Both in Australia and overseas, educators are increasingly expected to use quality evidence to inform their teaching practice. Evidence can help educators understand where students are in their learning, choose appropriate teaching strategies and
interventions, monitor student progress, and evaluate their teaching effectiveness (Masters, 2018). Social processes play an important role in encouraging and facilitating the use of evidence in education (e.g., Rickinson & Edwards, 2021).
Studies focused on evidence-engaged schools have highlighted various social factors that can help educators engage with different evidence. These include evidence-related relationships with colleagues, other early learning centres/schools, professional
associations and universities (e.g., Coldwell et al., 2017; Dimmock, 2019; Godfrey, 2016); opportunities to engage with experts both within and outside the school environment (e.g., Dimmock, 2019; Henrick et al., 2017); trusted relationships,
particularly with school leaders (e.g., Brown, Daly, & Liou, 2016); and collaborative and inclusive ways of interrogating and using evidence (e.g., Supovitz, 2015).
At the base of excellent teaching are excellent relationships – with colleagues, both within the learning environment and externally; with parents and carers, students and the broader community; with leaders, experts, advisors and mentors; and
with system leaders and researchers. Good relationships between the school and the wider community are an important component of school success. These relationships can help drive evidence use among educators. Furthermore, collaborative processes
and school management approaches can make evidence-informed practice an ongoing, school-wide practice (Godfrey & Brown, 2019). Overall, evidence-informed teaching is a “collaborative, not isolated, occupation” (Darling-Hammond
et al., 2017, p. 15).
We aim to identify the ways in which high quality relationships and collaborations are crucial to improving the ways in which educators keep abreast of new evidence, critique and interpret evidence, and ultimately use evidence in practice. It highlights
the importance of supporting and upskilling teachers and school leaders to understand and strengthen their evidence-related relationships and collaborations as part of school and education system improvement.
This collaborative piece between the Monash Q Project (Q Project) and AITSL draws on the findings of the Q Project’s first survey of Australian educators. Between March and September 2020, 492 educators from 414 schools across NSW, SA, VIC and QLD responded to the survey which focused on educators’ awareness of, attitudes towards and uses of evidence in practice.
We highlight initial practitioner insights into the different social processes that underpin and shape how evidence is used in practice. The findings demonstrate teachers and school leaders draw on and value social processes and relationships
when finding, assessing and using evidence (see Figure 1).