Research School Network: Whatever happened to the Gathering and Interpreting Data tool? Jon Eaton, director of Kingsbridge Research School, discusses some of the changes in the new Explore phase


Whatever happened to the Gathering and Interpreting Data tool?

Jon Eaton, director of Kingsbridge Research School, discusses some of the changes in the new Explore phase

by Kingsbridge Research School
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Jon Eaton

Director of Kingsbridge Research School

Jon is Director of Kingsbridge Research School, co-author of the EEF’s A School’s guide to Implementation, and Research Lead for Education South West. Jon works with schools and other improvement partners in the South West to broaden schools’ understanding of evidence and to provide access to guidance, training and support.

Read more aboutJon Eaton

The Gathering and Interpreting Data page was a popular resource from the previous Implementation guidance report, and schools might rightly ask what’s happened to it. Has it been decommissioned? Should schools still use it if they find it helpful?

The tool walked schools through the process of identifying priorities by focusing on four key actions:

  • Confidently identifying a priority: this step was more of an overview of important considerations schools should bear in mind throughout the process, such as the need to take multiple inadequate glances’.
  • Gathering data that is fit for purpose: the tool offered examples of effective and less effective use of various data sources.
  • Recognising weaknesses in the data: this section highlighted potential sources of weakness in data use, such as bias.
  • Providing credible and plausible interpretations: this talked about about triangulating data to arrive at accurate conclusions about the priority being addressed.
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While that resource doesn’t feature in the new guidance, its principles haven’t gone. You can find the same messages here, for example:

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Schools will also recognise the table from the previous version, but with an additional column added to reflect the idea that engaging people will often involve ad hoc conversations as well as more formal sources of data such as surveys or interviews.

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The new Explore phase (see the tool for making evidence-informed implementation decisions below) is a richer and more developed iteration of the Gathering and Interpreting Data tool. While gathering data is an essential part of the process, it goes beyond that to help schools select approaches that are both right for the setting and feasible to implement. The guidance phrases these two considerations as questions.

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1. Right for our setting?

This involves considering pupil needs, their root causes, and what’s already going on in relation to those needs. For example, if we are thinking about pupil needs in relation to assessment, we might think about how our current approach to assessment is influenced by some longstanding professional development, or a wider MAT policy.

At the same time, we should also explore research evidence about what has worked elsewhere. Taking the same example, we would want to know what the evidence says about effective approaches to assessment in schools like ours.

By exploring pupil needs, current practice and research evidence, we help understand whether an approach we are considering is right for our pupil needs and right for our setting.

2. Feasible to implement?

The second question, Feasible to implement?’, involves looking at how challenging the approach is to implement, and identifying potential barriers and enablers to implementation in our setting. As the guidance says, Approaches vary in how hard they are to implement. […] Schools therefore need to consider the features and requirements of what is being implemented.” These can include:

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Working out whether an approach is feasible to implement also involves thinking about potential barriers and enablers to implementation – things that will help or hinder the effort.

What are the takeaways?

  • If you find the Gathering and Interpreting Data tool helpful, great – keep using it to structure the process of using data to arrive at plausible interpretations of the problem being addressed. However, recognise that the new Explore phase will help you dig even deeper by drawing on a wider range of considerations around the suitability and feasibility of an approach. 
  • Implementation isn’t just about delivery. It includes making decisions about what to implement in the first place. The new Explore phase helps schools work through those decisions in a systematic way. 
  • Crucially, using the Explore phase well means applying the behaviours and contextual factors that underpin effective implementation. We can do this by, for example, engaging a wide range of people in identifying pupil needs. To learn more about this, and for a full walkthrough of the Explore phase, see pages 2227 of the new guidance report.

For an opportunity to dig into the guidance report with two of its authors, Cornwall Research School are running a one-day event on 21st June in Saltash, Cornwall. For more information, click here. To register, click here.

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