At our INSET today, we had two sessions that were a good measure of how we are doing as a school, in terms of becoming evidence informed. Firstly, our three staff who have been carrying out a Practitioner Research Project this year presented their findings (within the context of Durrington High School) to the rest of the staff. Then secondly, the staff reflected on the ‘EduBook Club’ CPD strategy that we have been engaged with this year (more here).
Practitioner Research Projects
This year Andy Tharby has worked with Dr Brian Marsh from the University of Brighton on these projects. This has proved to be a really fruitful partnership and has been a great demonstration of schools and universities working together, when carrying out research projects. Whilst teachers in schools know the questions they want answered by the research, we don’t always have the experience to turn this into an appropriate research question and then plan an effective research method. This is where Brian’s knowledge and experience has been invaluable. We would strongly recommend any schools looking to embark on research projects, to partner with a university in this way.
First up was maths teacher, Julie House. Julie has been looking at how teaching methods can transfer from maths to science to enhance learning. Julie observed a number of maths and science lessons, where similar ideas were being taught e.g. manipulating and using formula such as P=F/A or S=D/T. In science students were taught the ‘triangle’ method, whereas in maths they were shown how to make ‘Time’ the subject of the formula. In science, students often did a practical on pressure e.g. different shoes, with different areas etc, then the formula was drawn out through discussions around their observations, and then they practised some questions. Whereas in maths, they were told the formula and then spent more time working through examples. Students preferred the latter.
When students were spoken to, they found the different approaches in the two subjects confusing. This suggests that by using a common pedagogy across subjects, we could support students more effectively. This takes time and collaboration between subjects, but it appears there would be clear benefits.
Julie’s presentation can be viewed here:
Next up was our SENCO, Carole Marsh. Carole has been looking at the deployment of Teaching Assistants (TAs) and how this could be made more effective – in terms of contributing to student achievement. The traditional method od TA deployment, means that they work very closely with individual students during a lesson. This brings with it a number of issues:
- An over dependency of the student on the TA.
- The teacher spends insufficient time with the student – as they see that they are being looked after by the TA.
- Due to a lack of subject knowledge (this will clearly be variable), the TAs are often not able to give the student sufficient support, to unstick them when they are stuck – as a result, progress can be hampered.
So, another model was trialled. The teacher focused their planning on supporting the SEN student – effective explanations, clarifying misconceptions and re-explaining – and focused on them during the lesson. They were able to do this, because the TA was deployed to offer general support with the rest of the class – keeping them on task, asking developmental questions etc.
Whilst there were some issues, early evidence suggests that this might have a positive impact on the progress of SEN stuents – but more studies would be required to test this further. See Carole’s presentation for further details:
Finally, geography teacher, Hannah Townsend, has been studying the habits of teachers who are perceived to have a growth mindset. By observing their behaviours in lessons, she has noticed some common ground:
- They all provide a high level of challenge for all of their students, and expect them to reach these high expectations. This is especially true of low achieving students.
- They are all highly proficient at identifying misconceptions and addressing them, during the lesson. However, rather than telling students why they are wrong, they prompt students (through effective questioning) to fix it themselves.
- They share examples of excellent work with students and then carefully model how to achieve this standard.
Hannah then shared some strategies we can all implement, to support our development along these lines. Hannah’s presentation can be downloaded here:
We then had the final meeting of the EduBook club, where we reviewed the effectiveness of this CPD strategy. All teachers were able to identify some clear teaching strategies that they had implemented as a result of reading their book, and the vast majority of staff agreed that it had made a difference to their practice. What have we learned from the process?
- It has brought contemporary educational theory and ideas into our school, that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise had been so widespread.
- The discussions we have about teaching are now much richer and based around a greater understanding of the learning process and cognitive science – as opposed to an OFSTED checklist.
- The most useful part of the process has been the discussions that the book generated. Even if colleagues didn’t agree with some of the ideas in the books, they all really valued the professional dialogue with colleagues.
- Teachers are good at critiquing educational texts like this – and mostly enjoy it.
- Whilst working in cross curricular groups provides staff with an interesting insight into other subjects, some felt that they might have been better placed to translate the theory into practice, if they had been discussing it within a subject context.
- Sticking with the same book for the whole year was questionable – it may have been more useful to have given people access to more books.
- There is a definite appetite for this evidence informed approach to CPD and teaching.
- The books will all be placed in the school library, so all staff can have access to all of them.
- Next year we will have similar, optional groups to the ‘EduBook Club’ – based around educational research papers instead of books.
- The whole school CPD programme for next year will focus on subject specific pedagogy. But more on that later!
- We are currently in the process of recruiting ‘Practitioner Research Projects’ for next year – their proposed projects are looking very interesting!