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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Styles, Ben & Torgerson, Carole (2018). Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in education research –methodological debates, questions, challenges. Educational Research 60(3): 255-264.

Author(s) from Durham


This Special Issue of Educational Research shines a spotlight on a key research design in the 21st Century in the field of education research: the randomised controlled trial (RCT) or ‘true’ experiment. The six papers included here explore the history and future of the design. They focus on challenges and opportunities, methodological developments and innovation, but above all they highlight the immense progress that has been made in rigorous evaluation over the last 60 years. They provide a historical background in the United States of America (USA), in Scandinavia and in the United Kingdom (UK), and cover the aspects of politics and methodology that have shaped the recent education science landscape. In a time when answers are sought to questions of efficacy and effectiveness of education policies and practices, RCTs have a special role. Uniquely among research designs, they are able to obtain unbiased estimates of the average effects of these policies and practices on children and young people’s education and wider outcomes. Furthermore, they serve as a useful introduction to contemporary issues in RCTs for any education researcher who has an interest in them, but may have felt hindered by limited technical knowledge.

School of Education