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Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in education research –methodological debates, questions, challenges

Styles, Ben; Torgerson, Carole

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Ben Styles


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.


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

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 23, 2018
Publication Date Aug 23, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 3, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2020
Journal Educational Research
Print ISSN 0013-1881
Electronic ISSN 1469-5847
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 3
Pages 255-264


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