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Academic research

In this section you can access:

“Teachers and students thrive in the kind of settings that we describe as research-rich, and research-rich schools and colleges are those that are likely to have the greatest capacity for self-evaluation and self-improvement.” Professor John Furlong, of the University of Oxford (

Published research can provide fresh insights into our practice, whether we are teachers or managers. It may be difficult to find research which exactly equates to our own setting. However, there will be research which could provide stimulation for discussion and considerations of aspects of our own settings. Such research can make us question our approaches and try something new. For example the work of John Hattie (Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia), Helen Timperley (Professor of Education University of Auckland, NZ)  and Frank Coffield (Professor of Education at the School of Lifelong Education and International Development at the Institute of Education). These high profile educational researchers publish much of their work online, blog and upload films and talks to camera. This may encourage you to investigate further. With the advent of the internet we can explore academic research in our subject areas as well as wider educational topics from sources all over the world. There are also books written by these academic researchers which can be borrowed from libraries.  The range of academic research is vast but don’t let that put you off. Have a look, read an abstract and decide if you would like to read further.

The research findings below are the results of professional research, led by academics, which is either directly relevant or closely related to the work of the education and training sector. Because, to date, there have been limited studies directly related to education and training, you may need to contextualise the findings for our sector.  

The Excellence Gateway contains a range of research articles produced by our legacy organisations you may find interesting and useful.

Data sets

We use data sets every day in our teaching and managing roles, for example retention, achievement and attendance data.  We don’t always recognise that we are carrying out research when using this data to inform our planning and practice in order to support our learners.

There is also a wealth of national and regional data sets available and a range of statistical procedures used to explore and analyse the data and look for patterns within them.  It is this interpretation of the data which can prove informative and can also be used to put small data sets (perhaps a cohort of your learners) into perspective and allow you to consider, discuss and engage with the research. There is further information in the Gathering data and identifying evidence section.

If you are interested in drawing on education and training sector data sets,  you may find the following Education and Training Foundation research and data sets of interest.

Open-access research journal portals

Open access journals are available to everyone online without charge.  They are scholarly journals made up of research papers which are usually peer-reviewed. The aim of peer review is to maintain standards and to provide credibility.  This means that a community of experts has considered acceptable the paper, perhaps giving comments about possible revisions.  Even so,  as a reader of such scholarly/academic research we ourselves must always read critically.  Critical reading involves asking appropriate questions - this may require that you read the paper a number of times.  

Universities and other institutions publish their research but this is not alway publicly available.  If you are a SET member you have access to EBSCO which is an online reference system accessible via the Internet.

Each academic paper will have an abstract which is a brief summary of the paper’s purpose.  An initial reading of the title and abstract will help you decide whether to read further.

Reading research papers help us to develop academic writing skills.  Open access makes research available to read and be reused - the following resources contains a useful list and links to other open access research journals.

SEND discussion group

Practitioner-led Action Research

Adult learners studying

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, CORE

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, STOR

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, JISC

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, NFER

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, DOAJ – the Directory of Open Access Journals

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, Oxford Open

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, Teaching in Lifelong Learning - The University of Huddersfield Press

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals, Google Scholar

Academic Research: Open-access research journal portals – examples

Professional research

For many of us our first introduction to research is during our teacher training.  Research is carried out by the Government (DfE), Ofqual, the Foundation and many others - their findings are available to us.   They can give us a national and international perspective.  (Universities and other institutions publish their research but this is not always publicly available.  If you are a SET member you have access to EBSCO which is an online reference system accessible via the Internet.)

Below are some examples of freely available research that you may find interesting and useful.  Further examples, themed under topics such as maths and English, organisational development, pedagogy and employers, can be found here.

Don’t forget university and college libraries - it’s not all online!  Your own institution may have a librarian - they are experts in finding relevant research.  The organisation you work for may have access to online journals.

Educational Action Research Methodologies as a basis for International Skills Partnerships

Effective Practices in Post-16 Vocational Maths 2014

Vocational Education and Training: the national agenda for research, development and evidence

Spreading a culture of research 2015

Evidence Informed Decision Making: from classroom to boardroom 2016

The role of the clerk to the corporation of further education colleges in England in ensuring high quality college governance

ETF sponsored FE and Vocational Research Conference 2016

Future Apprenticeships: mediators’ perspectives on the new model

Key Issues for Education and Training - seminars 2015

Consultation on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for the Education and Training Foundation

Dual professionalism tools for vocational college tutors

Outstanding Teaching Learning and Assessment, review of provider-led research projects NTU

The Further Education Workforce: what do we know and what is next?

Strategic Consultation: Mathematics and English.

Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices July 2017

What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research, Robert Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major, October 2014

Report of Professor Sir Adrian Smith's review of post-16 mathematics July 2017

DfE (2017) Identifying variation in learner outcomes by FE provider: research report July 2017.

Performance over professional learning and the complexity puzzle: lesson observation in England’s further education sector by Matt O'Leary

Professional research - further examples

Research bodies

Research bodies are wide ranging in their remits.  Their focus may be gathering data, investigating specific areas of educational practice, or producing publications or other materials to support the work of researchers e.g. peer-reviewed journals.

They are useful for all researchers as they present data that would be expensive or time consuming to gather. Many run conferences, provide libraries of resources and provide ethical guidelines based on many years of experience.

You can see details of a range of research bodies in this document.

Academic Research: Research bodies, Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)

Academic Research: Research bodies, British Educational Research Association (BERA)

Academic Research: Research bodies, Department for Education (DfE)

Academic Research: Research bodies, ELSEVIER

SEND learners being creative in a lesson

Academic Research: Research bodies, British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS)

Academic Research: Research bodies, Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Academic Research: Research bodies, National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)

Academic Research: Research bodies, The National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy (NRDC)

Academic Research: Research bodies, National Foundation for Educational Research (nfer)

Academic Research: Research bodies, National Centre for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL)

Academic Research: Research bodies, The Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (OECD – CERI)

Academic Research: Research bodies, The Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD – PISA)

Academic Research: Research bodies – examples


SET Logo

The Society for Education and Training (SET) is the new professional membership organisation of the Education and Training Foundation for practitioners working in the post-16 education and training sector. Since the close of the Institute for Learning (IfL) in November 2014, SET has taken on its legacy and continues to support practitioners through their professional membership.


The SET’s mission:

  • To promote the professionalism and status of those working in the post 16 education and training sector; ensuring our members gain wider recognition for their expertise and practice.
  • To engage our members in the active use, creation and dissemination of existing and new research into effective teaching and learning practice.
  • To bring together our members into professional communities of practice through events and community networks, regional, national and online.
  • To provide CPD opportunities which are relevant and impactful, at a reasonable cost.

In the past year SET have been guided by their members to increase the quality and quantity of access to research, this has happened in several ways:

  • Increased research content in InTuition, featuring practitioner-led research and key readings.
  • Access to research Q&A via SET online forums.
  • Bursaries to support SET members on the Foundation’s Practitioner Research Programme.
  • Publication of our Research Supplements showcasing practitioner research from the sector.

If you are a member of the Society for Education and Training (SET), you can now access SET's online research library, powered by EBSCO. The journal collection of EBSCO comprises a wide range of national and international education research allowing you to deepen your teaching and training expertise. As a member you will gain exclusive online library access to articles from more than 1,300 education journals, 530 e-books and monographs and 2,300 education-related conference papers. In addition, EBSCO’s specially-curated selection of articles on teaching leadership, career development and personal development will provide the latest advice and information to help you develop your employability and management skills. If you are not a member of SET, here are some examples of open-access research journal portals.

SET members also have access to an interactive tool, designed to offer bite-sized summaries and access to in-depth research articles.  This Professional Standards Research Map aligns research resources to the twenty Professional Standards.