2015-16 Practitioner Research Projects


During our INSET day today, RQTs who have been carrying out a ‘Practitioner Research Project’ this year, presented their findings to the staff.  They have been supported with these small scale projects throughout the year by Andy Tharby and Dr Brian Marsh from the University of Brighton.  A summary of each of the presentations follows.

Research Question:  Can exploiting the link between tier 2 words and cognates in MFL help to develop an understanding of tier 2 vocabulary in English?

Carried out by: Danielle Walters & Emma Bilbrough (MFL)

Overview:  Students were tested on their understanding of tier 2 words in English.  An experiment group was then explicitly taught the links between these tier 2 words and cognates in French e.g. cultivar – to grow > cultivate.  When retested with the tier 2 words, the experimental group performed better than the control group (between 25-30% more students improved their score).

Teacher Takeaway: Tier 2 words are essential for students to successfully access and understand  GCSE exam questions, across a range of subjects.  The MFL department can support this particular literacy strategy, by getting students to use their knowledge of cognates, to work out the meaning of tier 2 words.

Presentation for download here.


Research Question:  Flashcards – how can we maximise their potential as a memory tool?

Carried out by: Phoebe Bence (Science)

Outline:  Students were tested on a range of knowledge recall questions as a baseline.  They were then introduced to the flashcard software ‘Anki’ (Ankiapp) and encouraged to use it, for memorising content used in the original test at home – by regular reminders in lessons, parental contact etc.  Initially only 39% of the students used the app.  Phoebe then retested them and ones who had used the app, all made a marked improvement in their scores – demonstrating to the students that it worked.  This motivated more students to use the app, and by the end of the study period (2 months) 69% of the students were using the app and they scored on average 9.5 marks higher.

Teacher Takeaway:  Flashcards work for memory retention – but to get the full use out of them, students need to be shown that they work.  This will hen motivate to use them more and so get the maximum impact out of them.

Presentation for download here


Research Question:  How can we get better at getting students to evaluate their work?

Carried out by: Jack Griffiths (Computing)

Outline:  Students were provided with a checklist of assessment criteria and then put in pairs to discuss each others work and suggest improvements, based on this.  Following this process, students were re-assessed.  No improvement was seen in their scores.  They were then asked to then simply go through the checklist to assess the work of their peers and simply tick off what they had done, without discussing it.  Following this they did the same for their own work too.  They then used the completed checklists, to evaluate and improve their own work.  This resulted in significant gains in the next assessment, for students of all abilities, but markedly so for students with a low starting point.

Teacher Takeaway:  When it comes to peer assessment, very clear and specific checklists are more effective than students simply discussing their work.

Presentation for download here


Research Question: How can the difference in a teacher’s voice volume and positioning in relation to the student, affect the student behaviour?

Carried out by: Andy Paul (Computing)

Outline:  A number of teachers were observed using IRIS and their behaviours such as position relative to student, tone of voice, what was being said were all noted.  At the same time, so was the focus, mood and task engagement of the student.

Teacher Takeaway: It was noted that teachers who had most success in de-escalating challenging behaviour and maintaining a calm environment exhibited the following behaviours – moved closer to the student i.e. within 2 metres; dropped the tone of their voice; moved down to their level i.e. crouched down.

Presentation for download here



Finally Andy Tharby discussed the findings of our first Student Research Council – a group of four Y11 students who, under Andy’s supervision, carried out a small scale research project.

Research Question: Is there a correlation between how extroverted a student is and how much feedback they receive?

Outline:  113 Y10 students completed a questionnaire that examined 2 things.  Firstly, whether a student was introvert or extrovert.  Secondly, how much and what type of feedback did they receive in lessons and how useful was this feedback?  The results showed that there was no perceived difference from the students, introvert or extrovert, about the amount/quality of feedback they received from teachers.  Furthermore:

  1. 65% of students agreed/strongly agreed with the statement ‘My teachers very rarely come back to check whether I have responded to their feedback about how to improve.’  This is the perception of the student – that’s not to say that the teacher, isn’t going back to quickly check that they have got it right and the student is unaware?
  2. 59% of students agreed/strongly agreed with the statement ‘My teachers notice when I’m stuck and help me to move on in the majority of my subjects.’
  3. 54% of students disagree/strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I receive personal verbal feedback on how to improve from my teachers in the majority of my lessons.’  Probably a poorly phrased question – with up to 30 students in a class, it’s not surprising that not everybody gets personal verbal feedback every lesson!
  4. 71.6% of students disagree/strongly disagree with the statement ‘I am rarely chosen to answer a question in lessons.’

Teacher Takeaway: Continue to ensure that introverted and extroverted students receive similar amounts of feedback.

Think about whether all your students receive personal verbal feedback and how you can come back to see whether they have acted upon it.


Like all small scale research projects, there will obviously be limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn from them, due to:

  • By their nature, they are using a small sample size.
  • There are many factors involved that cannot be controlled.
  • As they are carried out by individuals, it’s hard to be objective

However, what’s great about the projects is that they:

  • Suggest things that seem to have had an impact in the context of that teacher and the students being taught.
  • Gives other teachers ideas to try out in their lessons
  • Encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching and try things out.
  • Encourage teachers to talk about their practice.
  • Get teachers thinking about and evaluating educational research methodology.

In short, going back to Sir Tim Brighouse, it supports this:



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