The purpose of the programme is to bring evidence-based research (which can so often be confined to academic circles) directly into schools, and into the classroom, in a way which results in real impact on school improvement, development and evaluation.
The programme introduces its participants to the basics of research, and guides them through the process of designing, implementing and evaluating their own research/innovation project, or micro-trial. The chosen project must be designed to meet, or contribute towards, a key priority in the improvement plan of their own school.
The TLR is a year-long programme, made up of six training sessions (which make up the equivalent of 4 full days of training) and including ongoing mentoring and support between training sessions and optional online twilight discussions. Juliet Brookes, Research and Development Lead, explains “The TLR sessions are very much framed around the three stages of the Education Endowment Foundation’s DIY evaluation guide; preparing for, implementing, and analysing/reporting on a research or innovation project. However, the sessions also include plenty of customised content based on our participants’ particular research interests, and on their training needs survey results.” The TLR programme has many aspects, which include practical workshops, reading tasks, group discussions, learning about the latest theory and research, and sharing information on in-school teacher-led research activities and project progress.
As a result of the TLR, participants develop and refine their own ‘theory of change’ to impact on pupil progress, and eventually share their finding in the form of a research poster which is presented at a showcase celebration.
Following its very successful first year, the Kyra Research School TLR Programme began again in July, offering yet more teachers and leaders the opportunity to learn about the transformational role that evidence-based research and innovation can have in schools. The programme has also expanded geographically, with the TLR now also taking place in Chesterfield and in Rotherham.
The Teacher-Led Research programme – Research Projects and Micro-Trials – Case Studies
Here, participants in the TLR and in Research Projects supported by the Kyra Research School discuss their experiences.
Louis Frith - Delegate
“I originally found out about the Kyra Research School TLR programme when I was approached by a member of the senior leadership team at my school, who suggested taking part in the programme for the purposes of personal CPD, and also with a view to ultimately sharing what I learned about evidence-based research with colleagues throughout the school.
The programme was made up of six sessions, where we learned about the significance and impact of evidence-based research in schools, and how to plan, design, implement, and evaluate a research project for ourselves. We were guided through complex and previously unfamiliar topics such as research methods, feasibility, preparing a research proposal, and delivering, monitoring and documenting the implementation of a research project. Finally, we were taught how to analyse data in order to evaluate the significance of the statistical outcomes of our project. There is so much information out there regarding research, and it has the potential to be overwhelming, but the TLR sessions succeeded in distilling a huge amount of information for us in a manageable and very effective way. I also learned a great deal by going through the process of implementing a research project for myself, and I learned as much from what didn’t quite go to plan as what did!
“There is so much information out there regarding research, and it has the potential to be overwhelming, but the TLR sessions succeeded in distilling a huge amount information for us in a manageable and very effective way.”
My project was based on feedback to pupils; specifically, whether written or verbally recorded feedback was more effective in improving pupils’ progress. I collected data from 120 pupils, all of whom completed a timed essay. Half received written feedback, and the other half, recorded feedback. The content and detail included in both the written and recorded feedback had to be as similar as possible to make the research valid. Following feedback, all pupils re-drafted their essay, and at a later date answered a different, but similar, essay question in timed conditions. The outcome of my research project was that both forms of feedback had a similar effect. While in some ways this was disappointing, I learned a huge amount through the process and the TLR programme set me up well to complete further research projects more proficiently in the future, as well as putting me in a position to be able to support my colleagues with their own research projects. I know that next time I would do some things differently, for example, increasing the size of the study so that there would be more data to analyse.
I presented the results of the project on a research poster, and I explained the process and outcomes of the project to others on the TLR programme, and to my headteacher. Taking part in the programme has not only given me a much greater understanding of the importance of evidence-based research and a much clearer understanding of the research process itself, but it has also helped to raise the profile of evidence-based research within my school. I think raising this awareness is extremely important in supporting continual improvement across the education sector, making sure that the best educational theory, what is shown to really work, is actually put into practice effectively in classrooms across the country.”
Julia Greenfield - Delegate
“I undertook the TLR programme last year, and as part of that I ran a micro-trial with John Noden, who is the year 3 and 4 phase leader at Lacey Garden Junior School.
With the government’s multiplication table check being rolled out nationally in 2019, we decided that a research trial on the effectiveness of different methods of teaching multiplication tables would be very useful for teachers and pupils alike. We decided to test the effectiveness of three methods; interleaved retrieval practice, interleaving, and the control involved chanting of multiplication tables in a block of time.
We undertook the micro-trial in January 2018. Using the network we had built up through the Kyra Research School we conducted research in 15 schools, across 21 classes of Year 4 pupils, totalling around 450 children. We made sure we had a good mix of different types of schools with varying pupil demographics. Our focus was on the level of pupil retention of their times tables in response to each of the three different methods of teaching. We particularly focused on the 6 and 12 times tables.
The trial lasted for one week, and was based on exactly 4 minutes of teaching the multiplication tables daily. Before the trial took place John and I produced resources and videos to make sure that practice was standardised across the board during the trial. We received ongoing support from the Kyra Research School throughout the process of planning and conducting the trial, which helped us to make sure that we were doing all of the right things!
“The data we collected showed some promising initial findings that children who were taught their times tables through interleaving demonstrated the greatest level of retention.”
Following the trial, pupils were tested on the multiplication tables at the end of the week, on the following Monday, two weeks later, and thirty days later. The data we collected showed some promising initial findings that children who were taught their times tables through interleaved retrieval practice demonstrated the greatest level of retention. Interleaved retrieval practice meant completing times table retrieval exercises for 1 minute at four different times during the day (rather than in one 4-minute block). However, the findings weren’t quite at the statistical threshold which proves reliability and statistical significance. Therefore, from this promising premise, we are looking to replicate the trial with more children and over a longer period of time, this time with only two variables (interleaved retrieval practice and interleaving) to see if we can reach a statistically significant outcome this time around.”
Anna Miller - Delegate
I designed a micro-trial on the topic of marking and feedback, and how different methods of feedback might affect pupils’ learning and progress. The trial took place in 3 primary schools, 1 secondary school, and 5 special schools, in 14 classes altogether across the schools. The research was based on a literacy sequence lasting one week; with one literacy sequence being designed for year 5 and another for year 9. I had support from SLE’s and lead teachers to make sure that those teaching sequences were really high quality. They also had to be very detailed and precise, so that all teachers were teaching exactly the same content, on the same day, for the same amount of time. There could be no deviation in the approach to teaching, to ensure that only the effect of the feedback was being tested. All of the teachers involved in the trial were given an afternoon of training to guarantee consistency in the teaching of the sequence across the classes and schools involved.
Three different types of feedback were tested in the trial, these were live (verbal) feedback, whole class feedback, and written marking. Live feedback consisted of the teacher or TA moving around the classroom and offering individuals one-to-one verbal feedback on their work. Whole class feedback consisted of taking in books, reading all of the pupils’ work, and filling in a proforma summarising positives/negatives in pupils’ work overall, and making a note of any pupils who hadn’t understood or needed extra support. In the first 10-15 minutes of the next lesson, whole class feedback was delivered based on the information gathered on the proforma, with TA support of children who needed extra help. Written feedback outlined positives in the work of each pupil, and next steps for improvement, including corrections and/or questions. Again, 10-15 minutes at the start of the next lesson was set aside for pupils to respond to written feedback.
To track the effect of the different types of feedback, pupils were given a cold writing task prior to the trial week, where pupils completed 45 minutes of imaginative writing in response to a stimulus. After the trial week, the pupils again completed a 45-minute imaginative writing task, in response to a different stimulus. A team of teachers, with expertise in marking writing, were given training on how to mark the written tasks against clear and specific criteria. Marking was also moderated in pairs and by the Project Leads to ensure accuracy and consistency.
“I presented my trial and findings on a research poster, which I then shared with others on the TLR, headteachers, and at the Kyra Research School conference. All of us on the TLR learned a lot from one another’s research projects and trials and were able to ask one another questions and share what each of us had taken away from the process.”
Our data showed that overall whole class feedback was the most beneficial, followed by written feedback, and that live feedback was the least beneficial. The findings were interesting and promising, and whole class feedback seemed to offer a significant advantage based on the data collected within the trial. However, unfortunately the data did not meet the threshold of statistical significance which would prove its reliability. If I were to replicate this trial, I would include only two variables to make the likelihood of the data being statistically significant stronger, and would also aim to increase the pupil sample size. I presented my trial and findings via a research poster, which I then shared with colleagues on the TLR, headteachers, and delegates at the Kyra Research School conference. I learned so much from taking part in the TLR which has further developed me in my role as Research Champion for the Mobilise project. The TLR Celebration Event was a great opportunity for everyone who had completed to programme to share and celebrate their research posters and projects and to continue learning about quantitative and qualitative research.
All of the TLR Research posters are available online to be viewed here: Kyra.researchschool.com