EEF publishes findings on pilot projects for innovative teaching and learning

Three evaluation reports have been published by the Education Endowment Foundation looking at pilot programmes designed to find out if innovative approaches to teaching and learning can be delivered in schools in a practical way.

Spaced Learning, developed by the Hallam Teaching School Alliance and run by Notre Dame High School, builds on evidence from neuroscience and psychology that suggests information is more easily learnt and recalled when it’s repeated multiple times and separated by periods of unrelated activity. 2,000 pupils in 15 schools took part. Teachers were trained to give short, intensive biology, chemistry and physics lessons to Years 9 and 10 pupils (ages 13-15). The 12-minute sessions were repeated twice and broken up with ‘spaces’, where the pupils did something completely different.

The independent evaluators from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University Belfast reported that the programme was successfully integrated into school timetables. Teachers found the ‘spaced’ lessons easy to deliver and pupils appeared to respond well. The researchers found some preliminary evidence that the most promising version of the programme uses both short 10-minute and longer 24 hour ‘spaces’.

Evidence for the Frontline, an online brokerage service to help bridge the divide between education research and classroom practice, is based at Sandringham School in Hertfordshire, with input from the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Education.  Teachers were given the opportunity to ask leading academics questions about research in areas of interest to them, such as setting pupils by ability or gender. 192 teachers in 32 primary and secondary schools posted 249 questions as part of the year-long pilot. The most common topics included developing independent thinking in pupils and pupil behaviour and engagement.

The independent evaluators from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that overall there was good engagement with the platform. Most teachers who took part said it increased their enthusiasm for using research evidence and many said it improved their teaching. However, the evaluators reported that more work was needed to speed up responses to teachers and encourage more conversations between the teachers and researchers.

IRIS Connect: delivering classroom dialogue and feedback, developed by IRIS Connect in collaboration with Whole Education, is a programme using a technology package which allows teachers’ lessons to be filmed using cameras and microphones in the classroom, and an online platform for sharing recorded lessons between schools. Teachers can review these with their peers. This project involved ‘film club’ events, with the aim of embedding the use of dialogue and feedback in school culture. Eleven schools took part.

The evaluation of the pilot aimed to find out whether Iris Connect could be used to improve primary teachers’ use of feedback. The researchers from Birmingham University found that the overwhelming majority of teachers believed that the intervention was a good use of their time and had improved their teaching. There was also strong evidence that the film clubs promoted discussion of teaching and learning and moderate evidence that the programme changed teachers’ thinking and teaching practice.

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