Implications of Evidence Informed Practice on the School Community

15 January 2018

 

Research Champion in Focus: Jon Fordham, Headteacher at Allenton Community Primary School

Exploring the route of what it is to engage with research and in research is not an easy path to take but the results for a school’s improvement journey can be rich and varied. A local Derby school explored this path in becoming increasingly evidence informed, creating the structures, systems and culture to value ongoing professional development in this way focused on improving outcomes for children. Allenton Community Primary School’s head, Jon Fordham, talks us through how the school approached this and what impact their passion for evidence-informed practice has had across the school.

Allenton

Implications of Evidence Informed Practice on the School Community

Despite the wealth of information provided by academia, research in education is often regarded as an Ivory Tower beyond the grasp of the everyday practitioner.   However, research in education can cover a myriad of activities that can have massive positive implications on quality of teaching, outcomes for children and teacher retention.

Teachers’ and leaders’ perceptions of research vary greatly but more often than not it is regarded as something that is time consuming and separate from the facts and practicalities of the real world.  Taking our first steps towards becoming active researchers three years ago, getting teachers to ‘buy in’, was the biggest difficulty to overcome.

Having not long become the Headteacher of a school placed twice in special measures, you wouldn’t think we were best placed to begin research.  However, with staff morale low, I wanted to create bespoke teaching and learning provision for both staff and pupils – I was eager to take the risk.

Linking with Derby University colleagues enabled us to create a vision for what we wanted research to look like in our school.  Access to ‘knowledgeable others’ allowed us to map out clearly what we wanted to achieve from research and they could suggest the varying methods to achieve this. This also gave us some rigor with the evaluations of projects as time went on.   At Allenton we wanted research to be rooted in the development of classroom practice, creating critical thinkers and teachers willing to take a risk. Projects could be of any size but always focused on improving quality of teaching and pupil outcomes. We used a simple ‘plan, do, review’ cycle so the paper trail wasn’t onerous and focussed teachers on the task rather than paperwork.

Importantly, we also wanted dissemination routes for teachers so that there was a further purpose to the work and teachers could see the wider implications of the research they were completing.  In time, the opportunity to share research both within school and with external colleagues further spurred teachers on to complete or jointly run projects in their classrooms.  When starting out on this project 3 years ago, it was also the case that staff would anecdotally say that whenever meeting with teachers from other schools they would keep quiet about working at Allenton.  I saw research/dissemination as a way of raising both the profile and self-esteem of teachers working at our school.

Due to the many misconceptions attached to ‘research’, we decided that the word needed re-branding and role modelling to staff.  I had a project in mind, Dish the DIRT, to trial which would be ideal for the pilot and after some internet searching we decided that ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ (EBT) would remove some of the immediate barriers that are raised when you mention the word research.  After a term of the project ‘secretly’ running, the outcomes were shared including the EBT process.   Because Dish the DIRT had been researched, created and evaluated in situ, staff were far more engaged in the outcomes and how to continue to make it a success.

From the initial pilot we began to speak openly about EBT and I asked my SLT to each run a project themselves and disseminate to staff.   From this point onwards projects began to spring up around school as SLT engaged teachers and support staff in the research they were conducting and it was clear that protocols were required before letting it become open to all staff.   We decided that projects needed to be approved and focussed on school priorities to avoid a scattergun type approach and overloading staff with initiatives.  We also created two roles (EBT Advocate and Horizon Scanner) to manage EBT across the school and share new research on a termly basis.

Since introducing research at Allenton, there have been many projects run in school and as a result a number of opportunities for staff to share their research both in and outside of school. We have worked with a number of schools and TSAs, been published in 4 academic papers and the staff have even co-authored a book! But beyond sharing good practice, research has brought an excitement back into the classroom.  There is a buzz to discussing pedagogy and a thrill to trialling new ways to improve how we teach our children.

Research has also played a significant role in ensuring our recent good rating from Ofsted.  Within the report they acknowledge the role of research in school, in particular the research we had done into teacher workload and the positive impact this has had on reducing time teachers’ marking without reducing its impact.

The answer to everything isn’t always going to be found through research but for us it has created a culture where nothing is impossible and we continue to use research to influence our daily practice with the aim to providing the best possible outcomes for the community we serve.

 

Further Reading

For a Secondary focus but with great ideas for any Phase have a look at:

The Slightly Awesome Teacher: Using Edu-Research to Get Brilliant Results

Dominic Salles

For a Primary focus with example projects and a leadership/academic focus have a look at:

Evidence Based Teaching in Primary Education

Edited by Val Poultney

Inspiring Leaders Magazine issue 01/November 2017

Posted on 15 January 2018
Posted in: Blog

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