In the world of education research, there's no lack of evidence of what really works for teaching students in the classroom.
But between a jam-packed curriculum, increasing administrative tasks and keeping up with demands of parents, educators have very little time to seek out recent, credible research and figure out how to put it into practice.
Some teaching strategies that are widely used do not have a solid evidence basis behind them and they could be holding back students' academic achievement.
The Monash Q Project, which is investigating how research evidence is used in schools, previously found 85.1 per cent of teachers believe there is a direct link between research and improved student outcomes.
The project's most recent report based on a survey of 1725 Australian educators found that 76.2 per cent don't believe they have time to access and review research and 75.9 per cent find it difficult to keep up with emerging research.
Dr Joanne Gleeson, a research fellow at Monash University's education faculty, says there is a growing expectation that teachers and school leaders should use research to inform their practice, but they run out of time to do so.
Teachers reported working an average of 140 to 150 per cent of their paid hours, according to a recent workforce data report from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
"That's not surprising that Australian teachers are really positive in their attitude and their beliefs about research use, but we all know that teachers don't have a lot of time," Dr Gleeson says.
"They're doing a lot of work in their own time, whether that's during school holidays or on the weekend or it's after hours. They're taking a lot of work home and research is one of the things that sort of gets squeezed."
Dr Gleeson says the data shows teachers also wanted the skills to find and interpret the most relevant research and the skills to assess whether it was fit for purpose in their own context.
As part of the National School Reform Agreement signed in 2018, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments pledged to fund an independent national evidence institute to inform teacher practice, system improvements and policy development.
The Australian Education Research Organisation - AERO - was launched in December 2020 with Dr Jenny Donovan at the helm.
One year on, the organisation has begun the task of collating and interpreting reliable research for teachers, as well as defining for them what good evidence and research actually is.
The AERO chief executive says many teachers would be surprised to find that some very common practices they've been using have a very slender evidence base.
"Schools get deluged with advertising from people who've come up with the next big thing," Dr Donovan says.
"It's really easy to fall prey to some of what gets pushed to schools and we've got lots of really clear examples of very bad practices that people have adopted for that reason, because they believe the sales pitch, and that's partly why AERO is important."
Dr Donovan says anything promoted by AERO is backed by solid evidence. Instead of reading pages of reports and tables, teachers can go to the organisation's website for an easy-to-read summary.
"We're not promoting fads. We're not pushing things that are going to be proven to have failed in 10 years' time or a generations' time. The things that we are promoting are the ones that we've got a long history of robust evidence and best practice research underpinning it."
AERO strongly advocates the use of explicit instruction. This involves fully explaining and effectively demonstrating what students need to learn. This could mean actively supervising and interacting with students, outlining specific learning objectives and using worked examples.
Formative assessment and minimising disruptive behaviour are also key evidence-based practices shown to work.
However, the use of inquiry-based learning has come into fashion in many classrooms around the country. The practice is guided by children's own interests and often tasks students with doing independent research.
Dr Donovan says this model is sometimes put up in opposition to explicit instruction, but it can only work after children have established their knowledge base.
"[Inquiry-based learning] is a path to a lot of wasted time. It might be engaging for kids in the first instance, but ultimately as they flounder around Google trying to figure out where to go for information, what information relates to other information, whether any of the information they find can be trusted, etc they end up becoming increasingly frustrated and disengaged.
"In fact, inquiry learning is built into an explicit teaching model. It's just not the thing you do at the beginning."
Despite the limited evidence, a 2021 survey conducted by AERO found that 36 per cent of teachers reported allowing unguided instruction or independent inquiry time in most or every lesson.
Dr Donovan also wants to change the conversation around learner engagement.
"Engagement isn't 'Are they having fun?' Fun ... it's like the sugar in the diet. It's great in for a moment, until you realise there's actually not much substance to it and it's not healthy for you in the longer term."
If a student can go home at the end of the day and tell their parents what they now know that they didn't that morning, that is the definition of learner engagement. Learning makes children want to learn more.
Besides the introduction of technology, students need to have access to the same foundational knowledge base and skills to set them up for a successful future as previous generations, Dr Donovan says.
"There's nothing special or particular about the 21st century that means there are suddenly new skills that we need them to understand that replaced the old things," she says.
"Humans have always needed to be creative and critical in their thinking and good problem solvers and good collaborators and it's how societies have worked for millennia."