Research Learning Communities

Research Learning Communities (RLC) was an intervention that aimed to raise teachers’ awareness, understanding, and use of educational research in developing their practice, with the ultimate aim of improving pupil outcomes. Evidence Champions from each school attended RLC workshops in which they discussed research with academic experts and colleagues from other schools.


Key Stage 2

Key stage


Cross curriculum


EEF Summary

Creating knowledge of what works in education is a useful first step. But if this research does not reach teachers or is not acted upon, then a growing evidence base will not be enough to improve pupil outcomes. For this reason, the EEF has funded this study, along with a number of related projects on research use in schools, which aimed to test the best ways of engaging teachers with relevant research.

The evaluation did not find any overall improvement in pupils’ reading results. However, the study suggests that there may be a relationship between how engaged teachers are with research, and the attainment of their pupils. There was also some tentative evidence that being in an RLC increased teachers’ disposition towards research. While these results should be treated with caution, they are of interest because they suggest one possible way in which RLC could improve pupil outcomes over the longer term: by promoting a teacher characteristic - research engagement - which is linked to positive pupil outcomes.

Teachers in the study reported several challenges to engaging with research, particularly lack of time and staff turnover among research champions. The Education Endowment Foundation will continue to explore innovative ways of encouraging teachers to use research, including through our Research Schools and on-going Campaigns.

Research Results

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

There were 159 primary schools in this trial. 89 were rated Good or Outstanding, and 102 were located in urban areas. Around 21% of pupils were eligible for free school meals and 26% had English as an additional language.

Could I implement this in my school?

In this intervention, schools need access to an academic partner to facilitate discussions and access to recent high quality evidence.

The programme is delivered by the UCL Institute of Education. It is not currently commercially available to schools. 



Delivered by


Whole School

Participant group


2 Years

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The average cost for each school is around £860, or £3 per pupil per year when averaged over three years. The costs vary depending on the number of schools in an RLC, and the number of pupils in each school. In this intervention, there was also a one-off cost of £2500 per RLC for social network analysis, which was used to determine who would be best placed to act in the role of evidence champion. 



Cost per pupil



No. of Teachers/TAs


4 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 2

Start date

June 2014

End date

December 2017

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. The project found no evidence that Research Learning Communities improves reading outcomes for children at Key Stage 2.

  2. The project did find a positive impact on teachers’ disposition towards research. There was, however, some evidence that this impact may have been influenced by other factors such as the level of postgraduate qualifications or seniority of teachers that took part in the intervention.

  3. Exploratory analysis identified some evidence of a small positive relationship between teachers’ disposition towards research and pupil outcomes, irrespective of involvement in an RLC. 

  4. Evidence Champion roles in each school were intended to be held by the same people throughout the intervention, to support the development of a research-focused culture within each school. Staff turnover was therefore a barrier to implementation. 

  5. Some teachers felt that it may take a number of years for participation in an RLC to change teaching practice and improve pupil outcomes. Future research could therefore examine longer term impacts.

  1. Updated: 5th January, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-research-learning-communities.pdf

  2. Updated: 30th November, 2017

    Evaluation report

    2 MB pdf - Research_Learning_Communities.pdf

  3. Updated: 8th February, 2016

    Project Protocol

    181 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_ResearchLearningCommunities.pdf

  4. Updated: 3rd August, 2016

    Amended Project Protocol

    363 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_Research_use-_Research_Learning_Communities_protocol_amended_May_2016.pdf

  5. Updated: 8th March, 2017

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    470 KB pdf - SAP_Research_learning_communities.pdf

Full project description

Research Learning Communities (RLC) was an intervention that aimed to improve teaching quality and learning outcomes by raising teachers’ awareness, understanding, and use of educational research in their teaching practice. Two Evidence Champion teachers from each school attended four RLC workshops with peers from up to four other schools. Workshops were delivered by academics from the Institute of Education at University College London and examined research relating to an area of interest agreed with the schools (for example improving literacy or numeracy via growth mindsets). The Evidence Champions were then required to develop, apply and evaluate school or key-stage wide improvement strategies using the learning from the workshops; and to support other teachers in the school, aiming to raise their awareness, understanding and use of research.

The trial was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the Department for Education and the Mayor’s London Schools Excellence Fund as part of a round of funding exploring Research Use in Schools. The intervention ran for two academic years (from October 2014 to June 2016). This project used a randomised controlled trial to measure the impact of the intervention on teacher research engagement (measured with a survey) and on KS2 reading outcomes for Year 6 pupils.

The evaluation was an efficacy trial. Sixty primary schools working across 14 RLCs were allocated to the treatment group, and 59 to the control group. A total of 5462 pupils were involved. The process evaluation included staff interviews, surveys of the Evidence Champions, and visits to RLC workshops.