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Research School Network: Reflections on our first training programme

Reflections on our first training programme

by Durrington Research School
on the

On Wednesday this week 22 teachers from coastal schools met together at the Durrington Research School to discuss how we can most effectively use the lessons from the EEF Toolkit to address disadvantage.

The day started with delegates first answering the question what are the problems associated with your coastal context?” This discussion was then filtered on to a continuum from most to least solvable, with the judgements based on which issues the strategies discussed during the three-day training course were most likely to make the difference to. The results are shown here:


The problems identified by delegates mirrored those outlined in the pre-course reading, Ovenden-Hope & Passay: Coastal Academies: Changing School Cultures in Disadvantaged Coastal Regions in England. This report used interviews from a number of head and classroom teachers from schools in challenging coastal contexts and summarised there responses to provide guidance on both the problems they wrestled with and some suggestion on how they could be solved. Broadly speaking the solutions fell into two categories, those that were most associated with external factors such as policy change, community engagement and funding and those that could be challenged through addressing the quality of teaching and learning. Based on the parameters of the course we chose, on this first day, to focus on the aspects of the toolkit that could be implemented to impact on what happened in the classroom. This led us to concentrate on feedback and metacognition as those strategies most likely to make the difference to student progress and therefore the best to employ when attempting to move disadvantaged students forward. However, one specific issue that the continuum and the report highlighted as most challenging to schools was the role played by parents, particularly those disengaged with the school. As a result this will be one of the foci of day two of the course.

The session on feedback looked first at what the EEF Toolkit recommended as the fundamental ideas to apply to any feedback policy, as summarised below:

Feedback should: specific, accurate and clear (e.g. It was good because you…” rather than just correct”) what a learner is doing right now with what they have done wrong before (e.g. I can see you were focused on improving X as it is much better than last time’s Y…”)

3.encourage and support further effort given sparingly so that it is meaningful

5.provide specific guidance on how to improve and not just tell students when they are wrong supported with effective professional development for teachers.

This was then supplemented by the findings of a research paper, Hattie and Timperley, The Power of Feedback which provided more detailed and theoretical analysis of where feedback can both develop and potentially damage learning. This can be summarised as these two key points:

  • Feedback fills a gap between what is understood, and what needs to be understood.
  • The main purpose of feedback is to reduce the discrepancy between these two states.

This led to a wide-ranging discussion on how schools could best tackle the thorny issue of feedback and, often most pertinently, reduce that written feedback which is both time-consuming and lacking positive impact. Included in this discussion was that for our most disadvantaged students, getting the right feedback at the right time was essential to both helping them progress and developing their self-efficacy.

Training day

Next on the agenda was the sometimes slippery concept of metacognition which alongside feedback and literacy is the toolkit strand most likely to move learners forward. An interesting part of this discussion was the difference in types of knowledge as promoted by metacognitive theory:

Declarative knowledge: factual information

Procedural knowledge: knowledge of how to do something

Conditional knowledge: knowledge about when to use a procedure, skill or strategy and when not to

This was drawn from the paper William Peirce: Metacognition: Study Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation which was discussed on a previous Research School blog posted by Andy Tharby. We also discussed several practical classroom applications of metacognition. One favourite was from the geography department at Durrington who give students tracing paper to put over a practice paper and ask them to first annotate this with their thinking before attempting to answer the questions. This has been preceded by explicit instruction and modelling over several weeks on how this could be achieved. Delegates from Worthing High School then proposed a plan to use a similar strategy with their PP students pre-mock exams and using a control group, evaluate the impact.

The final session was for delegates to start to formulate plans on how they would implement the learning from the course into their own contexts ready to feedback on progress on day two. This showed the range of schools represented at the course with plans ranging from how best to feedback to an individual student with severe autism to a school leader pledging to address whole-school marking.

Overall, a very successful first day. Day two will be shaped by the responses we get from delegates on the areas they most want to focus on as we attempt to make the training as responsive as possible and most useful to those coastal schools striving to address disadvantage.

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