Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are a scientific approach to researching cause and effect in medicine and, less commonly, education. The idea is to randomly assign test subjects to one of two or more conditions. In education, our test subjects would usually be students, although they could be randomised at a number of levels. If you have enough schools, you could randomise some schools into one condition and other schools into a different condition. These are the kinds of large-scale RCTs that the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in England carries out and that Evidence for Learning (E4L) conducts in Australia. In my own research, I randomise individual students into one of two conditions. This enables me to run far smaller RCTs.
The conditions should represent the thing you’re interested in testing. For instance, you might want to give your experimental group a differentiated instruction programme that you have developed.
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