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Research School Network: The EEF Teaching & Learning Toolkit revamp A look at the newly updated EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit and how teachers can get the most from it.


The EEF Teaching & Learning Toolkit revamp

A look at the newly updated EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit and how teachers can get the most from it.

by Durrington Research School
on the

Ten years on from its initial launch, the Education Endowment Foundation’s flagship resource the Teaching and Learning Toolkit has undergone a facelift. Originally created in 2011 to support busy school leaders in choosing the best bet interventions for improving attainment in their schools, the online interactive database has been revamped to make it more useable and intuitive.

The toolkit has never been static with new research evidence and projects regularly being synthesized into the platform. This latest update however is a wider renovation and has seen changes to both the format of the website and the recommendations it contains.

For regular users of the toolkit, the first thing you will notice when you visit the website is the updated look. As with all the EEF’s online resources it is sleek and easy to navigate and the major headings of cost, strength and impact have not changed. These three headings are the at-a-glance starting point for those interested in the 30 interventions or strands” that the toolkit contains. Respectively they cover how much the intervention is likely to cost to implement, the strength of the research evidence underpinning it and the impact it is likely to have on the children receiving it. 

What is new, is the short summaries which guide leaders and teachers through a series indicators offering insights into the effectiveness of a particular approach. The different areas are:

  • An explanation of the approach
  • Key findings from the research base
  • A measure of how effective it has been in other classrooms (in months’ progress)
  • What’s behind the average and how secure the evidence is
  • How this approach may link to closing the disadvantage gap
  • How it could be implemented in your setting
  • Links to other EEF relevant studies

For my money these short summarised chunks of information have improved the relevance of the toolkit to both classroom teachers and school leaders. They walk you through the intervention from a number of different perspectives, helping you to build up an informed picture. For example, you may be planning to use the intervention for secondary geography students, but by reading these summaries you would discover that it has a greater impact in the primary setting. This might not change your decision to implement your intervention, but at least it would allow you to make a more informed decision about it.

It is this digging into the strands that is key to the usefulness of the toolkit. As the EEF says, the toolkit is the starting point for improving teaching and learning, but it does not provide definitive or generic answers. To make the resource useful it is important that those using it delve into the nuance it provides in order to make informed decisions. This is where the short summaries come in handy. The EEF gives these three pointers for those using the toolkit:

  • Look beyond the headlines
  • Think about cost and evidence as well as impact
  • Draw on professional expertise

All good advice. These points reinforce the potential risk factor inherent in the toolkit, which is it that used in isolation, the headlines of a strand could potentially be used to justify an intervention which would be wrong for that context.

To exemplify the use of the toolkit as intended (I hope) I will try to exemplify how a primary school leader interested in implementing metacognition to support the attainment of disadvantaged students in their school might use it.

Step 1:

Look at the headlines.

Meta toolkit

The headlines would tell the school leader that this probably an intervention worth pursuing further. It tops the list in terms of impact (an additional 7 months is higher than any other strand), is low cost (one pound sign) and based on relatively secure evidence (four padlocks).

Step 2:

Look behind the headlines at the short summaries. 

Useful information the leader would glean from this with specific reference to their aim and context:

1. The intervention has promise in primary schools:

Meta dig deep

2. Disadvantaged students may in particular benefit from the approach:

Meta disadv

Based on this, the school leader in this scenario would have enough positive information to reasonably decide to pursue the intervention further.

Step 3:

Use the toolkit to help shape the intervention.

The sixth summary gives guidance on what the components of a successful metacognition implementation would include:

Meta implement

Cleary, these bullet points alone would not be enough to plan an intervention, but they do give a series of defined areas that can help shape a more detailed implementation plan. The leader could then go to other resources, such as the relevant guidance report for more detailed advice and specific actions.

Step 4:

Consider the evidence base for the intervention.

Before starting any further work it is worth pausing to look more closely at the evidence base and how it connects to your context. Here the school leader could be reassured that metacognition has a reasonably strong base.

Meta evidence

To go one step further they could look at the relevant EEF studies for some ideas on specific interventions, possibly directly connected to their area of interest.

Meta studies

Having gone through these steps the leader would, in a matter of minutes, be in a position to make a adoption decision. This would simply be the first step towards successful activity taking place in their school, but the first decision on whether or not to take something on is ultimately the most important.

By no means are all potential interventions included on the toolkit, and so this is not a model for all possible interventions. However, what the toolkit in its new format provides is an invaluable evidence-based synthesis of vast amounts of information that will help school leaders and teachers to make more informed decisions. As such it reinforces its place in our system as one of the most useful resources we have available to us.

Chris Runeckles

Assistant Director Durrington Research School

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