields.
SIOR-4, the fourth level of analysis is related to the scientific, political, and social dimension of the teacher education action. In the case of the scientific dimension, the following have been taken into account: the degree of training based on scientific evidence transferred to educational realities and the degree of scientific recognition it has had in diverse dissemination forums and impact journals. As for social and political dissemination, the indicators reflect the degree in which the training action’s contributions have been gathered in public policies and spread in educational dissemination media.
SIOR-5, the last level of analysis is the Sustainability in time of the impact achieved, maintaining and increasing the number of participants and schools implicated in the training action.
The relevance of conceptualizing the evaluation of the social impact in teacher education is a pending challenge that responds to an ethical commitment of the professionals in education. There is still little evidence on the relation perceived by teachers on how training contributes to the students’ educational improvement, investing in resources without guaranteeing that those improve, worsen, or do not generate impact on students’ and their communities’ social inclusion.
The main contribution of this proposal is to introduce teacher education based on scientific evidence, not in an isolated way, but in an organized way, accompanied by a network of collective work that makes the recreation of learning into the everyday practice of schools possible. The combined recreation of the actions makes the bridge between scientific and theoretical evidence, everyday classroom practice and educational communities’ feelings possible.
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