Working out what works (for teachers and pupils) in the classroom

The Key
The Key

“It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it”, according to Professor Steve Higgins at researchED earlier this month. Steve is the author of the Sutton Trust/Education Endowment Fund teaching and learning toolkit. He was speaking in a maths classroom at Raines Foundation School in east London. In the audience were teachers, researchers and authors who were spending their Saturday morning working out what works in education.

A couple of Steve’s points about the toolkit are especially worthy of note, I think. The interventions listed have been tried and tested by other people, in other contexts and they might have worked for them. Crucially, research outlines things that have worked in the past. The toolkit isn’t a road map for improving literacy levels among white working class boys, for instance. It’s more like a satellite map. “Use the toolkit as a guide,” Steve said, and most importantly, “delve into the detail of why an intervention worked or it didn’t”. Evaluate why a particular strategy might not have worked elsewhere and adapt the way you do it to your setting where it might well be successful.

And this is how evidence can play a role in the professional development of teachers, Steve thinks. It can enable them to test, adapt and evaluate what works; it means they can change their practice on the basis of research and evidence rather than opinion.

Steve’s session was one of 60 that day, held in one of five maths classrooms crammed to bursting with over 600 attendees split between them. Take a look at the photographs from the event to see what I mean. All lessons and messages aside, to see so many people willingly engaging in the debate about evidence-based practice is really exciting.

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Comments 4

  1. pedagoginthemachine 24th September 2014

    Hi Amy

    I wrote about Steve’s talk at Research Ed also, in which I elaborated his key insight to suggest that “it ain’t what you do it’s your understanding of the contexts in which a range of related research studies were carried out, the methods they used and issues of generalisability related to those methods, the context in which you wish to implement the same or similar methods, your reasons for doing so, the values of the people involved, the infrastructure in place to facilitate meaningful and sustainable adoption and adaptation of these practices, and your understanding of the emerging field of implementation science… that does it.”

    The full write-up of Steve’s talk is here –

    And if I may stretch the inherent impoliteness involved in linking to one’s own site, I expanded on my thoughts arising from the Research ED conference in these two posts

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

  2. pedagoginthemachine 24th September 2014

    Reblogged this on pedagog in the machine and commented:
    I agree it’s great to see so many people engaging in research and discussing evidence-based practice – AND I think it’s important that we are really honest and open, right from the outset, about what this involves. Because if we don’t… well it doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it?

  3. Nathan Easey – Data and insight manager 25th September 2014

    Thanks for this. I particularly like your point about trying to move towards a shared language and terminology.

    And yes, the full version of Steve’s “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it” hardly trips of the tongue!

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