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Evaluation report:

Randomised Trials in Educational Research
20 May 2004, Bonhill House, London

 


This seminar was the first in a two event series on randomised controlled trials, and as such was designed as an introductory session for people with an interest in trials, but perhaps with limited experience in either undertaking them or applying them to educational settings. The seminar was convened by Laurence Moore, and developed in consultation with a group of British academics, expert in the implementation and application of RCTs. The seminar started by looking at the importance of experimental educational research to policy, with Ricky Taylor from the Government Chief Social Researcher's Office of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit. This was followed by presentations from Laurence Moore, Diana Elbourne and Robert Coe who presented examples of trials they had implemented in order to highlight issues that arise in their use. Carole Torgerson discussed RCTs from the perspective of a reviewer. There were planned breaks to allow participants to discuss their own interests and concerns on the implementation of trials, as well some of the issues presented. The seminar did not attract much interest from the TLRP research community, with only 2 TLRP researchers enrolling in the event. There was, however, a large contingent from the DfES and a number of people from other government agencies. There were 19 participants.

The event was generally well received by all 18 participants who returned a feedback form, suggesting that the event mostly met their own objectives and the objectives as they were set out in the programme. While over half of the participants indicated that an objective for attending the event was a general increase in knowledge regarding RCTs, another common reason was to find out about successful trials in order to ascertain whether they were, in fact, feasible. Comments on the value of the event, indicated that it had increased overall understanding of RCTs. Several people, however, did not leave the seminar with a clear sense of when it was appropriate to use a trial. Presenters had spent considerable effort co-ordinating and developing the content of the seminar, although perhaps some focus was lost in the amount of content. One person commented, “Too much content in presentations, not enough time spent draining out key points”. This also meant that the programme did not always run to time, and while most participants were not too concerned by this, some would have preferred a closer adherence to the timetabled programme. Participants seemed to appreciate the opportunities for discussion which provided an opportunity to consider the thinking process of how you might approach designing a trial. While some of the participants expressed an interest in attending the follow-up RCT workshop scheduled for June 2004, it was decided to postpone this event to try to attract a larger number of participants. It will now run in September 2004.

The organisation of the event was generally good, with most people content with the venue and pre-course administration.


       
 
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