How we use evidence (read more)
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Evidence hierarchy: How we use evidence (read more)

CESE's goal for the Clearinghouse is to provide teachers and school leaders with easy access to strong evidence on effective professional learning and classroom teaching strategies. CESE uses a rigorous hierarchy of evidence to ensure that the evidence base it draws on to prepare content for the Clearinghouse is a strong indicator of effectiveness and can safely be relied upon.

Academic papers on the effectiveness of different kinds of professional development are uploaded, and are given a rating that indicates how reliably the method used in the evaluation can estimate the causal impact on outcomes. Research that is more useful in determining effectiveness emphasises the ability to show that results were a direct outcome of the program being evaluated. Categorising evidence in this way will give principals and teachers confidence that if they engage in professional learning activities that are underpinned by strong evidence, they will come back with improved skills.

This method of categorising evidence underpins much of CESE's work. CESE's aim is to filter the evidence that can provide the best indication of effectiveness from other evidence and pass that on to educators. Educators can then use that information to help them make decisions whenever they are in doubt about how best to achieve a given outcome.

Shaping evidence in terms of a hierarchy also serves as a useful tool to sort through the masses of information available about education programs. However, it is important to put evidence in context. The reality is that most of what is known about delivering education comes from sharing professional experience and close collaboration between colleagues. This is how it should be. Randomised controlled trials cannot be used to work out the effectiveness of every program or approach to teaching. Other forms of evidence are extremely important in many contexts, but can be less useful in determining the direct impacts of a program. The hierarchy points to programs that have a strong basis to conclude that they will cause improved outcomes and signals to teachers that they can have confidence in the results of those studies.

It is also important to recognise that the hierarchy examines only one dimension of the strength of evidence. Within each level of the hierarchy, different studies can differ in terms of their relevance to the NSW context, statistical power, or a range of other characteristics. Many of these other considerations are discussed in how to read a research article.