Research makes education better @kateatkins33 #researched

June 4, 2015  |  #ResearchEd

“Research makes education better”, began Kate, head of a 3 form entry Primary School in Lambeth, London. The school serves a mixed catchment, two very different communities in terms of affluence and culture. One of their biggest priorities is narrowing the attainment gap.

Rosendale School has become a strategic partner with the Institute of Education, and are involved in two major research projects. One looks at the impact of ‘lesson study’ to improve outcomes for Maths. The other is a national project which the school devised and wrote the bid for. It involves exploring how to teach meta-congition to primary schools, and has led to a 30 school randomised control trial (interestingly randomised within each school by class).

Kate said research can improve outcomes. It can identify the right thing to narrow attainment gaps. The knowledge base, such as John Hattie’s work, identifies the key areas that can have an impact and those that don’t. They have seen the evidence on homework, and have decided teachers should not be spending time on setting and marking homework: it makes no difference (at primary level). She has diverted teachers’ time from this to feedback, an area that is shown to make a difference to outcomes.

Kate raised the gender issues inherent in the discussion of professionalising the teaching profession (through research or otherwise). Teaching has historically been seen as a female occupation, and (therefore?) does not have a professional body. The building of a professional knowledge base is an important part of being a profession.

Some of the development of research has been about not just outcomes, but giving opportunities to staff. You get the best staff who deliver the best results when you have a school in which people love to work. Research also gives teachers a chance to further develop that love for their job as their understanding of the nature of learning and teaching becomes deeper and stronger.

Teachers need to be learners. They need to keep learning to engage well with their students. Research can be a vehicle for this. Teachers need to have the opportunity to ‘look out’ of the minutiae of their day to day jobs.

One way to achieve this is reading, setting aside study periods in the 12 weeks of holiday they have. Few teachers take this fully as holiday, they work in some way, and Kate encouraged teachers to see reading as a key part of this work.

Networking with others through twitter and going to conferences is also a key part of this. It allows you to gather ideas and directions for further reading, and crucially further thinking. At Rosendale no one goes to a conference alone, the experience has to trigger conversations that lead to change. This builds learning communities within a school.

They also use experts. The IoE research and development group, the EEF and Sutton Trust work, a lot of ground work has been done and is there to pick up and use.

However, Kate also highlighted the importance of becoming an expert yourself. Appraisal at her school is based on an action research project in every classroom. One teacher is exploring whether having a buddy approach helps with learning times tables. The staff then share the findings in staff CPD time, again building the learning community within the school. The onus on acceptable failure has to be part of this – some projects will make no difference, discovering that is important as well.

She’s putting this into practice by using pupil premium budget to give all teachers a 4 day week. 1/2 a day for PPA and 1/2 for professional development and research engagement. This needs to be driven by them, following their own enquiries into their own professional practice and the impact that different activities have on them and their students.

Changing beliefs is really hard. Schools need to be patient and persistent when trying to approach becoming evidence and research engaged.

Related posts:

How research engaged is your school? Matt Walker, NFER #researched
Why should primary schools be engaged in research? @Jon_Brunskill #researched
Becoming a research engaged school #ResearchEd @C_Hendrick

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