£Millions spent on educational research every year but why is there so little evidence?

barber RT

Whilst attending Research Ed 2014 #rEd14 that is one question I heard several presenters ask and one that was left circulating my brain for the next week afterwards. Today I am asking myself a follow up question, well if it is true what can we do about it?

I attended my first ResearchEd conference last Saturday and had a wonderful time, it was a wonderful buzzing, bohemian, grassroots filled conference which was refreshing to see many teachers from the ‘chalk face’ there giving up their 1st weekend of the new academic year. I believe that this is a ‘movement’ that is trying to do something about it! A special thank you to both Tom Bennett and Helene Galdin-O’Shea for organising such an inspirational event. As I finish writing this post I see that @kieranearley has beaten me to it, I have resisted reading this yet till I have completed this one but I will as soon as this is posted http://kieranearley.co.uk/2014/09/researched-september-2014/

I picked up several great ideas at #rEd14, links to more reading and research in addition to confirming my own reflections and recent decisions on certain developments at DHSB. However one thing that I came away with following the conference was multiple questions that I am not necessarily sure I have the answers to. Do you? What do you think?

Apparently 1 in 6 schools are taking part in research and there are potential pots of money out there such as with the likes of the Education Endowment Foundation and all you have to do is get in touch. So should more schools/teachers carry out research?

Whose responsibility is it to connect research to practice in education? Should we? A good example was given about Nurses and Doctors who regularly are immersed in both research and practice – should teaching be like that?

To become a better teacher and for schools to become better do teachers need to carry out classroom research or do they just need to reflect on their practice and try to improve it?

Is a ‘top down’ approach to make research a part of being a teacher from the Headteacher or from the state?

What research has been carried out in the UK to show that carrying out research for teachers improves their practice? (I have to say that probably my own best CPD was my MEd but is that the same for everyone?)

Do ‘Outstanding’ teachers need to do it or just poor performing ones?

How will schools/teachers be given the investment and support (both time and money) to encourage more teachers and schools to engage in research?

So going back to the initial question which is also the title of this blog and my own subsequent question about what can we do about it?

The first thing we can do as teachers is access the research that is there and look at it. You can find various good sources below:

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Teaching Toolkit http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/

Institute for Effective Education


Teaching How2’s – great infographics – some are free but most are paid


National Foundation for Educational Research


You can view videos of the talks and find other resources below:


Other recent interesting posts about #rED14

http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/evidence-education-grassroots – @oliverquinlan

http://reflectingenglish.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-cerebral-life-of-schools/ @atharby

Success in SWAT!

This has been a record year at DHSB for SWAT events. Since starting in January getting used to the ways of SWAT has been a steep learning curve, but I think I am finally getting the hang of things.

We have had many successful subject meetings and some organised by our own DHSB staff such as the Maths and Classics events. There has been extensive collaboration, planning curriculums which all SWAT schools are going to teach and sharing of great practice.

The programme of events culminated with the “Mastering the Dragon Conference” in Poole. You have already; I am sure read many of the blog posts about this event. It was a huge success, a real showcase of outstanding practice and celebration of individuals across our schools.


Iain Anderson @iainanders2008 Chair of SWAT opening the MtD Conference 2014

For me the conference challenged my thinking about university, gave rise to some thought provoking conversations about how we provide opportunities outside of the curriculum and I got the opportunity to chat with @headguruteacher about Lesson Study – perhaps the next step for my Lesson Observation Triads.

There are many more exciting events planned, especially for the students in our schools. I am looking forward to continuing to giving colleagues opportunities for CPD across our SWAT schools.

Rachael Green @DHSBGeography


Art across the curriculum

This session run by Sarah Harris explored the benefits associated with an artistic approach to learning.

6 reasons why arts in education are so important

· They are languages that all people speak that cut across cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers.

· They provide opportunities for self-expression.

· They develop both independence and collaboration.

· They make it possible to use personal strengths in meaningful ways.

· They improve academic achievement — attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.

· They exercise and develop higher order thinking skills including analysis, evaluation, and “problem-finding.”

I would like to add ‘prosperity’ to this list, as it is interesting to note that official statistics published recently reveal that the UK’s creative Industries are now worth £71.4 billion per year to the UK economy –that is a staggering £8 million pounds an hour!

Finally, here are two great websites that I have used recently that encourage creativity.


iPads are powerful tools for creativity. Students can engage with content in interactive ways, find information in an instant, and create their own imagery anywhere, anytime. Packed full of adaptable ideas and inspiration for the classroom.

And don’t you just love it when science and art meets….


The Creators Project is a global network dedicated to the celebration of creativity, culture and technology, fantastic projects that will inspire discussion and ideas.

Leonardo would be proud!

Amanda Burdon @staffaburdon

In praise of ‘the mooc’

Probably best not to read this if you are under fifty…

If you have been in teaching or education for a good few years, quite possibly with time in another career under your belt too, you probably dread the arrival of yet another wheel.

To use a description coined by Tom Sherrington in a recent presentation on CPD, when one of those “hyper-puppy evangelists of the new” tells you about the latest initiative, it is sometimes hard not to be a “jaded eye roller of doom” (thanks again Tom…) and this is even more difficult if that eager puppy is a member of your LG, so that you have no option but to smile sweetly and comply.

I would implore those hyper-puppies not to immediately dismiss the eye rollers comments as negativity; sometimes the voice of experience can foresee difficulties that could be avoided with a little more discussion; initiatives enhanced with a little more consultation.

Some new ideas are definitely worth a try, though, and often unless you actually try you will never be sure of their value. I have grown to love and appreciate the use of Twitter as far more than a chance to look at pictures of cats doing cute things (although it is pretty good for that too…) – it enhances communication at school between pupils and staff, staff and parents, and also as you hone your own twitter feed to reflect interests both business and leisure orientated it is a massive source of information.

Another new thing I have tried recently is a MOOC. (Image taken from Wikipedia)

I’d heard a lot about MOOC’s and had vaguely considered trying one but was generally too busy to think about starting. For anyone who hasn’t heard the term, it stands for massive open online course. These are run by various universities around the world and often attract thousands

of applicants, partly no doubt due to the price, which is nothing. They typically run for around six weeks and can be on subjects ranging from nuclear physics to fashion design.

Then I heard about one being marketed by the University of London Careers Group, Coursera, on the subject of employability, and even better it started during half term…I decided it was now or never, and promptly enrolled.

After this I received encouraging countdown e mails telling me how close we were to the start, with an invitation to sample some material. Being entirely free and obviously voluntary you can choose how much or how little work to do, although to obtain a certification at the end you probably have to complete certain set activities each week, and may have to partake, as I did, in peer assessment.

The course started with an evaluative exercise that I found very useful – draw up a timeline of your life over the past ten years, or two years or whatever period you choose, and divide it into career segments for each new job or course or other employment you were doing. Then put in an x axis

and rate each section for happiness/contentment or whatever criteria is most important to you. Which job gave you the most satisfaction? Why?

This is also a chance to evaluate which career areas are most important to you. Were you happy because you were earning lots and could take regular holidays? Or was it the knowledge that you were helping others every day? Or creating something beautiful or useful?

These exercises helped me to decide that my job at the moment is practically perfect in every way (nothing that a few more hours in the day and a good lottery win wouldn’t sort out anyway) with the possible lack of much chance to be creative. I enjoy writing and resolved to do more, such as blogging for instance…

As each week progressed and I watched the online lectures, completed activities, occasionally contributed to discussion forums and listened to suitable TED talks, I did at times find it difficult to fit in the two or three hours needed to do a decent job each week. I know I could have left bits out but would have felt that that was cheating – another result of age related work ethic perhaps?

Anyway, I am just about finished bar some final assessment, and have thoroughly enjoyed the extra challenge – I will also be able to use several of the activities to adapt for careers lesson plans in school, which is an added bonus.

I guess my conclusion is for a need for both eager puppies AND eye rollers to listen to one another; but most importantly to keep trying – you never know when you may find a really excellent new shape for that boring wheel…

And finally, speaking as someone who was recently offered a seat on the bus by a very polite young lady ( I restrained myself from punching her) you are never too old to MOOC, or tweet, or make any other animal noises you wish!

Sue Moreton IAG co-ordinator

#SWATConf2014 #SWATDHSBAwayday

Having recently attended the SWAT Conference “Enter the Dragon” at Poole Grammar School, one of the most memorable workshops for me was the final one of the afternoon ( in itself unusual?) I entered the room to see party blowers/hooters on each table, which immediately raised my expectations – although others in the room said that their hearts sank at the same sight, so I guess you can’t please all of the people …

The session was entitled Head into the Dragon’s mouth which referred to the occasional necessity for delivering presentations or CPD not only to strangers but to your colleagues. Yes, those people that you usually sit with and moan about someone else’s presentation skills…

Of course all the advice given by Jo Sibley during the presentation is valid for any type of presentation; in class to your eager students, at a conference to polite strangers, or in the staff room to your honest peers.

The key points were: give them something to do (pairs, groups or individually); ask a provocative question; give time to chat/think; and something physical to do if the session is long.

It is important to be convincing – don’t talk about it if you can’t at least sound excited by your material; add as many bells and whistles as you can, and accept the fact that if your audience don’t take away everything you’d hoped for, they will at least retain the most important point ~ “If you take nothing else from this session, at least…”

She also spoke about checking your technology in advance, but then trusting it, and if it does go wrong stay cool and don’t keep apologising; never read your slides and keep bullet points to a minimum for each slide. Reward all contributions/engagement even if negative and LISTEN to responses; and finally ASK for feedback, be generous and brave.

None of this was rocket science, but all the points were certainly ones we have all seen and despaired over when they are lacking – a very useful way to end a very useful day.

So what was the one thing I took away with me? The party blower of course, which I used to entertain the troops on the way home in the minibus. They loved it.


Sue Moreton IAG co-ordinator

The Deprivation gap is narrowing & the Gender gap is widening

Over the next few posts we will be discussing the main outcomes from the ‘Mastering the Dragon’ Teaching and Learning conference from the South West Academic Trust (SWAT).

You can see more links and discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #SWATConf14

Special thanks to Iain Anderson @iainanders2008 and all of the SWAT Coordinators for organising such a fantastic event.

First up was the opening keynote presentation from Professor Sir Steve Smith – The Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of Exeter University and the current Chair of UCAS.

One of the main messages coming out of his presentation was that ‘The Deprivation gap is narrowing & the Gender gap is widening’ hence the tile of this post. This is potentially a worry particularly those of us working with mostly boys.


However there were many other interesting talking points too. He spent time talking about the recent changes to student finance and it was interesting to hear his outlook on this as something that could be viewed more positively.

Students now hold the purse strings

Although students are paying more with that comes more power and since 2012 we have had the emergence to a ‘real market’ for Universities due to the financial changes. There has been a shift of where the income from Universities comes from – shift from the government to individual students/student loans. With this shift has come power. He highlighted this through conversations that he has with staff at the University:

Why should we serve coffee at midnight on campus? Because that is when it is needed – our students are customers and they demand this service.

Why do we need computer support between 1-3am? Because that is when most coursework is completed – our students are customers and they demand this service.

But what is the real cost of this power? A massive increase in student debt. I wonder how students feel about this ‘shift in power’?

Student numbers are on the rise

It is important to remember that Universities however must be doing a good job. The UK is 21st in the world for resources put into HE but 2nd highest for outcomes – so Universities under invested but highly successful.

Perhaps it is for this reason that numbers are increasing not decreasing as first predicted due to the financial changes.

495,000 students were placed in University last year this is an increase of 36K accepted places in 2013.

The number of 18 year olds in 2011 who went to university in 2011 and 2012 is lower than 2012 & 2013. Therefore students haven’t been put off by the financial changes. 30% of 18 year olds are now going to University.

The knock on effect though is that many universities have increased where some universities have dropped dramatically. The best universities are getting more students. E.g. Exeter applications up by 50%. Therefore the Russell Group are increasing numbers significantly where those not are decreasing. How does this impact on those students from the poorest backgrounds?

Well apparently the number from the poorest backgrounds are increasing in participation and the gap is closing.

Narrowing the gap

In 2004 if you were in the lowest quintile for socio economic group – around 14% went to University where today it is over 20%. They estimate in 2019 the difference in between participation rates will narrow further by socio-economic factors however there is a potential issue with gender.

Women are more likely to go to University, Women are more likely to get the A levels – how does this impact on Boys? Therefore the deprivation gap is narrowing, whereas the gender gap is widening. From someone who is working in a boys school, I believe that we are doing fantastic things to ensure our boys are engaged and inspired to achieve the best that they can. We ensure they achieve strong academic qualifications whilst ensuring they receive the right guidance on their next steps. However what is happening nationally? What are you doing to support boys in raising participation rates?

Finally Sir Steve went on to say that today’s 16 year olds by the time they are 36 will have had 6 jobs – employers are increasingly concerned about whether students are developing skills like team working, conscientious, ability to be adaptable and change, IT literate etc. How are you developing these skills in the classroom and in your school?

‘Shady characters’ or ‘inky fools’? The proof is in the pudding!

Was it a group of ‘shady characters’ or ‘inky fools’ that met last Friday to discuss approaches to literacy? If we’re teaching literacy by stealth as recommended by @rspear_1 then we might fall into the category of ‘shady characters’! But, although Mark Forsyth’s ‘The Etymologicon’ and ‘The Horologicon’ were on the menu, I’m pretty sure that our hands were clean and not ink stained as we sat down to lunch. Not ‘inky fools’ then after all! If you’re uncertain as to the references here then you might like to look at the following:




These texts informed some lively discussion during the session and they are excellent reads for everyone. Try asking @SimaDavarian about one of her favourite words.

As a group of teachers we were certainly delighted with the opportunity to talk about language and this is how we want our students to feel too. We want our students to be excited about what they see, hear, say and write. One of the key areas that we explored in the session was vocabulary building and some ideas as to how to build vocabulary are included below.

· Using nine letter word grids or word wheels

Introduce topics with nine letter word grids by inviting students to try and find the nine letter word in addition to making as many other three letter words or more that they can find. Use a scoring system that rewards longer words that are spelt accurately.



You might also ask students to write a definition of the word.



Use two nine letter word grids and invite students to find the connection or the link between the words.


(suspicious) + (detective)

· Topic specific vocabulary and key words

Make key words visually interesting by using http://www.wordfoto.com

· Up-skilling

Challenge students to change simple language into more sophisticated language. Try asking students to up-skill lesson aims and objectives or songs!

In pairs see if you can upgrade the language of the following:

Show me the way to go home

I’m tired and I wanna go to bed

I took a little drink about an hour ago

And it’s gone right to my head

Where ever I may roam

On land or sea or foam

You will always hear me singing this song

Show me the way to go home

· PAF (Purpose, Audience and Form)

Provide a different audience for writing tasks. How would students write if they were writing for the prime minister/president, a company director, a newspaper editor etc.?

How about linking up-skilling with writing for different audiences?

In order to develop thinking skills and to promote oracy invite students to identify the odd one out from lists such as the ones below.

· Odd one out

What’s the odd one out between…

  1. a car, a baby and a fridge?
  2. a cello, a saxophone and a trumpet?
  3. Einstein, Pasteur and Stephen Hawkins?
  4. subtraction, division and addition?
  5. Russia, Canada and UK?
  6. Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Fleance?
  7. mass, weight and density?
  8. hydrochloric, sulphuric and acetic acid?

Thanks go to @PhilBeadle for sharing the ideas on up-skilling, Purpose Audience Form and Odd One Out at an outstanding literacy teaching course that I attended some time ago.

How well do these strategies work? Well, the proof is in the pudding, so go ahead and try them out!

Clare McConnell @DHSBEnglish

Head of English


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