Australia’s national education evidence body

What is evidence and why is evidence important in education?

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Evidence is any type of information that supports an assertion, hypothesis or claim.

There are many types of evidence in education, including insights drawn from child or student assessments, classroom observations, recommendations from popular education books and findings from research studies and syntheses. AERO refers to two types of evidence in its work:

  • research evidence – This is academic research, such as causal research or synthesis research, which uses rigorous methods to provide insights into educational practice.
  • practitioner-generated evidence – This is evidence generated through practitioners in their daily practice (e.g. child or student observations, information gained from formative assessments or insights from student feedback on teacher practice).

Evidence is important because it shows us that some education practices improve outcomes for children and students faster and more effectively than others. By consistently reviewing education evidence, we can ensure that we are using approaches that work and that we are improving the quality and equity of our education.

What is research?

Research is ‘the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies, inventions and understandings’ (Australian Research Council, 2015). There are many types of research. For example:

  • exploratory research, which involves investigating an issue or problem. It aims to better understand the issue or problem and sometimes leads to the formation of hypotheses or theories about the issue or problem.
  • descriptive research, which describes a population, situation or event that is being studied. It focuses on developing knowledge about what exists and what is happening.
  • causal research (also known as ‘evaluative research’), which uses experimentation to determine whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists between two or more elements, features or factors.
  • synthesis research, which combines, compares and links existing information to provide a summary and/or new insights or information about a given topic.

Not all evidence produced by research is equal. Different types of research can give us varying degrees of confidence in the evidence it generates.

To assist decision-making about the strength of evidence produced through research, AERO has developed Standards of evidence. AERO’s Standards of evidence focus on the rigor of the methods used to generate evidence and the context in which a research study has been conducted.

AERO’s Standards of evidence are accompanied by a set of tools and resources that further explain the Standards and provide practical guidance for using them.  

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