Evaluation of the Practitioner Research Programme

Improving practice through educational research is at the heart of a programme to support further professionalisation of the Further Education workforce. The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) are sponsoring a programme that supports FE practitioners to undertake research into an area that will benefit their practice. The ETF is the sector-owned, government-backed workforce development body for the Further Education and Training sector. Its role is to commission and deliver professional learning and development for teachers, leaders and trainers.

The ETF commissioned SQW to evaluate its Practitioner Research Programme between 2018 and 2020. The programme is delivered in partnership with the University of Sunderland (SUNCETT) and is available to practitioners across England working in the Further Education and Training sector. There are two strands of study available: an MA Short course and an MPhil programme. Through regular residential workshops, it offers practitioners time and space to reflect, experiment, apply, and generate their own evidence to improve their and their colleagues' practice.

SQW captured the impact of the Practitioner Research Programme through a programme of evaluation research. We conducted a range of fieldwork including focus groups at residential events, interviews with FE employers, and surveys with participants. We also selected several participants as case studies to showcase in more depth the impacts that engaging with the project has had.

The evaluation research was framed by using the combination of both Kirkpatrick and COM-B models. We recognise that the impacts of the Programme can be amplified if researchers have the institutional support to embed their research into their practice, if the research is aligned to the wider strategic priorities of the institution, and if there are opportunities to share findings more widely both within and outside their institution. The research explored whether these conditions are in place and what impacts the research has on both the researcher and their employer.

Our evaluation found that the Programme increased practitioner capability to adopt research-informed practice, changed behaviours, and increased confidence to undertake research. Participation also benefited participant’s organisations through influencing structural and cultural change. The evaluation provided recommendations to further improve the effectiveness of the Programme.

Our evaluation report explores the success and impact of the current phase of the Practitioner Research Programme (2018/2020) to inform its future development. If you would like to know more about the evaluation, please contact Jo Hutchinson.