Teacher-Led Research

Designing and implementing randomised controlled trials and other forms of experimental research

By: Richard Churches , Eleanor Dommett


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Size: 222 x 182mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781845909901
Format: Paperback
Published: January 2016

Teacher-led research can transform practice and enhance attainment and school improvement. Teacher-Led Research by Richard Churches and Eleanor Dommett equips teachers with the essential knowledge to design their own classroom research projects. With knowledge of scientific method, teachers can conduct their own research into areas of particular interest in their classrooms, taking control of education research and using it to inform their practice. Teachers can, for example, assess the impact of different pedagogies and prove which strategies work, which can ultimately enhance learning and attainment for pupils and drive whole-school improvement. New and innovative approaches led by teaching schools (outstanding schools following the model of teaching hospitals) are beginning to apply the same approaches used in clinical practice to their school improvement focused research work. In Teacher-Led Research you will learn how to apply similar approaches within your own classroom and in collaboration with others across different schools.

Teacher-Led Research is a how-to guide for teachers, whether they use the term evidence-based, evidence-informed, evidence-engaged or evidence-led to describe the way they think about the challenge of making a difference to the learners they teach. Richard and Eleanor take teachers through the process of designing, implementing and writing up a study, encouraging them to focus on how they could apply this to their own context and interests. Teacher-Led Research provides an introduction to scientific method and guides teachers from research question to hypothesis, covers designing experimental research and implementing a study, and introduces the statistical concepts needed to analyse and write up research, enhancing teachers’ research literacy. Finally, it provides a guide to interpreting findings and writing up research. This is an essential guide for anyone wanting to conduct their own randomised controlled trials, carry out their own classroom-based studies, collaborate with other schools on projects or just better understand teacher-led research and what it could mean for their practice.

This book will be of interest to anyone who is involved in school-level practitioner research, or who wishes to develop their skills in this area. It will also be of interest to teachers who are beginning university education qualifications.

Picture for author Richard Churches

Richard Churches

Dr Richard Churches has been an advanced skills teacher, a senior manager in challenging inner-city schools, a government adviser, an education consultant and the lead adviser for education reform and evidence-based practice at Education Development Trust. He has led many major policy initiatives in England and across the world, and is currently programme director for the DfE Future Teaching Scholars programme. His doctoral research was experimental and explored areas of charismatic leadership associated with altered states of consciousness.

Clinical trials' approach to research to see what works best for students. You can read Dr Richard Churches full article from Education Development Trust here.

Picture for author Eleanor Dommett

Eleanor Dommett

Dr Eleanor Dommett is a Senior Lecturer in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, part of King's College London. Her research focuses on models of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and mechanisms of action of therapeutic drugs in this condition. She has conducted research at Sheffield University, Oxford University and the Open University and has taught at a variety of institutions. She is currently teaching on the BSc Psychology at King's and has a special interest in technology-enhanced learning.


  1. This is a must-read book for anyone involved in educational research. It will particularly appeal to students on research degrees and teacher educators, but also practitioners engaged in classroom research projects. We all want to enhance children and young people's learning experiences and this book is the ideal companion to help us reflect on rigorous ways of doing this. It takes the mystery out of randomised control trials, commonly regarded as the gold standard of research. This is not a stuffy, technical book purely for academics, but a thoroughly engaging read for all those serious about making a difference in the classroom. Both authors draw on their expertise to show that experimental research is nothing to be frightened of, but a key driver for professional development and school improvement. For teachers and leaders who want to give credible answers to inspectors who ask -˜How do you know?', read this book.
  2. -‹Debates about education generate a lot of passion, and give rise to methods of the moment that can be seen as magic bullets. In such an ideologically charged environment, teacher-led research gives practitioners the opportunity to study the efficacy of their practice in as objective a way as possible.

    Richard Churches and Eleanor Dommett have written a practical guide that covers the slipperiest of research issues in a methodical way. I have recently carried out an Education and Training Foundation practitioner research programme. If I had read this book while designing and carrying out the research, I would have felt much better equipped.

    The authors outline the value of experimental research in education, equipping teachers with a practical understanding of the scientific method. Assuming no prior knowledge, the authors take each stage of the research journey and explain the hazards and opportunities. 

    Although the book reads easily, the complexity, concepts and vocabulary make it invaluable throughout the research process, from initial design to write up.

    While the main text covers a knot of concepts and vocabulary, the Learning Zone boxes guide the reader through the tricky task of untangling their ideas to create effective research.

    Brain Boxes offer practical help in designing and writing up experimental research. They offer help in conceptualising ideas and provide the vocabulary to communicate them, allowing the teacher-researcher to present their findings in a polished and persuasive way.

    Even if you are not planning to do your own research any time soon, an understanding of experimental research design is an invaluable tool in judging the claims made by researchers for educational techniques and approaches.

    Teacher-led research is powerful and important. Practitioners who allow evidence to inform their practice and play a role in research themselves, help to shape the direction of educational innovation and consolidation. This book gives teachers the keys to the kingdom of research.
  3. With knowledge of scientific method teachers can conduct their own research into areas of particular interest in their classrooms, taking control of education research and using it to inform their practice. They can, for example, assess the impact of different pedagogies and prove which strategies work, which can ultimately enhance learning and attainment for pupils and drive whole-school improvement.

    Teacher-Led Research is an essential guide for anyone wanting to conduct randomised controlled trials, carry out their own classroom-based studies, collaborate with other schools on projects or just better understand teacher-led research and what it could mean for their practice.

    Read the review in full here.
  4. Rigorous teacher-led research has much to offer in helping to create an ambitious and accountable self-improving education system. Richard and Eleanor's book offers schools a way to engage in research that is both compelling and deeply worthwhile.
  5. Teacher-Led Research by Richard Churches and Eleanor Dommett provides a wealth of valuable examples of how teacher-led research can support the development of classroom practice and contribute to school improvement and attainment through rigorous experimentation. The book describes a series of new and innovative approaches which were led by teaching schools - analogous, Churches and Dommett argue, to teaching hospitals. They see this as a way to develop teaching practice in the same way that clinical practice is tested in medicine.

    The aim is to describe and support school-improvement focused research work by undertaking classroom-based micro-trials. The book shows how teachers working in other schools could apply similar approaches in collaboration with others. The book is a timely and valuable contribution, explaining how to design small-scale fair tests of ideas about changes to practice, which are driven by teachers' own questions about what is effective. It sets out the principles behind scientific testing, guides the development of a testable question, considers what data to collect and provides support in the analysis and communication of findings.
    This book will be of interest to anyone who is involved in practitioner research in schools, or teachers and schools who wish to develop their  knowledge and skills in this area and extend their research-based repertoire of tested practical approaches. It contains a wealth of practical examples which are interesting, sometimes even challenging, but then this is exactly the point. Are you brave enough to put your beliefs and assumptions about what is effective to a rigorous test?
  6. Teacher-Led Research is a very user-friendly book which communicates what could be some rather stuffy maths behind the processes. The illustrations, graphs and diagrams make the book an easy volume to access. The book has the appeal of an academic read, but put in an understandable way. It will appeal to the teacher who wants to quantify a -˜gut feeling'.
  7. Education must get beyond endless whims and fads. Teacher-Led Research gives readers the tools to conduct real research within schools, and begin the process of taking a scientific approach to finding out what really works.
    I'm really impressed with the clarity of Teacher-Led Research. Complex concepts are explained in such a way that they seem easy. This is an amazing little book that is a simple guide to statistics and research for teachers. It is clear, concise and practical and contains a small library's worth of information. What more could you want? Churches and Dommett have distilled the key tools for education research. The impact on teachers and schools could be remarkable.
  8. Richard Churches has worked very closely with teachers on the Closing the Gap project and knows how to guide them through the research process. The success of the Closing the Gap research rested on us all following good scientific method and being confident in our conclusions. Teacher-Led Research, which offers a clear structure to work through and accessible explanations, will be equally useful to the inexperienced teacher-researcher and the more experienced leader guiding a group. Running a randomised controlled trial in my own classroom led me to realise the value of teaching approaches I had thought were relatively ineffective, so I recommend the process described in this book. I never thought that I would spend my Saturday evening reading about inferential statistics but found the explanations here much more accessible than in standard texts. Even if you think you have a reasonable understanding, there is much to learn from this book. With a bit of experience, you can dip in and out of this book to clarify and develop your thinking. However, I would recommend that, first time through, you follow the guidance to the letter.
  9. With the increased interest in school-based research - as witnessed by the growth in popularity of TeachMeets and researchED, amongst others, and the focus given to randomised controlled trial (RCT) techniques by organisations like the EEF - the publication of Teacher-Led Research is certainly very timely.

    This is a great book for teachers and school leaders who are interested  in RCTs and want apply these techniques in their own schools. Teacher-Led Research takes the reader logically through the basics of research methodology and explains RCT techniques using a clear and systematic approach. As well as providing relevant and practical examples, you are encouraged to design and develop your own RCT as you progress through the book's chapters.

    Gathering data, understanding its significance and being able to draw accurate conclusions are essential to both the credibility and further application of any school-based research and the well-illustrated sections on statistics remind us how to use different techniques - it's comprehensive without being too complicated.

    I particularly liked the way the book is organised with its Brain Boxes (containing extension ideas) and Learning Zones (for developing understanding). At the end of each chapter there is an opportunity (if you wish!) to test your own learning through a series of self-assessment questions.

    Teacher-Led Research is accessible, well-illustrated and informative - highly recommended for those engaged in, or planning, school-based research.
  10. Teacher-Led Research is more than just a how-to guide for teacher-led research. It offers a pathway for whole school improvement using evidence-based practice. Teacher-Led Research allows us to work out not only what does work but, crucially, what doesn't work, so that what we do as practitioners has a positive impact on children's learning.
  11. This volume by Richard Churches and Eleanor Dommett is very carefully crafted to be of use to hardworking, busy teachers who have a commitment to improve their professional practice through research. The distinctive feature of the book is its enthusiastic promotion of a scientific approach, drawing on experimental and randomised controlled trial methodologies in particular. Their big achievement is to convey the necessary understanding of what can be dry and technical matters with humour and passion.
  12. Teacher-Led Research is an insightful and interesting book. It gave me confidence that the methods I am using in my teaching are sound - and based on actual research rather than anecdotal evidence. The Learning Zones and Test Yourself sections proved very useful in consolidating my understanding and gave me a good grounding in what I needed to know before I started my own research. For anyone who is looking to prove that the techniques they are using in the classroom work, this is a great book to help you use data generated from experiments productively.
  13. It seems that teaching becomes more and more complex from one generation to the next and, so far, teachers have effectively used their expertise and experience to deal with that complexity and the uncertainty it creates. Teacher-Led Research is a handbook for current and future educators who want to innovate and exploit that complexity for the benefit of students in their classrooms and beyond. Churches and Dommett provide the research tools for teacher-researchers to navigate uncertain pathways, test ideas and ultimately influence the education policies and practices of others.

    Action research in education has been used by teachers to effectively investigate their own practice. Now Teacher-Led Research provides the means by which teacher-researchers can take the next step and undertake research capable of teasing out the difference between context-specific findings and general principles that stand up to rigorous testing.

    Time and again we see that research findings from the related fields of education, psychology and neuroscience have a powerful impact in education when they are effectively utilised by teachers. Teacher-Led Research, with its clarity and gradual construction of sophisticated ideas, provides a foundation upon which educators can bring together their experience and expertise with rigorous research methodology. The education profession, and the students with whom we work, cannot help but benefit from the support provided by Churches and Dommett.

    When Blaise Pascal wrote his much borrowed line -˜I have made this longer than usual, because I have not had the time to make it shorter,' he was recognising how difficult it can be to make complex ideas concise. Churches and Dommett have obviously taken the time to capture the essence of research and its methodologies and in doing so have produced an essential handbook for teacher-researchers.

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