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  • Understanding School Engagement in Research (USER) Project

    The Understanding School Engagement in Research (USER) project was conducted in 2016 to help Catholic Education Melbourne better understand and meet the needs of schools in regard to their:

    • engagement in research projects

    • engagement with research findings and evidence


    Schooling jurisdictions receive hundreds of applications per year from researchers wishing to conduct research in schools. School feedback through the USER project has enabled Catholic Education Melbourne to better understand what schools want and need in regard to research. This enables more informed decisions that maximise the benefit of school engagement in research, and potentially improve outcomes across the sector.


    Feedback was provided by 73 schools through a quantitative and qualitative online survey, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with one primary and one secondary school principal.

    Catholic Education Melbourne also engaged universities in conversations about school engagement in research. We met with senior academics and research management staff from five Melbourne universities to share Catholic Education Melbourne’s approach to research and provide school feedback from the USER project.


    A high level summary of the USER project providing highlights and key learnings. The 10 key messages from our schools are outlined below.

     Download PDF 

     What our schools told us: 10 key messages

    1. Schools get a lot of requests to participate in research, but choose very few.
    2. Schools tend to choose projects that are Catholic Education Melbourne-led or where Catholic Education Melbourne are partners.
    3. Schools most often choose research projects that are aligned with school priorities.
    4. Schools will more likely engage in projects that offer tangible benefits and outcomes for them.
    5. The demand on schools must be reasonable, and outweighed by the benefit.
    6. Schools often do not receive feedback from researchers or a copy of research findings.
    7. Schools value research projects that have a capacity building component.
    8. Teachers and school leaders mostly access research and evidence from within their school.
    9. Teachers and school leaders mostly engage with research and evidence through dialogue, interactions with their peers, and professional learning.
    10. An evidence-informed culture in schools is enabled by supportive leadership and a culture where using research and evidence is built into the dialogue and day-to-day operations of the school.

    Next steps

    Catholic Education Melbourne is committed to the following recommendations as a result of school and university feedback:

    • Share the USER project findings with Catholic Education Melbourne , schools, universities and other key stakeholders.
    • Write and publish a USER journal article to fill the gap in existing evidence.
    • Review and update our Research in Schools policy and practices.
    • Develop Catholic Education Melbourne research priorities to guide research decision making and investment.
    • Explore options for deeper analysis of school and practitioner engagement in, and with research.
    • Continue to engage with schools and universities to strengthen school engagement in and with research.

    What can schools, researchers and universities do?

    Take the time with colleagues to read or present the USER Project Summary and discuss the findings.

    Some reflection questions have been prepared to help guide conversations in schools and universities:

    USER Reflection Questions for Schools 

    USER Reflection Questions for Universities