Research School Network: Putting Evidence into Practice: A Personal Reflection Reflections on implementation
Putting Evidence into Practice: A Personal Reflection
Reflections on implementation
by Research Schools Network
In this blog, Director of Billesley Research School, Karl Rogerson, reflects on his implementation journey in the dual role of Principal at Billesley Primary School.
Putting evidence into practice in education involves using research to inform decisions about teaching and learning practices…
It sounds simple enough, but those of us working in schools know the complexity involved in this process.
Schools and classrooms are fast-paced, multi-faceted environments, so it’s essential that school leaders take steps to make sure that any new practices ‘fit’ their own setting.
Here, I would like to share my reflections on implementing evidence based practice, its impact on our school , and how it relates to the EEF’s Putting evidence to work – A school’s guide to implementation.
In order to improve, the first challenge for school leaders is to accurately identify an area for development, or a problem in need of solving.
The next step in the process is to gather evidence. By the time we arrived at this point, there were a huge range of initiatives which had been trialled, and failed to have an impact. So, we started again. This involved engagement with all stakeholders and thorough analysis of what the data was telling us – both qualitative and quantitative. Putting evidence to work – A school’s guide to implementation identifies this process as Recommendation 3: EXPLORE – Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement.
One theme that emerged was that all stakeholders were reluctant to be told what to do by professionals from other schools. The common response was: ‘We can’t replicate what they do at their school – it doesn’t work in our setting’.
The key to remedying this situation was using the evidence base to support the approaches being modelled. By sharing the evidence from credible sources, we were able to get the staff on board. They didn’t feel like they were being overridden, but instead were involved in the process of adaptation to their own context. This enabled us to build a positive school culture that fostered a sense of community, collaboration, and trust among all stakeholders.
The next stage in the process was to provide staff with the relevant skills, knowledge and up-front training to implement these new practices. This is highlighted in Recommendation 4: PREPARE – Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.
This was the easy part of the process – the real challenge was to then embed it in daily practice. We knew that one-off staff training sessions would not be effective in implementing new practices, and could prove too much for teachers’ cognitive load. Our approach to this was informed by a range of literature including: Standards for teachers’ professional development, and “What Makes Great Teaching,” by Robert Coe; Cesare Aloisi; Steve Higgins; and Lee Elliot Major (Sutton Trust, October 2014).
Fortunately, we now have the EEF Effective professional development guidance report to guide our thinking when planning and developing an effective professional development programme for our staff.
The report highlights “Recommendation 1 – When designing and selecting professional development, focus on the mechanisms”. Mechanisms are the core building blocks of professional development programmes, which can be split into four groups serving different purposes. When reflecting on our journey, Group 3 – Develop teaching techniques particularly resonated with us and our approach at the time.
Providing targeted professional development and support for teachers was key to our approach: 1:1 incremental coaching helped teachers develop their skills in specific areas for development or improvement. Our Lead Practitioners worked directly alongside colleagues modelling and offering feedback on a daily basis, as well as setting and agreeing goals. Most importantly, they were providing support and guidance to achieve these goals.
Improving teaching and learning in any school can be a complex and challenging task, but there are several key steps that can be taken towards making progress. The EEF Putting evidence to work – A school’s guide to implementation and EEF Effective professional development guidance report are two essential documents for school leaders to guide decision making and planning.
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