Bringing research-informed practice to the whole school.
Some practical advice based on how we brought research-informed practice out of the English Department and into the whole school:
1. Read and experiment in your own classroom and then see what seems to work in your context, both in terms of improving your teaching and reducing workload
2. When you’ve done 1, talk about what you’re doing to anyone who will listen – try to get other people excited, or at least interested, in some of these ideas. This could just be through informal conversations or you could ask to present your ideas to the whole school in a training session.
3. Put out some feelers and see how much enthusiasm there is for a research group in your school – I was blown away by how many teachers were keen to be involved. This was partly due to the USP that the meetings would lead to more efficiency in the long term, even if at first it required people to give up some of their time.
4. Talk to people about the areas they want to improve and then find the research that will help address this.
5. When you’ve chosen your research area, try to find bloggers who have already read around the subject and have helpfully extracted the key information and have come up with practical advice for the classroom – you’ll be surprised by just how many generous people there are that have done just this – Greg Ashman’s blog on cognitive load is an excellent example.
6. When you’ve read the research try to come up with 4-5 key points for discussion, ideally with extracts taken from the research to give the discussion some shape and context. Send these discussion points to those in your group along with anything you have from the original research that you can easily share – this gives teachers some flexibility in terms of what they need to read before the meeting. These are examples of the first two we used:
7 . Don’t try to do too many things at once. Last year we focused on two key pieces of research – Daisy Christodoulou’s Making Good Progress and two blogs based on cognitive load. From these, we chose 3-4 key methods to trial in the classroom over several months.
8. Give enough time between meetings for teachers to experiment and start to properly embed some of the methods into their classroom practice. Having a go at one method once is inefficient in terms of the time invested in researching that method and isn’t enough to see if it will work for you and your students.
9. ‘Show and tell’ – this is my favourite bit! Make time in your meetings just to share resources, compare different approaches, and to look at some students’ work to see if there’s been a positive impact. This is the perfect opportunity for efficiency as it’s a time to ‘magpie’ other people’s ideas and resources and to really talk about what the research looks like in action to give you ideas for your lessons and your delivery.
10. When you find something that works in your context – share it. Spread the word. Maybe even start a blog about what you’ve done…
And finally, if you are a member of SLT and you have any capacity to give someone in your school the time to lead a research group, then please do so. I would not have had the time to continue finding the research and condensing it into ‘bite-sized chunks’ without the time and autonomy given to me by my Head teacher. Plus, if being more research-informed in our practice means that teachers are more efficient and therefore goes some small way towards reducing workload, then it’s an interesting answer to Sean Harford’s question: