Research School Network: Engaging with Evidence: Walton-on-Trent Primary School’s Cognitive Science Journey Read how Walton-on-Trent have engaged with EEF Guidance Reports and Research School Implementation CPD.


Engaging with Evidence: Walton-on-Trent Primary School’s Cognitive Science Journey

Read how Walton-on-Trent have engaged with EEF Guidance Reports and Research School Implementation CPD.

Walton is a smaller than average primary and nursery school situated in South Derbyshire. It has five mixed-age classes and a small nursery. Walton has 15% pupil premium children and a higher-than-average proportion of SEND (20%) and EHCP (14%) children. It has received numerous awards for inclusion, well-being and Forest Schools. Walton has also received an International Award for developing international links and work around sustainable goals across the curriculum. Providing a broad and rich curriculum with a focus on the whole child is at the heart of Walton.

My cognitive science journey began during the first lockdown in March 2020. I had seen cognitive science become more prevalent in the EduTwitter world and wanted to learn more. After contacting the Staffordshire Research School they were able to point me in the right direction of research and blogs after exploring our aims and objectives in more depth. I spend the next few months researching and planning how I could embed cognitive science at the heart of teaching and learning at Walton, and more importantly, which aspects we would start with – aiming to do less better, than implement too many new strategies and master none.

We have an incredible team of staff who were all open to and excited about learning more about learning! As a school we began in the summer term of 2020 by studying the research and findings from the EEF Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning Guidance Report, focusing on key terminology, metacognition and self-regulation. The extensive research base that hat the EEF have drawn upon to underpin the Guidance Report, as well as the Toolkit indicates that metacognition and self-regulation strategies have a high impact (average of 7 months progress) for a very low cost. Metacognition and self-regulation approaches aim to help pupils think about their own learning more explicitly, often by teaching them specific strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning.’ (Metacognition and Self-regulated learning, EEF). 

Cog Sci Walton

We continued to build on our understanding of key terminology throughout the summer term and added retrieval and cognitive load to our cognitive science focuses in the Autumn Term. I was lucky enough to attend a two-day CPD course, Research-informed Teaching In Action’ at which I heard from a range of speakers who are experts in cognitive science:

•Tom Sherrington – Rosenshine’s Principles
•Kate Jones –Retrieval
•Ollie Lovell – Cogintive Load Theory
•Oliver Caviglioli – Dual Coding
•Mark and Zoe Enser – Generate Learning

Through careful selection and dissemination of session content we have since allowed staff time to deepen their understanding of cognitive science and the implications they may have in the classroom. As a school, we decided to trial and embed understanding of strategies in practice, before moving on to new content. And then… lockdown 3 hit. We actively used retrieval practice within numerous staff meetings to ensure terminology was understood and remembered. This was coupled with focus weeks where staff would focus on an element of cognitive science we had already learnt about, and then self-evaluate and review our strategies and methods and their effectiveness, prior to sharing strategies and our reflections with colleagues to take away new ideas to trial with classes. It was an absolute joy to hear staff feeding back on how much of an impact they felt it was having on their classes. Moving beyond simply sharing anecdotal evidence and experiences, we this one step further and completed low-stake peer-observations in similar-aged classes with a pure focus on an element or two of cognitive science, capturing the impacts on learning behaviours. Staff praised and supported one another throughout the peer-observation process and fed back at the following staff meetings. Yet again, teachers left with an even larger bank of ideas to trial in their classrooms.

Cog Sci Walton2

I attended the Staffordshire Research School’s Putting Evidence to Work’ CPD programme. This allowed me time to reflect upon my cognitive science action plan and fine tune my logic model for how I was using evidence to inform the changes within our school. It also gave me the opportunity to discuss the focus and explain with clarity my active ingredients’ with other school leaders. The explore, prepare, deliver, sustain model helped me focus strategically on how we as a school are going to implement this change and ensure it is effective and sustainable.

Implementation model

Rosenshine’s Principles were the next focus for us as a school and followed a similar cycle of explore, prepare, deliver and sustain. We have learnt so much and come so far as a school, but we are very aware our cognitive science journey is far from over! We plan to add dual coding to our cognitive science focuses and continue to review and improve our existing focuses. In the Summer, we will move on to ensuring cognitive science is embedded across the whole School Curriculum with subject leaders taking responsibility for the strategies and procedures within their subject. 

Joanna Lane

Deputy Head Teacher, Year 4 and 5, Teaching, Learning and Assessment Lead, Deputy Safeguarding and Maths Lead.

Walton-on-Trent CE Primary and Infant School 

References and credits

  • Metacognition and Self-regulated learning, EEF report
  • Research-informed Teaching In Action Masterclasses
  • Staffordshire Research School’s Putting Evidence to Work’ CPD programme
  • Grace Hudson @MissH_Biology
  • Rosenshine’s Principles in action, Tom Sherrington
  • Retrieval Practice, Kate Jones

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