Friday 9 September 2016

Teacher Research Literacy - What does it look like

This weekend will see several hundred educators descend upon the City Academy, Willesden, London.  Now given that one of the main aims of researchED is to raise the research literacy of educators, it seems to me sensible to have a go at trying to define and describe what the term means.

So to help us get a better understanding about what research literacy could look like, I have turned to the Paul DeHard Hurd's 1997 paper - Scientific Literacy: New Minds for a Changing World where he identifies the elements of a science curriculum framework and cognitive strategies that seek to prepare students as productive citizens in today’s world.  For the purposes of this post I will adapt the suggested cognitive strategies for the purpose of identifying what is needed for educators to be research literate.   So the research literate educator
  • Distinguishes experts from the uninformed.
  • Distinguishes  theory from dogma, and data from myth and folklore. 
  • Recognises that almost every fact of one’s life has been influenced in one way or another by science/technology.
  • Knows that research evidence in social contexts often has dimensions in political, judicial, ethical, and sometimes moral interpretations.
  • Senses the ways in which academic research is done and how the findings are validated.
  • Uses research knowledge where appropriate in making life and social decisions, forming judgements, resolving problems, and taking action.
  • Distinguishes educational research from pseudo-science such as astrology, quackery, the occult, and superstition.
  • Recognises the cumulative nature of science and social science as an “endless frontier.”
  • Recognises gaps, risks, limits, and probabilities in making decisions involving a knowledge of educational and other research.
  • Knows how to analyze and process information to generate knowledge that extends beyond facts.
  • Recognises that educational concepts and theories are not rigid but essentially have an organic quality; they grow and develop; what is taught today may not have the same meaning tomorrow.
  • Knows that educational problems may have more than one “right” answer, especially problems that involve ethical, judicial, and political actions.
  • Recognises when a cause and effect relationship cannot be drawn. 
  • Understands the importance of research for its own sake as a product of a researcher’s curiosity.
  • Recognises when one does not have enough data to make a rational decision or form a reliable judgement.
  • Distinguishes evidence from propaganda, fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, and knowledge from opinion.
  • Views academic research addressing complex educational problems  as requiring a synthesis of knowledge from different fields including natural and social sciences.
  • Recognises there is much not known in educational research and that the most significant discovery may be announced tomorrow.
  • Recognises that research literacy is a process of acquiring, analyzing, synthesizing, coding, evaluating, and utilizing achievements in educational research in schools and similar contexts
  • Recognises that educational problems are generally resolved by collaborative rather than individual action.
  • Recognizes that the immediate solution of an educational problem may create a related problem later.
  • Recognizes that short- and long-term solutions to a problem may not have the same answer.
Adapted from DeHard Hurd (1997) pages 413-414

This is without doubt a long list, however, it does illustrate the complexities of becoming research literate.  Indeed, it suggests being research literate involves a career-long commitment to developing the attitudes and disposition, and is not something which can be achieved by participating in the relevant or ITE module or the attendance at a one-day conference.  Being research literate involves a commitment to continually seeking to improve your practice, it's not something you become, but rather it is something you do.


Hurd, P. D. (1998). Scientific literacy: New minds for a changing world. Science education, 82(3), 407-416.


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