Meaningful and useful evidence requires not only incentives for researchers but the implication of practitioners in the production and mobilisation of knowledge


Promoting campaigns and intervention programs for schools, municipalities and charities and strengthening the different areas they manage, such as pedagogical innovation or after-school activities, and fighting against early leaving or segregation are one of the main tasks that the Bofill Foundation is working to achieve. Recently, thanks to the funding from the Ministry of Social Inclusion, the foundation will start a line of research to generate new evidence on how specific programs work. Currently, the Bofill Foundation is running three Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) in the area of tutoring catch-up programs.

Miquel Àngel Alegre is in charge of the many projects within the research-policy strand: for example, areas such as school finance, equality of opportunities and interventions and students’ financial aid schemes. He has also worked on the publication of our Catalan Education at a Glance, and our strategy to bring evidence into policy-making and schooling. We have talked to Alegre, to learn more about the methodologies and line of business centered on the impact of education research.

Could you give one example of a knowledge mobilization activity you’ve been involved with or you have studied?

I think is worth splitting the example up into two initiatives that somehow complement each other. On the one hand, the first case is our “What works in education” project, which has been running since 2015. We commission a series of literature review reports, for example, school and policy levels; topics like school inspections, teacher incentives second chance programs, guidance and orientation and socioemotional learning, among others. Once we have analyzed and investigated them, we organize seminars with experts and stakeholders, and public debates to contextualize the results.

We have recently shifted the project to make it more meaningful to teachers and practitioners, with more spaces for conversation and collaboration. We have named it “Research in Action”. This is an example of mobilizing and contextualizing “deep systematic knowledge” to make practitioners and policymakers more sensitive of the importance of using research to improve policy and practice.

On the other hand, the second initiative, by contrast, was designed and implemented in 2020-2021 as an advocacy action to push for an Educational Research Plan in Catalonia and implied a “quick and dirty - building the case” policy report. It included a proposal of strategic objectives and measures and also a manifesto supported by 800 researchers and teachers.

What impact did you observe and how did you measure it?

As for the “What works in education” project, the one which specifically is about generating awareness on the importance of using evidence, we have some metrics. So far, we have compiled 24 evidence reports and we have organized the same number of seminars, with 400 participants in total, and the same number of public debates, with 10.000 people following them. To conclude, we have also managed 11.000 report downloads.

However, for now, we have not quantified the possible final impacts on real school practices or on the culture or attitudes to evidence the teachers and practitioners. We are working on that matter.

If we settle on the advocacy action, I can say we’ve been quite successful in achieving the main aim. Next week, the Department of Education will announce the launch of an Education Research Plan for the next years. It is based on a diagnosis made by a researcher that has been interviewed and has been discussed with different experts and stakeholders, including members of our foundation. It is centered on most of the topics we developed in our policy report and which lead to conclusions around the same areas: how to incentivize the production of meaningful knowledge from universities and experts; how to assure that this knowledge is effectively transferred to schools and stakeholders; how to promote educational policy evaluations, and the mechanisms to boost evidence-informed educational policies.

Could you give us an insight into the Education Research plan’s outcome?

It is difficult to figure out to what extent this announcement is attributed to our actions. The Department of Education had a Research Service at that time, which mapped the educational research done in Catalonia and worked with teachers, schools and researchers in specific programs. The same actual leaders of the department hold the cause. But I may say that they lacked an agenda or a model to take a step forward on this. And I think we were helpful at that stage.

Did the activity make any unintended impact?

The interest and participation of the teachers in the advocacy action for an Education Research Plan was somehow unexpected. Two important teacher organisations in Catalonia have asked us to include them in the policy report, as well as political agents, and have signed the manifesto. This was unexpected and positive, because we were pointing more restrictively to researchers than to teachers.

How do you think this knowledge mobilization activity could have been improved? What were the key impact factors of the activity?

To achieve more observable changes in school practices that could be attributed to our “What works in education” project, we could have followed three lines of action, which are now part of the “Research in Action” project, as it has evolved. These are: open calls to schools to select topics for research that are relevant to them; a more intensive approach that would include formative and monitoring actions for teachers and practitioners on how to put evidence into action; and more engaging and collaborative spaces involving practitioners and researchers, all throughout the process, from identifying knowledge needs to its effective transfer. Meaningful and useful evidence requires not only incentives for researchers but the implication of practitioners in the production and mobilisation of knowledge.

Concerning the advocacy initiative for a research plan, once we presented the policy report and the manifesto, we have not monitored the policy formation process for the plan. It may had resulted in achieving more impact, but it is difficult to say. We don’t exclude the possibility of scrutinizing the plan in the future, but this is not a priority for the Bofill Foundation now, which points more to direct actions and knowledge mobilization on education equity issues.

What do you think are the impact of some of the tasks that you built over the past months?

What I can tell you are some of the “ex-ante” impact factors of this initiative, on a more advocacy level. On the one hand, we had a smart piece of knowledge, the policy report, with a short and very focused description of the problem, with international examples and a policy implication section with 4 objectives and 16 measures. The manifesto and support signatures were the key. They were shaped on the base of our policy report and the discussion with researchers and practitioners.

The fact that the whole process was led by an external expert, which is a very well-known researcher and director of an independent association of university centres, was also a key movement to promote and strengthen our work. A media conference that was performed by the foundation together with representatives of teachers and researchers had also an important impact. Finally, we concluded that the meetings with policymakers and directors within the department have helped us point in the right direction.

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