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Education Policy Analysis Archives, v23 n109 Nov 2015

In this paper we compare the use of research and other evidence in the decision-making practices of two groups of education policy elites, situated in different contexts--provincial education ministries and school districts. Data are derived from two pan-Canadian studies: Galway (2006) and Sheppard, Galway, Brown and Wiens (2013). The findings show that policy decisions at the ministry level are informed primarily by political and pragmatic factors, personal and professional beliefs and local knowledge. The role of external research is shown to be relatively marginal and confined to quantitative studies and performance assessments. Decision makers at the school district level attend less to political and pragmatic influences relying more on personal beliefs, values and experiential factors supplemented by the advice of professional staff and in-house research/indicators. Results from both studies demonstrate limited reliance on external data and university-based research--the latter ranking 15th of 20 influencing factors. Consistent with Beck's (1994; 1997) risk theory, we theorize that education policy making in both contexts is influenced by both macro- and micro-level factors, where choice of policy evidence is mediated by personal considerations and political risk factors. This suggests a weak policy development paradigm that is resistant to independent research-informed evidence.

Descriptors: Educational Research, Research Utilization, Evidence, Decision Making, Educational Policy, State Departments of Education, School Districts, Comparative Analysis, Research Reports, Influences, Foreign Countries, Mixed Methods Research, Surveys, Interviews, Focus Groups

Colleges of Education at Arizona State University and the University of South Florida. c/o Editor, USF EDU162, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620-5650. Tel: 813-974-3400; Fax: 813-974-3826; Web site:

Autor: Galway, Gerald; Sheppard, Bruce


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