Issues In Educational Research, 10(1), 2000, iii-vii.


Sid Bourke
University of Newcastle

What can be said at this time about the future of educational research in Australia? There has always been criticism from outside but also from within the educational community of the usefulness of educational research. Whether the criticism is well-founded or not, it has had the effect of reducing the influence of research, at least on policy. Most of the educational research in Australia is done in universities where there is now greater competition for research funding, and this pressure is more likely to increase rather than decrease over the next few years. These are not positives for those of us who are researchers and concerned about teaching and learning in schools. What is perceived as the role, relevance and usefulness of educational research for schools and schooling? Before attempting to respond briefly to this large question, let me turn to a particular positive for educational research.

The good news for research and the educational profession is that there is increasing pressure for teachers to be prepared to take on the role of teacher/researcher. This is seen not only in curriculum documents where evidence of research, investigation and enquiry by students, at all year levels, are required learning outcomes, but also in statements of desirable teacher competencies to be exhibited by teachers as professionals. Rather than reacting to concern about educational standards by shrinking teacher responsibility, this movement seeks to demand more from teachers. In the short term this should put pressure on teacher education courses to provide beginning teachers with learning experiences appropriate to meet the new demands. In the medium term the responsibility then moves to the newly-qualified teachers to act as research initiators and catalysts in their schools. In the longer term we then need to see benefits for student outcomes.

As I indicated in the editorials of the last two Issues, in 1999 DETYA commissioned three studies into the impact of educational research on schools and schooling, with a particular focus on research undertaken in university education faculties, departments or schools of education. As promised, I will very briefly summarise some of the major findings from one of the studies (Holbrook et al, 1999, 2000).

Monitoring educational research

The first part of the study showed that the content and relative magnitudes by content area of educational research could be mapped over time using the Australian Education Index (AEI). These data were compared with information from a systematic data collection exercise from Faculties/Departments/Schools of Education in Australian universities. Similar university data had previously been collected by DETYA, through expensive and time-consuming operations. It was concluded that, with the addition of information on institutional affiliation of authors to the AEI database, it would no longer be necessary to survey university education faculties for publication information to identify areas of research expertise and trends.

Key groups: focus on postgraduate students

Postgraduate students, undertaking either coursework or research degrees, in all Australian states and territories were surveyed for their perspectives on research, including the sources and types of information that innovations and developments in schools were based on. Postgraduate students are themselves a major source of educational research and most are, or recently were, teachers. They are perhaps the key group in linking educational research in universities and developments in the schools. Other stakeholders in educational research - school principals, education department officers, and professional associations also provided their perspectives on the role and usefulness of educational research. Given that one of the bases for denigration of educational research is the view expressed by some practitioners that it is not useful, the perceptions of these groups are important. The responses received, although not without criticism, were generally supportive of research.

The voices of education systems

Senior policy makers in most of the government school systems and a national association of non-government schools were interviewed. The aim was to obtain a comprehensive overview of the current use, impact of and attitudes to educational research, described as systematic educational enquiry, in each system. Three levels of possible influence were identified - policy making in the system, influence on the schools, and the importance of graduate study by teachers. In summary, the policy makers supported small scale ‘action’ research, perhaps as much for the staff development aspect as anything else. But they also saw the need for large-scale, quantitative research at the macro level, which perhaps required expertise from outside their system.

A future for educational research?

Some eight years ago, a review of educational research (McGaw et al, 1992) indicated that there was considerable scepticism among practitioners and policy makers about the usefulness of educational research. A few years later a small study by Saha and Biddle (1995) suggested that school principals did find research useful. And last year, the study very briefly summarised above may have identified what could conceivably be a ‘sea change’ in attitudes to research, suggesting a greater connectedness than previously between research and schools. Is it too much to hope that a confluence of interest in monitoring educational research, having the tools to do so, and relatively favourable attitudes towards research and practitioner involvement in it, bodes well for future improvement and innovation in education?

To turn now to the articles published in this Issue.

The paper by Bruce and Robinson reports a study implementing a program in regular classrooms based on a metacognitive approach to word identification and reading comprehension skills. This work, at the upper primary level, indicated the program was effective, but mainly only when the researcher was involved. The issue of level of teacher responsibility for a new program, and thus greater ownership of the program is one of the more important issues addressed by the authors. Questions are also raised about determining an optimal length of such an intervention, and the balance of time spent in different strategies during the intervention.

Forster’s paper is concerned with the contexts and purposes of homework as a bridge between school and home. The study reported focussed on students from disadvantaged homes and their mothers. The mothers were supportive and saw a number of positive purposes in homework, although it was also a source of frustration and anxiety for many of them. In summarising, Foster indicates that, for these mothers, homework was a source of information about their child, was an occasion for communicating with their child, and involved them in supporting their child. A range of recommendations for homework policy to facilitate 'bridging' concludes the paper.

The paper on teacher stress in Catholic schools provided by McCormick reports an investigation into teacher attribution of responsibility for stress as well as their level of stress. The hypotheses investigated concerned the relationships of attribution and level of stress with teacher perception of the success or failure of the relevant Catholic education office (CEO). Although neither hypothesis was supported by the multivariate analyses undertaken, the results indicated interesting gender differences. Attribution of stress associated with the CEO was externalised more by male teachers, and gender interacted with perceptions of CEO success and failure in determining the level of stress reported.

Melville and Rankine provide some interesting insights into the management of indigenous research and research programs in universities. In general their research indicates that the management is considered to be satisfactory, although somewhat informal and unstructured. An implication of their findings are that more careful documentation of policies and procedures might be beneficial for those in the indigenous research units and for the university generally in the longer term.

Finally, the paper by Yates is somewhat unusual in these times of instant results. It reports a three-year longitudinal study of primary school mathematics achievement with a twin focus on task involvement and ego orientation of students. Again unusually, one of the findings is that, other things being equal, there were no differences in mathematics achievement in either 1993 or 1995 between girls and boys. When achievement in 1993 was taken into account, achievement in 1995 was not predicted by task involvement but was predicted by ego orientation.

This is my last Issue as editor. I have enjoyed the last four years in this role, particularly that part of it involved in assisting new or relatively new researchers to reach publication standard following the rigorous review process. In this I must thank many anonymous reviewers who gave their time and expertise willingly. Despite these efforts, however, the task of obtaining sufficient number of good articles for publication was a constant challenge, and one that was not always met. It is not that sub-standard articles were knowingly published, but the publication schedule suffered in two ways: publication dates have been frequently late, and only one Issue has been produced per year when two were intended. This seemed preferable to me, rather than the alternative of reducing standards.

What is needed now is a fresh editorship, and the Journal is fortunate to have two most able persons ready to step into the role as joint editors. The idea of joint editors seems a brilliant one to me - knowing as I do the amount of work involved. It has become increasingly difficult for one person, in otherwise full employment, to put the necessary time into the task of editor. The new editors are Clare McBeath from Curtin University of Technology and Tony Featherstone from Edith Cowan University. Clare has been the publisher of Issues during my time as editor, and I cannot speak highly enough of her expertise and flexibility in getting the job done. I hope, for their sake, the new editors are fortunate enough to have as good a publisher.


Holbrook, A., Ainley, J., Bourke, S., Owen, J., McKenzie, P., Misson, S. & Johnson, T. (1999). Mapping Educational Research and its Impact on Australian Schools. Report to the Higher Education Branch Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Camberwell, ACER.

Holbrook, A., Bourke, S., Owen, J.M., McKenzie, P. & Ainley, J. (2000). Mapping educational research and exploring research impact: A holistic, multi-method approach. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, 24-28 April.

McGaw, B., Boud, D., Poole, M., Warry, M. & McKenzie, P. (1992). Educational Research in Australia. Report of the Panel Review, Strategic Review of Education. Canberra, Australian Government Printing Service.

Saha, L.J. & Biddle, B.J. (1995). Attitudes towards educational research knowledge and policy making among American and Australian school principals. International Journal of Educational Research, 23(2), 113-126.

Sid Bourke

[IIER Vol 10, 2000] [IIER Home]

About IIER 2000

Editors from October 2000

Dr Clare McBeath
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology
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Dr Tony Fetherston
School of Education
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IIER Editorial Advisory Board 2000

Professor Sid Bourke (Editor 1996-2000)
Faculty of Education
University of Newcastle
Callaghan, NSW 2308
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Associate Professor Brian Devlin
Northern Territory University
Darwin, NT 0909
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Dr John Hall
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology
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Dr John McCormick
School of Education Studies
University of NSW
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Associate Professor Glenn Rowley
Faculty of Education
Monash University
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Faculty of Education
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Dr John McCormick
School of Education Studies
University of NSW
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All articles published in this journal have been subjected to a blind peer-review process.

The views and styles expressed in the articles in this publication are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily shared by the editor or members of the editorial advisory board.

Copyright © 2000 The Institutes for Educational Research in NSW, NT, SA and WA

Published by the Institutes for Educational Research in NSW, NT, SA and WA. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the Institutes. Desktop publishing (2000) by Clare McBeath. Printed (2000) by Printing Services, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia.

ISSN 0313-7155

Please cite as: Bourke, S. (2000). Editorial. Issues In Educational Research, 10(1), iii-vii.

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