The impact of being involved in the National College Research theme research project: ‘What Makes Great Pedagogy’ has been very positive for the students, staff and the teaching alliance. On a personal note, as the co-ordinator of the research project, it has been a factor in my promotion to Assistant Principal. Leading the research team and their dissemination of their research findings through staff CPD twilights within Tuxford Academy and other schools within the teaching alliance has resulted in very positive feedback from staff and leadership teams.
The research findings and strategies have also been added to the Teachers’ Toolkit which is now a ‘tight’ principle across the DALP secondary schools within the alliance. Many new classroom strategies developed as a direct result from the R and D project have been observed in numerous formal lesson observations and are becoming ‘normal or de-fault’ practice for many teachers. My new role as Assistant Principal encompasses Research and Development and schools within the teaching school alliance have also become involved in the ‘Closing the Gap: Test and Learn’ national project. Of the nine original staff who encompassed the Research and Development team, five have gained internal and external promotions and their personal development and evidence of direct impact upon the quality of teaching and learning within schools played a role in their advancements.
Research and Development has now become an established part of the school culture and ethos within Tuxford Academy and is gaining a significant foothold within other schools within the alliance and this process, and its future impact upon student progress, has been a direct consequence of being involved in the National College Research theme research project: ‘what makes great pedagogy’.
The impact from the Research and Development project can clearly be seen through the work of the Effective Written Feedback team. At the end of the year, the students were re-questioned about the quality of feedback they were receiving. The results were as follows;
It showed a significant ‘marginal gain’ with a 7% increase from students who agreed they were receiving ‘quality feedback’ and 10% of students more secure in what ‘quality feedback’ looked like. Staff were also more aware of the seven principles of feedback which underpinned the CPD twilight sessions when they were questioned at the start and end of the year to rate their awareness from 1-10 if each principle.
Student feedback from on-line surveys was also positive and showed the impact of the increased awareness of ‘effective feedback’ by selected staff who had attended the relative training: “(teachers) say what you need to improve but also give you the positive side of your work then give you some improvements and examples of the improvement” “put comments next to their tick with space for you to respond instead of just ticking it”.
Their research has been a significant factor in the Academy Leadership Team making ‘improving staff marking and feedback’ as the central strategy for whole academy improvement 2014-2015.
The emerging outcomes from the other Research and Development groups can also be briefly summarised: The dialogic teaching group reported that the implementation of dialogic teaching strategies, such as new classroom seating plans and increasing opportunities to raise the quality of discussion showed to be effective to a certain extent. The MLDP (Middle Leaders Development Project) project in Science showed increased in attainment with higher ability students from using the strategies after the strategies had been tweaked from its first trial with increased guidance given to students to help direct and drive the discussion. The MLDP project in History also showed increase in motivation and retaining knowledge from the students. It was anticipated to have a mixed effect on students. They expected it to engage students more than didactic teaching styles but did not expect the impact that was shown initially, which was far more positive than expected. The Cooperative Squares group also summarised their outcomes and impact: our research evidence showed an improvement in the effectiveness of teachers planning cooperative learning activities during lessons which also led to an improvement in pupil engagement during lessons.
From our baseline data of the formal lesson observations as part of the performance management cycle only one member of staff had used group work in observations 2011-2012. In 2012-2013 the number of staff using group work for observations was significantly higher with many of the ‘outstanding’ lesson observations utilising cooperative squares to raise the quality and effectiveness of the learning within the group work. Also, 95% of teachers, who had attended the twilight sessions on cooperative squares had now tried using cooperative learning in their lessons which had increased from 56% from the baseline data. Teachers who felt that they could plan more effective group work also rose from 68 % to 74%. Teachers at the end of the training insets also felt that pupil engagement had risen from 56% in the first session to 71% and 100% of teachers involved in the staff survey also believed there had been an improvement in engagement.
Within the strong and positive outcomes shown from the Research and Development focus groups the use and benefits of cooperative squares and the use of different strategies to improve the quality of the written feedback has had the most positive impact on the quality of learning within the academy. However, the survey from staff has been limited in its size and many of the staff giving feedback from the surveys have often been the more motivated and committed staff who had signed up to their chosen focus group.
Other whole school initiatives such as joint lesson observations, increased awareness of what outstanding teaching looks like and input from guest speakers such as Mike Hughes on ‘marginal gains’ and the whole school focus on assessment may also have affected the positive outcomes rather than seeing a simplistic causal affect with the Research and Development projects and the positive outcomes.