Vivian Tseng and Sandra Nutley point the way forward for education researchers and policymakers, summarizing the key points made throughout Using Research Evidence in Education and concluding: “Research is not the next silver bullet for education reform, and simply mandating its use will not get us to our ultimate goals of better teaching and learning. … If we are committed to using research to enrich problem framing, decision making, and individual and organization learning in education, the next decade should focus on building trust, capacity, strong relationships, and the conditions for productive evidence integration.”
In this paper, Davies and Nutley provide a primer for those unfamiliar with prior work and conceptual frameworks for understanding the use of research in policy and practice. They critique the over-emphasis on a rational, linear model of research use that focuses on the instrumental use of research by an individual decision-maker, who begins with a policy or practice question, goes searching for information, appraises and weighs that information, and then applies it to a decision. They argue for better understanding of what Carol Weiss termed the conceptual use or enlightenment function of research. In this model, research broadens or challenges people’s understanding of issues and potential remedies. Davies and Nutley also call for increased study of the social processes and social contexts involved in research use. How is research diffused through policy networks? How do policymakers and practitioners come to interpret research through their interactions with colleagues, advocates, and other experts? How does research become embedded in organizations and systems? How is use of research influenced by local contexts?