Innovation in learning: The MultiLit Research Unit

From its inception, MultiLit has been determined to base all instructional materials and resources on the best scientific evidence, as well as incorporating new findings as they emerge. The MultiLit Research Unit (MRU), comprising nine PhD qualified researchers and supported by a manager and a team of research officers, is at the heart of MultiLit’s approach to innovation and development.

Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall, MRU Founding Director and Dr Robyn Wheldall, MRU Director discuss the role of the MRU and how research is fundamental to MultiLit’s approach.


The importance of evidence

MultiLit was founded on the philosophy that education practices need to be informed by scientific research to ensure the best outcomes for students. Experience has shown that fads and fashions with little in the way of evidence to justify their adoption can have a hugely negative impact on children’s ability to learn.

Founding Director of the MRU, Professor Kevin Wheldall says, “The primary aim of the MRU is to carry out research underpinning programs and services provided by MultiLit and, in particular, to evaluate the efficacy of MultiLit classroom resources.”

The MRU also works to disseminate research findings on literacy through referred academic journal articles, expert media commentary and advice to inquiries and reviews, as well as conference presentations. MultiLit’s free, biannual digital publication Nomanis with over 5,000 subscribers regularly showcases articles by MRU members as well as leading researchers and practitioners from around the world.

Within MultiLit, members of the MRU actively share their knowledge of current research across the business, to help inform best practice and ensure staff are informed of the latest evidence and its implications in the classroom.

Decades of experience and expertise

The MRU was founded when MultiLit Pty Ltd was established as an independent entity in 2006, building on the major research initiative previously undertaken within the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC).

Now home to a team of nine doctoral researchers, Professor Kevin Wheldall is proud of the depth of knowledge and expertise within the unit. “We believe that our team is the only example of such a concentration of expertise in a commercial literacy company.”

He adds, “The knowledge and expertise within the MRU is distinctive in the educational landscape, and gives those who use MultiLit programs and resources confidence that they are accessing the best translation of research into practice.”

Developing effective programs

As a publisher of evidence-based programs, the MRU is vital in ensuring MultiLit’s programs and resources deliver proven results for students and schools.

Dr Robyn Wheldall, MRU Director, explains, “The MRU is involved in MultiLit’s product development cycle from the outset, providing the initial research rationale for the product or program and informing its ongoing development.”

MRU members meet on a fortnightly basis, both separately and together with senior Product Developers, to propose, discuss and challenge new ideas for products and materials, as well as the ongoing program of research.

For each MultiLit program or product there is a nominated Project Lead and an MRU Lead, and this team is responsible for its development. Professor Kevin Wheldall elaborates: “Evidence forms the basis of everything we do, so ongoing trialling and efficacy studies are conducted prior to the release of the program, with this data being included in the program’s manual.”

This approach means educators can be confident that MultiLit programs are not only based on the latest scientific research, but also have been proven to work in real classrooms.

Currently the MRU is involved in several active research trials, three of which are being conducted in multiple schools across Australia. All trials are conducted under a university ethics framework, allowing trial outcomes to be published and peer-reviewed in academic journals.

Once a program is published, the MRU continues to study the effectiveness through formal research studies, including randomised control trials.

Making knowledge accessible - MRU Press

MRU Press was established to publish rigorously researched educational texts that translate current evidence into practice in the fields of reading, the science of learning and literacy. Authors and editors include MRU members as well as internationally respected academics and researchers.

MRU Press’s publications make information accessible to teachers and other professionals, sharing knowledge on evidence-based approaches that are essential for children to learn successfully.

For Dr Robyn Wheldall, informed teachers are critical: “Every child entering a classroom in this country, wherever it is, whatever their circumstances, should be able to receive evidence-based instruction.”

Professor Kevin Wheldall adds, “Everything published by MRU Press helps teachers to be up-to-date with all aspects of literacy, while also acquainting them with the ‘why’ of an instructional approach.”

More information

For educators seeking a comprehensive guide on evidence-informed approaches to literacy, the newest release from MRU Press, Effective Instruction in Reading and Spelling, is available here.

Explore the full range of MultiLit’s evidence based programs here, or contact the MRU here

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