Teachers’ engagement with research texts: beyond instrumental, conceptual or strategic use.

Tim Cain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Recent policy statements have urged greater use of research to guide teaching, with some commentators calling for a ‘revolution’ in evidence-based practice. Scholarly literature suggests that research can influence policy and practice in ‘instrumental’, ‘conceptual’ or ‘strategic’ ways. This paper analyses data from two studies in English comprehensive schools, in which teachers were given research reports about teaching gifted and talented students, and supported over a 12-month period, to incorporate findings into practitioner research projects of their own devising. Participant observation data, interviews and teachers’ written reports were analysed in three phases; analysis revealed that the teachers used research in instrumental and strategic ways, but only very occasionally. More frequently, their use of research was conceptual. Within this category, research influenced what teachers thought about, and how they thought. The process is theorised as a ‘long, focused discussion’, to which research contributed a ‘third voice’, in dialogue with individual teachers (the ‘first voice’) and their colleagues (the ‘second voice’). Given the dearth of empirical work on this topic, it is argued that this theory, whilst tentative, provides an appropriately nuanced framework for further investigations of teachers’ use of research evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-492
JournalJournal of Education for Teaching
Issue number5
Early online date29 Oct 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Oct 2015


  • knowledge mobilisation
  • theory into practice
  • teachers


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