Research Evidence that has shaped what we do. #rEdYork

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My presentation at ResearchEd in York was an attempt to outline some of the research that has had a direct or indirect influence on our practice at Highbury Grove.  Here is a summary.

The ideas we are working on at HGS include the following list; many of the ideas come from blogs. I’ve written about this here: Focusing our teaching and learning priorities: a reading list.

Teaching and Learning Priorities at HGS 2016/7

  • Explicit Knowledge
  • —Reading: a planned daily diet
  • —Cultural Capital
  • —Questioning
  • —Feedback and improvement
  • —Excellence Exhibitions
  • —Rhetoric; oracy as pedagogy

Underpinning these ideas are the principles of the Trivium 21st C – as discussed elsewhere on the blog.  This is research of a kind – although not the experimental, RCT kind.

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Powerful ideas that are key influence on our work.

We’ve shared ideas that I gathered in this blog: Contemporary educational ideas all my staff should know about. This includes the following:

  • —Visible Learning; John Hattie
  • —Formative Assessment; Dylan Wiliam
  • —Cognitive science; Daniel T Willingham
  • —Desirable Difficulties; Robert Bjork
  • —An Ethic of Excellence; Ron Berger
  • —Growth Mindset; Carol Dweck
  • —Pygmalion Effect; Robert Rosenthal

No doubt not all of my staff will have engaged with all of this but, for sure, there are discussions about these ideas that are better informed than they would be otherwise.  We need to do more work to ensure everyone shares the same vocabulary and has an understanding of the idea of ‘effect size’ and its limits, for example.  Berger’s ideas have influenced our Excellence Exhibitions; Bjork’s work has influenced thinking about interleaving and spacing; Willingham’s work has supported our emphasis on teaching for memory more explicitly.  The ideas are seeping in…..

Our Built-in CPD Programme has been hugely influenced by the Developing Great Teaching report  by Teacher Development Trust:

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Read the full report here:

Our programme is designed to follow the recommendations as well as we can; we’ve only been going for a year so there is more work to be done but it certainly feels better than the standard one-size-fits-all INSET day model many schools still use. The evidence-based features include:

  • —Fortnightly two-hour sessions, long-term professional learning with embedded follow-up and consolidation; time for teachers’ ideas to surface to give space for alignment to be fostered
  • —Content: blending departmental CPD and other generic topics; including subject specific pedagogical content knowledge; opportunity to create shared sense of purpose; linked to student outcomes.
  • —Selective use of whole-staff sessions ( to secure alignment) and external speakers (to provide expertise); aiming for leaders to be engaged with the CPD not leaving it to the teachers to get on with.

Lesson observations and pedagogy. 

Our approach to pedagogy and lesson observations has been influenced by Professor Rob Coe’s work on the validity of lesson observation and the Sutton Trust report:

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Download the report here. 

Supported by evidence, WE DO NOT GRADE LESSONS – and anyone who still does is deluding themselves.  I’ve gone on about that elsewhere.   This is a simple and very obvious response to the evidence.

Another evidence-base for our focus on teaching and learning has been the summary by Barak Rosenshine as referenced in this Principles of Effective Teaching blog and in this excellent graphic:

The full article is a good read.

Feedback and marking

Within this discussion, we’re exploring the role of feedback and the need for students to secure improvement. To that end, we’re switching the emphasis of our feedback policy so that we’re much more concerned about students’ work improving than we are about seeing teacher marking.  The slogan I use is ‘only give feedback at the rate at which it can be acted on’.  And feedback can be verbal as well as written, individualised or general to a group or class. Dylan William’s work on formative assessment leads to this conclusion: if students are not acting on the feedback, the feedback is an expensive waste of time and, for feedback to have impact, it needs to be received as soon as possible after the work has been done.  Our work scrutiny focus is now moving towards a strong emphasis on seeing improvement in the work, not looking for teachers’ comments, removing incentives for teachers to undertake slavish retrospective marking for presentational purposes. The work just needs to be getting better!


Looking at the evidence on homework from Hattie, we’re committed to setting homework but need to be mindful that only certain types of homework are likely to support learning for certain types of students.  What Hattie actually says about homework is complex.  There is no meaningful sense in which it could be stated that “the research says X about homework” in a simple soundbite. There are some lessons to learn:

  • —The more specific and precise the task is, the more likely it is to make an impact for all learners.  Homework that is more open, more complex is more appropriate for able and older students.
  • —Teacher monitoring and involvement is key – so putting students in a position where their learning is too complex, extended or unstructured to be done unsupervised is not healthy.  This is more likely for young children, hence the very low effect size for primary age students.

Reading Interventions

We’ve been influenced by the research on reading schemes, making a switch from Accelerated Reader to Thinking Reading.  You can read all about it in this blog : Research Literacy: Literacy Research.   I recommend reading the papers in detail to get an understanding of research methodology and its limits.

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Growth Mindset

We have explored the concept of  mindsets via our research reading group, at SLT and via some work we’ve done with Sixth Form students as part of a project with Wellington College and Harvard.



We’ve changed the language of our reports to reflect a growth mindset approach and, through the Wellington-Harvard project, found that there could be mileage in teaching students explicitly about the growth mindset research; initial findings from our study showed positive signs that, after a short course over six weeks, students found their knowledge of growth mindsets did start to influence their own attitudes to learning. It’s early days for this but it’s something we’re looking at.

Our overall conclusion, supported by recommendations from other schools, has been that we should not do a big ‘We’re a Growth Mindset School’ launch. This is because it risks setting up a false picture about how far the actual practice has changed in this direction; a stealth approach is better.  We’ve also found this article very useful:

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Article pdf can be downloaded here.

It’s important that we are not taking in generic terms about effort or ‘you can do it’ rhetoric.  There needs to be a specific focus  – i.e. work harder on your times table practice in this particular way.  Again, this is another idea yet to be fully explored but it’s entered into the discussion. Also, we’ve taken the view that students can’t develop a growth mindset if they don’t ever experience improvement after having made an effort.  They need to experience success.  That is another factor in our vision for the Excellence Exhibitions; we want ALL students to see that they are truly capable of producing excellence.

The goal is partly to ensure that our best teaching is superb – but mainly it is to ensure that our default mode teaching is secure.   Importantly, I do always stress that the basic skills of maintaining good behaviour and asking questions effectively probably override many other aspects of pedagogical know-how.  We do need to keep that in perspective.

Thanks to Hélène, Tom B, John T and Alex Q for hosting #rEdYork.  It was a great event.







  1. Simply brilliant illustration of how all staff can be supported and orchestrated to work collectively and collaboratively to achieve a tremendously worthwhile and purposeful goal in getting the best outcomes for children. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the journey of your school and all the related blogs and, most of all, your clear strategic thinking and vision throughout.

    One thing struck me; no, or minimal, mention of coaching. Is this under development, already in place or not something under consideration at the moment? Or, have I just missed it?


  2. Are you not concerned that Dweck’s results on GM have not been replicable?

    All published recent work I know of shows that academies have produce no significant difference in outcomes. Why do bloggers, edutwitterers and ResearchED not go to town on this?


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