Monday 9 February 2015

The School Research Lead and Setting up a Journal Club

In my last post I began to explore the use by School Research Leads of Journal Clubs to help colleagues engage in the critical appraisal of texts.  In this week's post I will again be using the work of Straus et al (2011) in the realm of evidence-based medicine to help School Research Leads set up and successfully run a Journal Club.

In setting up and running a Journal Club there would appear to be three broad sets of issues to address.
  1. What are the learning goals of the Journal Club?
  2. Strategies to support the introduction of the Journal Club?
  3. How should an individual Journal Club session be conducted?
What are the learning goals of the Journal Club

There are at least three core learning goals for a Journal Club
  • Learning about the best evidence available to support the needs of pupils/staff in addressing a particular learning need.
  • Learning about important new evidence that may lead to a change in pedagogy, systems or approach to leadership and management
  • Developing skills at being better consumers of research in order to become more effective evidence-based practitioners.
None of the above are mutually exclusive, although the focus will very much depend upon the needs of the pupils, department, school or individual member of staff.

Strategies to support the setting up of the Journal Club 

There are a number of different strategies and tactics that can be used to make the Journal Club effective and these include:
  • Building a coalition of senior colleagues and peers who will help you achieve your aims.
  • Securing some appropriate resources to allow the Journal Club - be it a small-budget to access materials, tea, biscuits, a decent room and time slot which is not 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon.
  • Be clear that this is a collaborative endeavour which will engage colleagues in group learning activities.
  • Preparing some basic materials for the first few sessions e.g.  materials which would easily lend themselves to a critical appraisal.
  • Developing your own skills in facilitating discussions with colleagues.
Running a Journal Club session 

Whether all of the following can be accomplished in a single session will depend upon the time and other resources which have been made available. Indeed, it may be possible to run a cycle of meetings which where in any one meeting only two of the three components are covered.
  • Part One - establish the learning needs to be covered in the future - be it a specific pedagogic, assessment or leadership and management issue (please note I don't regard research/evidence-based practice the exclusive preserve of front-line teachers).  This could involve accessing existing evidence or reviewing new evidence which has been published.  Alternatively, a colleague may have specific research/evidence-based practice skill issue which they wish to develop.
  • Part Two - this involve the sharing of the outcomes of the search for evidence which was based on the learning need identified in the previous session - this can take the form of photocopies of summaries, original articles or other evidence.  Remember, evidence-based practice does not just rely on 'scientific' research evidence, but also draws upon internal school data and the views of stakeholders.
  • Part Three - this is the main part of the session and involves the critical appraisal of the evidence presented.  As mentioned last week this might involve discussions around:
    • Why are we reading this?
    • What are the authors trying to do in writing this?
    • What are the authors saying that is relevant to what we want to find out?
    • How convincing is what the authors are saying?
    • What can we make of this? (adapted from Wallace and Wray, 2011)
Of course, this is not a strict menu or template about how to run and conduct a Journal Club. On the other hand, I do hope it provides some food for thought and a useful stimulus in how to run effective sessions.   Finally, if I was to offer one piece of advice it is essential to make sure colleagues have sufficient access to articles, evidence or books etc - for without that -  all you do is meet with frustration.


Straus, S.E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S. & Haynes, B.R. (2011)  Evidence Based Medicine : How to practice and teach it, (4th edition), Churchill Livingston.
Wallace, M. and Wray, A. (2011) Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (2nd edition), Sage, London


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