Issues In Educational Research, 1(1), 1991, 43-45.

Viewpoints

Strategic Review of Research in Education

Submission of the Western Australian Institute for Educational Research

Editor's Note: This submission represents the concerted effort of WAIER members in response to a call by the Australian Research Council (ARC) to develop a long-term view of the needs and priorities for educational research.

Further input into the review process is possible during the period from mid-August to mid-December 1991. Should you have other comments or new ideas, please send them to Dr Len King, President, WAIER.


  1. The goal of educational research substantially is to promote better education in our educational institutions. This includes contributing to the improvement in the quality of schooling and the quality of teaching and requires research initiatives to be maintained across the full range of areas and drawing from a variety of methodological paradigms.
    This group calls for a reconsideration of ARC research priorities and methodological orientations towards research in education so that a narrow and empiricist emphasis is not the sole focus of research funding bodies. Further, short-term policy oriented, or any singular type of study should not become the only focus areas through which researchers may obtain support.
    Improving the quality of schooling and teaching in educational institutions will contribute directly to a more skilled, "clever" and productive labour force as well as a more educated community. In turn, this will impact positively on the national economy. Hence wise and appropriate investment in educational research should ensure not only the maintenance and development of a highly skilled and diversified group of educational researchers in this country but also improve the quality of schooling and teaching as result of systematic study across a broad field of topics both at macro and micro levels.

  2. Most educators today point to good educational research being undertaken at the various tertiary institutions and some other educational research centres, but little evidence is found of that research effort impacting on changing the nature of what is happening at the classroom level. This situation is occurring despite significant efforts by tertiary institutions and others to disseminate current, valid research through teacher education programmes.
    A matter needing address here is how communication between university researchers and classroom teachers may be improved to affect better focusing of research topics, better dissemination of findings and to ensure translation into more effective practices at the classroom level.
    Both national educational issues and local, school based issues must be addressed. Systems whereby educational researchers and classroom teachers may work together on matters of educational significance would combine the research expertise of university academics and the practical knowledge of classroom teachers.
    We challenge the Committee to raise the professional profile of classroom teachers by planning systems which allow teachers and academics joint access to funding for projects of importance at the school level.
  3. The current pattern of investing resources into educational research consists largely of supporting a few high reputation and proven researchers or teams of researchers in some educational institutions. In the main, such resource distribution seldom involves classroom participants in roles other than that of offering themselves as sources of data. Changes or improvements in the quality of schooling and teaching generally are slow in occurring. Such outcomes not only reflect negatively on the present approach to funding educational research but should caution decision makers about establishing further research concentrations in the future.
    The notion of investing resources into a few expert centres supposedly to achieve better research is likely to be non-functional in terms of achieving overarching national educational goals and priorities.
    Furthermore, this notion denies many able researchers access to research funding and significantly hinders the fostering of research training and expertise across the full range of areas needing focused study. One of the concerns of WAIER since the mid 1980s has been to support beginning researchers in Western Australia and to encourage the contribution of these members in as wide a field as possible.
    Any notion of narrowing educational research to a few specialisms or to certain favoured methodological orientations or more importantly to a small sub-set of the educational research fraternity is deemed by this organisation to be short-sighted and counter-productive.
  4. A cooperative educational research endeavour between classroom practitioner and educational researcher will create a functional nexus between educational research and improved quality of teaching and learning. Where classroom participants join educational researchers as the "doers" of research, a greater degree of change and improvement at the classroom level is likely to follow. Such a point of reasoning should serve as a major criteria item in the prioritising of resource distribution for educational research. In this way attention is given to closing gaps in communication between university academics and classroom teachers, hence increasing the likelihood of research ventures and outcomes being translated into practice to improve student performance.

  5. Given the substantial monetary outlay by the Commonwealth to education the amount provided for educational research is minuscule. We understand approximately $2 million - $3 million is granted through ARC commitments to educational research with perhaps a similar amount granted to ACER. Only some of this money directly relates to improving the quality of education at the school level. Where else in industry, business, or human service organisations especially those of such fundamental significance to the national economy, is so little spent on researching how to improve the quality of product?
    Therefore our group urges the Committee to recommend a separate ARC panel for educational research and a significant boost to the funds available to the panel. Furthermore, we seek a reconsideration of the adjudication process and selection criteria for educational research so that a full range of areas are supported to improve the quality of education, thereby enhancing the educational achievement of young Australians.
  6. Across the nation in a wide array of educational institutions, both tertiary and non-tertiary there exists an abundance of educational research expertise. The tapping of this expert human resource would ensure that it is not lost to the Australian community and that a diversity of research endeavours are taking place.
    At the same time where this exploitation of wide research expertise is coupled with cooperative educational research enterprise with teachers and administrators at all levels of schooling, then effective application of research to the practical setting will be ensured. The WAIER believes strongly in this point of principle, especially through outcomes associated with its annual research FORUM.
    This FORUM is characterised by begi nning and new educational researchers sharing their progress or products of research with their counterparts. Many of the presenters and participants are school practitioners themselves. The popularity and success of the FORUM is testimony to the preparedness of educational researchers to address matters of priority at the local level despite receiving little or no funding for these endeavours.
In summary we challenge the Committee to recommend the following:
  1. That a separate ARC panel for educational research be established and a significant boost to the funds available to the panel be made.

  2. That ARC research priorities and methodological orientations in education be broadened to include a diversity of areas and acknowledgment of several research paradigms.

  3. That communication between university researchers and classroom teachers be directly encouraged to affect better focusing of research topics, better dissemination of findings and to ensure translation into more effective practices at the classroom level.

  4. That the professional profile of classroom teachers be raised to allow teachers and academics joint access to funding for projects of significance at the local level.

  5. That narrowing educational research to a few specialisms or to a small sub-set of the educational research fraternity be actively opposed.
17 June 1991.

Please cite as: WAIER (1991). Strategic Review of Research in Education: Submission of the Western Australian Institute for Educational Research. Issues In Educational Research, 1(1), 43-45. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/iier1/waier-viewpoint.html


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