How research-informed is your school?

In my research I have encountered some schools which really are informed by research, and others which are not. Typically, I think you can place most schools on this continuum: where is your school?


Non-existent : Your culture isn’t research-informed. Your Headteacher tends to have new ideas which are shared with SLT and then communicated to staff, who are required to implement them. They generally don’t work very well but, by the time this is discovered, the Headteacher has introduced another new idea.


Data-driven: Your culture is dominated by pupil attainment data. Many hours are spent collecting, inputting and extracting data, in order to find which pupils (and sometimes, teachers) are performing least well. These underperformers are then spoken to and sometimes given additional support, but this is not diagnostic and is not evaluated, so it is unclear whether or not there has been an improvement.


Patchy: A few teachers are really interested in research and research-informed teaching. They read widely and discuss their reading critically but their passion is not shared by most colleagues. They are seen as mavericks by other staff, including SLT, who might even view them as irritants.


Aware: Most teachers speak a language of research-informed teaching. They are enthusiastic about concepts such as Cognitive Load Theory, Retrieval Practice, Growth Mindsets, Formative Assessment etc., and can be dismissive of approaches to teaching which are not based in research. However, their knowledge of these concepts might be a little superficial and their application could be somewhat formulaic.


Engaged: Staff are generally aware of research, which tends to guide their practice, although not rigidly. Major decisions in the school are often based on research evidence, with a clear theory of change that staff understand and commit to. In any year there are few new, whole-school initiatives, but these are thoroughly planned and systematically evaluated. Many teachers are in research groups and the work of these groups feeds into whole-staff CPD.


If your school is not yet in the ‘engaged’ category, the ideas in my book might help to move you further in this direction.

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