eCite Digital Repository

Critical and Alternative Perspectives on Education Effectiveness and Improvement Research


Townsend, T and Macbeath, J and Bogotch, I, Critical and Alternative Perspectives on Education Effectiveness and Improvement Research, Routledge International Handbook of Educational Effectiveness and Improvement, Routledge, C Chapman, D Muijs, D Reynolds, P Sammons, C Teddlie (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 380-407. ISBN 9780415534437 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Christopher Chapman, Daniel Muijs, David Reynolds, Pam Sammons, and Charles Teddlie

Official URL:


Educational effectiveness research (EER), especially over the past twenty years, has investigated the relationship between student outcomes and the key characteristics of schools that make a difference. It has been international in scope, with a central focus on achievement of students from a wide range of social backgrounds. The field has not been without its critics, their issues concerned primarily with what are seen as the narrow compass of its focus, the methodologies that have been employed, and its applications in different national and cultural contexts.

This chapter provides an overview of the seminal critical debates in EER, highlighting the challenges and opportunities within them. First, concepts and definitions of effectiveness are explored, raising two key questions, as follows.

  • What do we mean by ‘effectiveness’?
  • Effectiveness for whom and for what?

In response to these questions, we consider the impact of the outcome measures of ‘effectiveness’ currently in use in educational systems across the globe.

Secondly, the chapter deals with criticisms of the methodological orientation of the field, arguing that while quantitative data and multilevel modelling are helpful in ascertaining effect sizes and providing a descriptive picture at a level of generality, these methods tend to leave an unhelpfully large percentage of the variation unexplained; nor, it is argued, do they provide insights into the processes and complex social phenomena at work in individual school and classroom contexts.

Thirdly, we examine the field’s relationship with policy and practice. Although close links with practitioners and policymakers may have helped effectiveness findings to filter into practice, this has occurred in a selective fashion, with policymakers cherry-picking the politically expedient, rather than the more nuanced, findings of research studies. The result has been overly simplistic headlines and findings used to fit with political ambitions.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Specialist studies in education
Research Field:Educational administration, management and leadership
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Schools and learning environments
Objective Field:Management, resources and leadership
UTAS Author:Townsend, T (Professor Tony Townsend)
ID Code:107234
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2016-03-08
Last Modified:2018-02-02

Repository Staff Only: item control page