In Summary: Kyra Research Conference 2017

Kyra’s first Research School Conference was held at the Epic Centre on the Lincolnshire Showground on Friday 3 February 2017 and was attended by over 80 colleagues. The theme of this first conference was ‘Teach, Research, Innovate’, driven by the research school’s vision to transform education for all pupils through inspiring and empowering teachers to undertake and apply research that transforms the lives and life chances of the children in our schools. The aim is to build a network of research schools across the country that will inspire and disseminate innovative research that leads to the highest quality teaching and learning.

Professor Steve Higgins, Professor of Education at Durham University and lead author of the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) toolkit addressed colleagues on the use of evidence to inform teaching. He asked colleagues to reflect on how the role of research could form part of a wider vision for educational practice and improvement, and said that one of his aspirations for the network of research schools would be that it ultimately informs and enhances the influence of research, including the EEF toolkit, within the wider education system.

“Professor Higgins asked colleagues to reflect on how the role of research could form part of a wider vision for educational practice and improvement.”

He spoke of how accessing a body of research won’t in itself provide the recipe for success. It is as important that school leaders and teachers are skilled and discerning in using the ingredients and become ‘good cooks’ so that it has impact in their context. For example, Professor Higgins stressed the importance of effective ‘diagnosis’, in other words working out what children need in order to progress in their learning, and the need to match the research evidence that is available to this diagnosis. This is important, he said, because sometimes research evidence often presents us with surprising results and that most of the time, just simply knowing the outcome of research does not tell us enough about why the project was successful for a specific group of pupils; there is a need to dig deeper. The role of research schools should be to enable and empower practitioners to dig deeper and determine what research is appropriate to their context and how the research can then be applied and made ‘actionable’ within that context to the benefit of children.

“The role of research schools should be to enable and empower practitioners to dig deeper and determine what research is appropriate to their context and how the research can then be applied and made ‘actionable’ within that context to the benefit of children.”

In this vein, Professor Higgins suggested a model for the effective use and communication of research, namely that it should be: accurate, accessible, applicable, acceptable, appropriate, and actionable.

The key take away messages from Prof. Higgins’ input were:-

• Ensure that the research base upon which we are drawing and basing our own interventions and research is accurate and robust;
• Develop and empower colleagues to be able to interrogate previous research findings and carefully consider how ‘appropriate’ the intervention (in its presented form) is to their context and children’s learning needs. Be clear on identifying the limitations of research findings to your context but also consider the opportunities to build on the findings and adapt them to meet the needs of your children and young people;
• Ensure that research is ‘accessible’ to others in the profession, without losing the emphasis on ‘depth’ and a detailed understanding of the underlying factors which have contributed (or potentially contributed) towards an intervention’s success within a particular context;
• In our focus on improving the quality of pedagogy, it is also important to address the subject content and match it well to the pedagogy so that children’s learning is moved on. This will help to ensure the ‘applicability’ of the research we undertake;
• Consider carefully the ‘acceptability’ of the research undertaken, and that it engages with the values and motivations of the wider profession;
• Ensure that the interventions we develop are also ‘actionable’. This means that they should be practical and manageable for those wishing to translate them into another context;
• Use research to challenge and inform changes in government policy where appropriate. We have a responsibility to do this. In informing wide-scale improvement, we need to ensure we are developing our understanding and evidence-base around the quality of interaction in an education system where there is an emphasis on structures.

The conference also included a number of workshops. James Siddle spoke on ‘Improving Pupil Outcomes Using Disciplined Innovation’ – explaining the journey his school, St Margaret’s C of E Primary School in Withern, Lincolnshire had taken to ensure that practice was informed and driven by research. James’ work is case studied later in this journal. Other workshop contributors included Felicity Norton from The Pen Green Paradigm, who spoke on Practitioner Research in the Early Years; Dr David Reedy, who spoke on the research findings relating to Effective Classroom Talk; Laura McQuade from Haven High Academy in Boston who spoke on ‘Self-regulation strategy development: A Case Study of Research in a Secondary School’; and Jane Elsworth and Stephen Foreman from Huntington Research School, who spoke on ‘Evidence in Practice for Busy Middle Leaders’.

The day was concluded with inputs from Marie- Claire Bretherton and James Siddle. Marie- Claire restated the challenge for the system in getting the information about effective practice into every school and classroom, in terms of what is actionable in different contexts. This, she said, is the overarching aim of the research schools network. James Siddle reinforced this point, saying that the big question for the research schools network is how it can start taking the intervention results from the toolkit and elsewhere and ensure work in our schools to make a difference for our pupils. There is much we still don’t know about making interventions work at scale, but schools need clear, actionable guidance on practical school issues – it’s not enough just to make the information available, it’s what is done with that information that counts.

The conference also included an input on the new Chartered College for Teaching, which we have summarised on page 10 of this journal.

Further resources from the Research Conference

A blog on the conference can be accessed here: https://kyra.researchschool.org.uk/category/blog/

A full report on the conference can be accessed on the Kyra website.

You can also hear more from some of our keynote speakers and delegates at our youtube channel ‘Kyra TSA’

Hazel Bell of Morton Trentside Primary talks about the importance of research to her practice

James Siddle outlines plans for the Kyra Research School

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