Over the past month at Creative Education we’ve been very engaged in delivering our new project for the Education and Training Foundation – Functional Skills Collaborative Projects.

As part of the promotional efforts for these we’d run some proposal development workshops where we’d used the PICO framework as a method of developing a research question. It went down really well so I thought I’d share the approach with the network – you may find it’s helpful as a way of structuring your own collaborative enquiry.

The benefits of setting a research question

But first, why both setting a formal research question for your practitioner-led enquiry in the first place?

A research question forces you to think clearly about exactly what you’re going to do. This means you can focus your effort only on what matters. This clear focus also makes it much easier to evaluate success too, as you know exactly what you’re trying and why.

It may sound trivial, but from our experience of delivering over 34 collaborative research projects over the past 3 years – some of them with budgets of as much as £20,000 – one of the biggest difficulties they encounter is getting that clarity of purpose.

What is the PICO framework?

So how does the PICO framework help in setting your research question? And what does it stand for?

  • P – People
  • I – Intervention
  • C – Comparison
  • O – Outcome

PICO questions essentially enable you to outline everything important about your enquiry in one simple sentence.

Here are some examples, so you can see how it works.

Will teaching mathematics through real-life vocational assignments (I) improve level 2 learners’ (P) motivation (O) compared with our standard curriculum (C)?

Will the use of Kahoot for class assessment (I) with ESOL learners (P) improve recall in summative vocabulary tests (O) compared to verbal question and answer (C)?

Will the explicit teaching of study skills (I) with GCSE English students (P) improve their final examination result (O) compared
to the previous year (C)?

Now your turn…

Now it’s your turn – what will your research question be? What will you be seeking to focus on? Do post your research questions in the comments below.

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