“You’re behind the curve in research”

Now, as an educator of educators, I know that feedback is a gift; I can choose what I want to do with the information, take it on board or throw it away, it’s my choice. When I recently heard one principal’s belief that the Leading Learning Partnership (LLP) was considered “behind the curve” with respect to research, deep dark emotions began to surface. It’s a gift, no need for explanation or justification. What? Behind? Behind? The system led LLP professional learning programme is informed by research. Impact evidence is always considered. EEF is my best friend. Evaluation and impact on outcomes are continual obsessions. How can we be behind?

However, the influence of personal blogs and a general consensus of favouring the use of evidence research to inform professional learning and CPD has developed at such a rate that indeed, it could be actually perceived that the LLP, in some respects, is behind.

Arrgghhh there, I’ve said it.

Nevertheless, I would vehemently argue that the quality of the programme in conjunction with it being delivered by outstanding school based teaching and learning specialists’ is an amazing opportunity for schools and settings to have a comprehensive leadership and development package. Year on year, we receive wonderful positive ‘impact’ statements that have demonstrated a real shift in colleagues’ thinking, behaviour, improvement of knowledge and understanding as well as effective leadership. We have indeed built capacity within and across schools. Performance data has also indicated a positive change.

Brilliant. Tick. Done.

Well, not quite.

Our seriously wild audacious goal (SWAG) is to diminish the difference between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged across the partnership so that all students have equal life chances no matter what background. We need to advantage the disadvantaged. It’s a challenging SWAG. We’ve been on the journey for a while now and we’re still not there, but it can be done, right?

We know from research that improving teaching and leadership development will have the most impact on student outcomes hence these are the LLP’s fundamental objectives which permeate the programme like the writing embedded in a stick of rock. We need to ensure that there is a profound change in leaders’ and teachers’ practice such that there is a real change in a student’s learning behaviours. Not just a superficial reflection but a more rigorous approach. Evidencing such change is challenging, and evidencing the impact of the LLP as a single contributing factor is impossible.

So this is my response: one possible way is to explore a more formal approach to evidence informed research. From September 2018, the LLP will be strategically partnered with Huntington Research School, to develop their Disciplined Inquiry methodology across the 13 subject networks, based around diminishing the difference. Colleagues will choose their own inquiry which matches the priorities of their own schools and departments and will become more confident in interrogating research; develop better questions; effectively evaluate the impact of strategies or intervention which have been implemented into classroom practice; increase motivation; and have agency in tackling the problems they face every day.
As a time poor profession, some colleagues have indicated that they are not supported to develop some of the key themes and strategies which are explored within the subject networks, as much as they would like once they have returned to school. H.Timperly argues that “teachers need to have time and opportunity to engage with key ideas and integrate those ideas into a coherent theory of practice”.

As a consequence, all senior leaders in charge of teaching and learning are invited to the relaunch of the LLP at the senior leader and governor briefing on 5th October 2018, at the North East Learning Centre. Huntington Research School will explain evidence informed practice, the principles of disciplined inquiry and rigorous evaluation of new approaches. There will also be an opportunity to consider what provision, challenge and organisational conditions will be needed to support leaders who attend the subject networks so that the impact of the LLP is maximised, and that subject leaders can foster a culture in their departments which encourage professional debate, develop critical analysis and be confident to challenge ineffective practice.

How do we evaluate leadership development in the LLP?

  1. Days et al have indicated there are several levels to evaluating leadership development:
  2. The affective level (e.g. did you enjoy the training?)
  3. The level of the learning that took place (e.g. assessing whether key skills were acquired)\
  4. The level of transfer of the training (i.e. did the training alter behaviour in the workplace?)
  5. The level of individual or organisational performance (i.e. did the training lead to improved / more effective performance?).

For a number of years, the LLP has actively encouraged delegates to consider a focussed evaluation and impact of the LLP. At all events, we ask all delegates to comment on:

If today is part of a series of CPD events, please comment on the impact on you, your team and your students since your attendance at the last network/ SLDM. What evidence do you have to support this?

As well as asking to consider,

As a result of these actions, what will the impact be on you, your team and your students?

In order to evaluate the knowledge which is given to colleagues, we always need to consider the actual change of behaviour of teachers and as a consequence, the change of behaviour in the classroom. Often this aspect of evaluation, at the end of the network, is not quite as focussed and purposeful. In response, the LLP have developed an oral strategy to model how engaging in talk will lead to improved writing of impact statements and observed evidence. With this improved use of evaluative impact statements, coupled with the more rigorous approach to implementation and evaluation, we intend the LLP’s programme and impact will significantly contribute to the SWAG.

If you are interested in your school becoming a LLP member, please see further details at www.leedsforlearning.co.uk

Liz Smith

  • Bennett, T. (2016) Moving towards an evidence informed teaching profession. A proposal for an Initial Teacher Training evidence and research curriculum. researchED
  • Biesta, G. J. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work: From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(5), 491-503. Page 500
  • Day, C. (1993). Reflection: a necessary but not sufficient condition for professional development. British educational research journal, 19(1), 83-93
  • Goldacre, B. (2013). Building evidence into education. DFE Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.
  • Guskey, T. R. (2002). Does it make a difference? Educational leadership, 59(6), 45-51.
  • Nelson, J., & O’Beirne, C. (2014). Using evidence in the classroom: What works and why? Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.
  • Quigley, A. (2016) Just don’t call it research! https://www.theconfidentteacher.com/2016/02/just-dont-call-it-research/
  • Rose.N and Eriksson-Lee.S, (2017) Teach First: Putting evidence to work: How can we help new teachers use research evidence to inform their teaching?
  • Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, 36(1), 12.
  • Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H. & Fung, I. (2007) Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education. Page viii

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