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EIPPEE Conference 2013: Evidence Informed Policy and Practice: Progress and future visions

This conference examined the current state of evidence informed policy and practice across Europe. It looked at how far we have come to ensure that education policy and practice is informed by the best available research evidence and where continued efforts still need to be made. In so doing, the conference set out the next steps that need to be taken in the policy, practice and study of evidence informed policy and practice and the role of the international EIPPEE Network within this.


  On 5 and 6 March 2013, the EIPPEE project hosted its second free to attend conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The conference was co-hosted with our partners the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF).

The conference included an optional pre-event training workshop on 4 March 2013.

The final programme for this event is available.
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The conference had three principal aims:

  1. Further the four main strategies of the EIPPEE project: The conference provided an opportunity for EIPPEE Network members to come together to consider specific issues in relation to how evidence is, or could be, used  to help meet educational objectives.
  2. To consider what more needs to be done to develop use of evidence in education: Much of the discussions on the topic of evidence use are concerned with practical issues about access and use. These practices do not occur in a vacuum. They exist within implicit or explicit systems, policies and practices around evidence use. Future action therefore, should consider what needs to be done at such levels. Studying these processes will ensure not only that they are achieving their objectives but also allow us to better understand the mechanisms involved, thereby further developing our understanding in this area.
  3. To develop a strategy to enable the use of educational research: Education is a political issue. Our ongoing and future needs in relation to the use of evidence will depend therefore on our views of education and the needs and objectives that arise from this. These views will vary between individuals and groups but also at the different levels at which educational decisions are made, for example international, regional (including European), national and local levels. It is hoped that the EIPPEE Network will continue beyond the current funding from the European Commission. A main component of the conference was to consider the roles that EIPPEE can undertake to contribute to the development of policies, practices and studies relating to evidence use at each of these levels.

The event brought together over 100 people from 28 different countries including representatives from 20 European Union member states. Delegates included representatives from: five international policy-making organisations (European Commission, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Training Foundation (ETF), Eurofound and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions); eleven national ministries of education (Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden and the UK); four national level policy-making organisations; two local government authorities; three funding organisations; and others, including trade unions, teachers and researchers.  

Knowledge sharing

Orientation to evidence informed policy and practice and research synthesis

The organisers recognised that the conference would bring together people with different knowledge, understanding and experience about using evidence. To help those new to the topic, a pre-conference training workshop and optional orientation session at the start of day one was available, which introduced the concept of evidence informed policy and practice and demonstrated the role that systematic reviews can play in this process.

Evidence use in Germany

Keynote speeches from Marcus Hasselhorn from the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF) and Stephanie Schaerer from the Project Management Organisation of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research set out the issue of evidence use in Germany. Using the example of a project between policy-makers and teachers from over 30 local kindergarten and primary schools from Baden-Württemberg, Marcus Hasselhorn discussed the ways in which these actors worked together to develop, implement, evaluate and reform pre-school education for children at-risk of educational failure. In her speech, Stephanie Schaerer outlined specific measures taken by the Federal Ministry to support educational research and create reliable evidence. For example, the Framework Programme which aims to generate reliable scientific information for educational policy and practice whilst building capacity in Germany.

Putting research evidence into practice: Using an evidence informed toolkit

A key issue around using evidence is how to apply existing research evidence to a specific policy issue or question. To address this, the conference included a session on ‘Using an evidence informed toolkit to raise literacy standards in schools’. Using literacy as an example, the session introduced a Toolkit for teachers and practitioners. This toolkit is based on the review, appraisal and summary of robust research evidence such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses.


European Commission policy on literacy

Raising literacy levels is a key strategic objective for the European Commission. Indeed, one of the benchmarks set for 2020 is to reduce the share of 15-year olds with insufficient abilities in reading, mathematics and science to less than 15%. Daphne De Wit from the European Commission introduced the problem of low literacy levels across Europe and spoke about one of the core approaches to addressing this issue that the European Commission has taken through its ‘High Level Group on Literacy’.


Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit

Robbie Coleman from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) introduced the Sutton Trust/Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning toolkit. The Toolkit is an independent and accessible summary of educational research which helps teachers and schools identify the most promising and cost-effective ways to support their pupils. It provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The Toolkit currently covers 30 topics, each summarised in terms of their average impact on attainment, the strength of the research evidence supporting them and their cost.


Discussions of relevance of the Toolkit to the policy

The aim of the session was not so much to assess the value of the toolkit or to evaluate European Commission or a country policy on this issue. Rather, the aim was to explore, discuss and share understanding about the process of using research knowledge to address policy and practice questions. Participants explored the relevance of the Toolkit across different European countries where levels of teacher autonomy differ. They also highlighted the importance of analysing and reflecting on the specific context that such a toolkit might be used for example, the nature of specific issues and problems in specific classrooms.


Feedback via Twitter

In parallel groups containing a mixture of countries and roles (i.e. researcher, policymaker, knowledge broker), participants reported key points from their discussion using the live conference twitter feed #EIPPEE2013. Participants highlighted many points including:

  • The need to combine the knowledge from the Toolkit with teachers’ own experiential and practice-based knowledge.
  • The importance for teachers to evaluate any change in practice/methods in their own classroom and not just assume that if an approach is supported by good research evidence it will work.
  • The need for a toolkit to support implementation of approaches to ensure fidelity. There was a strong feeling that educational practice should learn from medical practice and adopt the ‘do no harm’ principle in education.
Visions for evidence use in education: EC and OECD perspectives

The workshop sessions fed directly into the keynote speeches from Jan Pakulski from the European Commission and Tracey Burns from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), OECD. Jan Pakulski congratulated the EIPPEE project in engaging nearly 600 individuals and organisations from 63 different countries worldwide; including representatives from all European Union member states, acceding countries, three candidate countries and potential candidate countries. It was testament to the success of projects and initiatives such as EIPPEE that the language of ‘evidence informed’ or ‘evidence based’ policy and practice is now a core part of many governments’ and organisations’ strategies. Both speakers then commented on how time is now ripe for working on how to make this happen in reality – with specific challenges to EIPPEE to:

  • Engage more governments (national, regional and local), funders, organisations working in between policy, practice and research such as think tanks, commercial research companies that undertake work for public bodies, charities, journalists and representative bodies such as trade unions, students and parents associations.
  • Move the field forward from generic conversations about evidence use and whether or why policy and practice should be informed by evidence, to how this can happen in reality.
  • Support policy-makers and practitioners to implement evidence effectively in decision-making.
  • Focus attention on how effective uses of evidence can be scaled up.
  • Consider how to ensure that effective evidence use approaches are sustainable for the long term.
Further details

Further details about the conference, including:

are available by clicking on these links here or on the left hand links at the top of this page.