Research School Network: Introducing and using the Teaching and Learning Toolkit Kathryn Kilbride, Research Lead at Meols Cop, introduces the EEF’s newly updated Teaching and Learning Toolkit
Introducing and using the Teaching and Learning Toolkit
Kathryn Kilbride, Research Lead at Meols Cop, introduces the EEF’s newly updated Teaching and Learning Toolkit
by Meols Cop Research School
Kathryn Kilbride, Research Lead at Meols Cop, introduces the EEF’s newly updated Teaching and Learning Toolkit and explains how schools can use it to complement and inform professional decision making to improve outcomes.
The EEF Toolkit is a free, online resource designed to support teachers and school leaders who are making decisions about how to improve learning outcomes. The Toolkit provides an accessible overview of the most recent, highest quality, educational research to support schools in making evidence-informed improvements. It is a live resource that is constantly evolving due to additional studies taking place, new findings and a better understanding of associated research. Before we look at the features of the Toolkit, it is important to state that when using the Toolkit, or any source of evidence, it is crucial that you understand your context. What are your priorities for better learning? Where should you focus your efforts? What changes do you want to make?
The updated Toolkit is currently split into 30 key strands covering areas of teaching practice such as feedback, metacognition, homework and more. Each strand in the Toolkit is summarised in terms of its average impact on attainment, the strength of the evidence supporting it, and the cost.
The impact measure shows the number of additional months of progress made, on average, by pupils who received the intervention compared to those who did not. The ‘padlock’ rating of each strand provides an overall estimate of the robustness of the evidence. Padlocks are awarded based on the number of studies that meet the Toolkit inclusion criteria and are lost based on any threats to security. For example, a padlock may be lost if only a small percentage of studies have taken place recently which could imply the research is not representative of current practice. A new feature of the Toolkit is the zero padlock security rating. This is awarded to strands were there are fewer than 10 studies that meet the inclusion criteria and any additional months of progress are not communicated. Cost estimates are based on the average cost of delivering the intervention and can include the cost of new resources, training courses and teacher cover. So, for example, feedback has a very high impact of + 6 months for very low cost based on robust, extensive research.
Each strand has a dedicated page which explores the approach in more detail. This includes explicit definitions of the topics, pulling out and discussing the key findings of the research, and explaining the reasoning behind the impact. There is additional information on why a topic may have lost padlocks to provide more transparency about any potential threats in terms of the evidence and what that actually means for your school setting. The costing is also explained in more detail so schools know exactly what resources or training is required for that specific intervention. The formatting of the Toolkit makes it easy to navigate and the individual sections of each page makes the content more digestible. It is much more actionable as a resource.
Each strand contains a new section which encourages teachers and school leaders to read past the headline figure and think about what is ‘behind the average’. Behind each reported average impact (months’ progress) there is lots of variation in the evidence and the average hides a range of different impacts. The Toolkit allows teachers to explore the causes of that variation and describes why effects vary, giving an indication of which approaches are more impactful. Further information that can be found in this section includes:
- Comparative impact for primary and secondary
- Impact on attainment in particular subjects/strategies within a subject
- Typical frequency of interventions which shows the greatest impact
- Impact on lower attaining pupils
- Impact of different technology and approaches
Where there are important differences in the evidence base for approaches that sit behind the overall average, these are now summarised with separate months’ progress impacts. For example, behind the larger approach of feedback, separate summaries are given for written and verbal feedback, with the individual impact of each strategy stated.
We are all aware of the ‘gap’ in average attainment between pupils from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers; there is growing evidence to suggest that this gap has widened since the pandemic began with the related disruption to classroom learning. To ensure the focus remains on the most disadvantaged, each strand contains a section that explicitly highlights how the evidence relates to disadvantaged pupils. This section explores how the evidence might be applied to disadvantaged pupils and can help inform pupil premium strategies. It also discusses the qualitative evidence around potential barriers disadvantaged pupils may face and how this may effect potential impact.
When using the Toolkit it is important to focus not just on what to implement but on how to put any new approaches into practice. Another updated feature of the Toolkit is a section focusing on how an approach can be implemented in your setting. It provides a much more explicit focus on what is required for successful implementation, offering guidance about the practical realities of introducing a new approach. While certain elements of any approach may need to be adapted to suit your context, the Toolkit pulls out the ‘active ingredients’ of different interventions that are required for implementation to be successful.While the Toolkit does not make definite claims as to what will work in every school context, it does provide high quality, easily accessible information about approaches that are likely to be beneficial, based on existing evidence. The Toolkit also signposts specific guidance reports, tools and programmes which can provide further support in making meaningful changes in schools. It is crucial to understand your own school context and use your professional judgement and expertise when applying the evidence.
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