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Despite widespread calls for research-informed improvement in Australian education, there is very little evidence about best practice use of research and how it can be supported in schools and systems. 

There has been a distinct lack of guidance and support for Australian teachers and school leaders who want to improve outcomes using evidence-informed approaches. Over the past five years, the Q Project has sought to address these major gaps and was the first project internationally to investigate how well schools use research. 

The Impact Report, which encapsulates the research work of the Q Project, documents how the project has reshaped the educational landscape about understanding and improving research evidence use in Australian schools. 

Over its lifespan, the Q Project engaged with more than 2,100 Australian teachers and school leaders from over 1,700 schools, and over 200 Australian and international system leaders from educational jurisdictions, professional associations, policy institutions and research brokerage organisations.

The Q Project has developed practical tools and resources, professional learning programs, and hosted interactive events that reached over 83,000 educators spanning government, Catholic and independent sectors. 

Project Director, Associate Professor Mark Rickinson said, “The Q Project developed not only a unique evidence base about quality use of research but also a powerful practice base of educators and leaders committed to its development in practice. It built capacity, improved practice and shifted debate within many different schools and system organisations across Australia and internationally.” 

“Together with schools and system organisations across Australia and internationally, we developed a distinctive approach to research use as a key pillar for improving the educational outcomes of children and young people throughout the world,” Professor Rickinson said.

Professor Martin Westwell, Chief Executive at the Department for Education, South Australia said, “Q has made a difference already in our system. It’s created space for people to stop and think about the use of research. Schools and even systems are such busy places that sometimes it can be difficult to imagine what other ways might be.” 

Project participants reported improvements in their individual, leadership and network capacities to use research well. The Impact Report identifies that teachers and school leaders want to use research in their work, but do not always feel well equipped or sufficiently supported to do so. The provision of targeted resources and developmental opportunities can build educators’ and leaders’ capacities to improve their use of research in practice. 

Natalie Manser, Assistant Principal at Wantirna College said, “The Q Project for me really assisted in providing a framework for how teachers and educators and leaders should engage with research. I think the idea of having the skill set, the mindset, and also the relationship around research though, that sort of triad if you like, needs to be humming in order for the decisions we make to have the impact that we need them to have.”

Participants reported greater research use awareness and reflective capacities, as well as improvements in their confidence and skills to use research well. These skills span how to access and interpret research, incorporate it into existing practice, and embed it within school organisational structures and processes (e.g., meetings, schedules, professional learning communities, inquiry cycles, etc.). 

Participants’ improved capacities meant that they were more open-minded about the value of using research and more likely to engage with it. 

Participants also reported improved leadership capacities that involved a development in their own leadership mindsets and behaviours, such as better role-modelling of quality research use to staff, or improved communication about the rationale behind research use decisions. 

Chief Investigator, Professor Lucas Walsh, said, “We talk a lot about evidence informed approaches but just how well are we using research evidence? Do we have the capability and support within our education systems, teachers and school leaders? Too often these are afterthoughts, but need to be built into the DNA of everything we do in and for schools.”

“The Q Project shifted the debate about evidence use in schools. In the new world of alternative facts and turning away from expertise, our research affirms that now, more than ever, we need to improve our use of evidence to support the education of children and young people,” Professor Walsh said. 

The Monash Q Project’s research and resources have had a powerful impact on educators’ use of research evidence in their practice and have the potential to support teachers in improving their profession and outcomes for Australian students.

Finishing on the 30 of June, the Q Project was a $6 million partnership between Monash University and generously supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, as part of Monash University’s Change it. For Future Generations philanthropic campaign.

From July 2024, the Q Project’s work will be continued in the form of the Monash Q Lab.

To learn more about the Q Project, or to view the Impact Report, please visit: https://www.monash.edu/education/research/projects/qproject

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