When I was appointed to the senior leadership team as Research and Development Lead for my school last September, it was a fantastic opportunity to put the middle leadership development I gained on the Teaching Leaders programme to good use.
I graduated from the programme in 2015 and it sharpened my focus on the use of evidence-based practice to improve academic outcomes for young people. After sharing this new-found knowledge with our senior leadership team, I was asked to launch Lesson Study and coaching in the school.
Lesson Study is a method of professional development which derives from Japan. Through teacher-led research and using existing evidence, participants collaboratively plan, teach and observe a series of lessons which focus on developing an identified area of students' learning. Ongoing discussion and reflection refine and develop the interventions. Lesson Study at our school is underpinned by research that is the ‘gold standard’; we only consider research that has reached literature review level. This was the starting point for embracing a culture of research.
To embed this culture in the school, I disseminate research to time-pressed staff through a weekly bulletin and train Lead Learners to be the research champions in their departments. I created a research library to help make this research more accessible.
"A vital part of establishing a culture of research is shamelessly celebrating great lesson studies which have had a significant impact on pupils’ learning."
The Ealing School Teaching Alliance and Ofsted have both commended our use of evidence-based practices to improve Teaching and Learning. Our teachers engage with research before deciding how best to implement changes within their context, broadening out the findings to consider effectiveness for the whole school. All continual professional development (CPD) is research-led, based on findings from the EEF Toolkit, Hattie’s effect sizes and Marzano’s strategies.
School evaluation requires departments to measure impact in light of ‘what works’ and appraisal processes set targets around innovation based on research. Our leadership monitoring systems evaluate research impact in the classroom, and our recent evaluation focus was on the work of Graham Nuthall, an education researcher and author credited for running some of the most detailed studies of Teaching and Learning in the world.
A vital part of establishing a culture of research is shamelessly celebrating great lesson studies which have had a significant impact on pupils’ learning, alongside embracing evidence-based practice everywhere: in our staff briefing, weekly bulletin, research journal and at Teach Meets.
Our recently published Research Journal, compiled from our Lesson Study findings and introduced by David Weston, Chief Executive of Teacher Development Trust, endorses the impact research has had on improving pupils’ outcomes. GCSE results at the school are now Outstanding and our progress 8 score puts us in the top 13% of schools nationally.
We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but we recognise that we can always do more. We are conscious of the need to stay outward-looking, and the Ambition School Leadership network is a fantastic platform for sharing knowledge and best practice in an ever changing educational landscape.
I recently represented Ambition School Leadership at a WomenEd event, to share our approach to using research further, and the feedback and support I received from this network was incredible. The experience has inspired me to get ready to take the next step in my leadership journey, and I am planning to host a WomenEd event at my school in the future.
My key advice for those wishing to embed a research culture in their school would be: put yourself out there, go to Teach Meets and Lead Meets and read! It’s essential to stay up to date with credible evidence-based practice if you’re to have any credibility yourself. Convince your staff that engaging with research is not an optional add-on, but an effective way to develop their craft and improve pupils’ outcomes.
There are no silver bullets, but who needs those when your pedagogical decisions are based on credible research known to have impact?