Teachers’ research skills tested

Practical steps to becoming evidence-informed

Using research........how is it done?

Teachers in Wales and beyond are being encouraged to use and carry out research so that teaching and learning gets better and keeps on improving. Many will ask, ‘how do I start?’. Hopefully, this short article will help.

The latest aspect of the reforms to education in Wales is an explicit encouragement to use evidence to underpin teaching and learning. The expectation is that teachers should start any school or pedagogical improvement by reviewing the relevant research and selecting strategies based on that research.

Turning our ‘Schools into Learning Organisations’ (SLOs) is an idea from Welsh Government supported by the OECD and Estyn, which is currently being piloted by a small group of schools. The SLOs document states that:

“Sources of research evidence are readily available and easily accessed and are used by staff to improve their practice.”

The new Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership also include an expectation that staff are confident not only to read and understand but to make choices about which pedagogical approach to take based on the most relevant research:

“The teacher makes reasoned pedagogic decisions based upon relevant reading and research findings.”

Engaging with research though, is not easy. Time, access and having the tools to do it effectively are challenges every teacher faces. This may be why the recent report into use of the Pupil Deprivation Grant found that only a few schools are using the Sutton Trust Toolkit as a research base for interventions intended to close the attainment gap for our most disadvantaged pupils.

Big picture

Impact Wales were one of very few school support services represented at the recent WISERD Annual Conference where recognised researchers were sharing and discussing work that included tracking emerging the pioneer development process for the new Curriculum for Wales. Fascinating findings and robust discussions identified some key issues underpinning school preparation for the new curriculum.

It is surprising that there was so little representation from other school improvement services. Being research-informed is about being open to new ideas, being willing to question and evaluate new content, but most of all being research-informed is about being curious.

Where should teachers and leaders in Wales start if they want to become comfortable in using research to inform teaching and learning so that teachers and learners can thrive?

How should we be engaging with research in a timely way, so that it can make a positive difference to the development of a local school curriculum as envisaged by Professor Graham Donaldson in Successful Futures?

How should that understanding of robust, multi-replicated research inform practitioner enquiry by teachers in their classrooms?

Big picture

Our suggestion is ‘4 steps to being research-informed’:

  • How: understand how research is done and reported – learn the terminology and the methods, and what they mean in terms of implementation in the classroom
  • Where: find out where to access reliable, relevant, peer-reviewed research papers
  • Who: what are the most widely accepted research-informed strategies; who is saying what in support (or not) of such an approach, and ask why are they credible
  • What: have an implementation plan and process for putting research in the classroom.

An implementation process might follow the 4 steps in our sketchnote above. As a company we believe everything we do should have an impact that’s why we create 1-page sketchnotes on educational research and cognitive science and share them for free with teachers all over the world on our website www.impact.wales.

We also support schools directly with the process of becoming research-informed because we recognise knowledge and understanding drives change. To find out more about the support that we offer or how your school can start your research journey contact us at enquiries@impact.wales.

We are Impact Wales

Who are we? - We are Finola & Jane, Literacy & Numeracy specialists, with 35+ years of teaching, training & leadership experience between us.

What's our experience? - We have both worked for Welsh Government supporting schools & senior leaders across Wales. We have held senior leadership posts, delivered support to strategic education advisers, both hold school governor posts and have published curriculum support guidance with Oxford University Publishing...but if you need to know more visit our website for testimonials from schools we've worked with.

Why should you book our support? - Put simply, because we believe in impact. We do exactly what our name suggests. Our workshop keeps things simple and ensures school actions really work. Our focus is always on delivering measurable impact for pupils