Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Conceptual framework

The National Centre for School Research must help to ensure that educational research supports teachers and childcare professionals in delivering the best possible educational performance, since this is a crucial prerequisite if children in childcare centres and pupils in primary and lower-secondary school are to achieve the best possible results in terms of learning, well-being and development.

This way of describing educational research is known internationally as school effectiveness research, i.e. research that helps to 

  • Strengthen the effectiveness (which is not the same as “efficiency”) of educational initiatives.
  • Create a sound foundation for decision-makers at both local and national level.

This approach does not claim that merely teaching in a certain way or using certain methods will ensure a corresponding effect. There is no simple, causal relationship between input and effect.

The challenge for any teacher or manager is that although teaching and management have objectives, there is no simple way of achieving these objectives. This task cannot be characterised as involving simple rationality. Instead, using the concept of the American Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, it is a task characterised by “bounded rationality”.

This means that the capacity for action of any teacher or manager is less than the complexity of the task. So the answer to the educational challenge is for teachers, childcare professionals, managers, administrators and politicians to exercise their professional judgment. Using the American sociologist Robert K. Merton’s description of modern professions, they must combine knowing, doing and helping.

A modern profession is characterised by

  • Knowing something which no-one else knows: Using research-based knowledge and data about the correlation between educational efforts and the learning, well-being and development of children and pupils.
  • Being able to do something which no-one else is able to do: Using one’s own experience and empathy with regard to the situation of each child and the class as a whole. Working together in teams, or as it is called nowadays, professional learning communities.
  • Wanting something, which means complying with a normative professional ideal: Educational initiatives are guided by an ideal of supporting the development, well-being and learning of children and students in the best possible way.

As stated by the influential education researcher John Hattie from New Zealand, research cannot deliver rules of action, but can create the basis for intelligent problem-solving. It can be used to support the exercise of professional judgment by supplying reliable knowledge, robust data and research results that can be used in practice at all levels of childcare and primary and lower-secondary school; from the educational relationship between teacher/childcare professional and child, to the management level and administrative/political levels.  

This implies that a fundamental task is to raise professional capital (a concept developed by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan in their book from 2012 “Professional Capital”) in schools and childcare centres . According to Hargreaves and Fullan professional capital has three dimensions: Human, social and decisional capital. There are many ingredients in professional capital. One is, however, educational data and knowledge produced by school research.