How to apply for funding for pedagogical research via the IOA Evidence-based practice fund

10 October 2018

Last academic year I was appointed ‘Research Lead’ at Suffolk ONE sixth form college. As part of my role I am trying to increase engagement of teaching staff with evidence-based practice with the long-term aim of enhancing outcomes for our students. Having come across the Ipswich Opportunity Area Evidence-based practice fund, it seemed like a good idea to apply for funds to cover the cost of staff time (as this is always a challenge), to allow teaching staff to research existing evidence around areas for improvement and plan potential classroom interventions.

The prospect of filling in lengthy forms to explain and justify our first research idea for funding was daunting, but I have picked up a few useful tips along the way, which my help others to get started. Here is a link to a brief outline of the project we received funding for https://www.suffolkone.ac.uk/work-one-2/can-better-metacognitive-skills-help-students-attain-more-highly-gcse-and-level-science-subjects/

 

Getting started

It makes a big difference to have a very clear idea about the project before filling in the application form. To help us get started, I asked myself and the teaching staff involved a few questions (see below) to allow us focus and hone our thoughts.

 

What area for improvement do we want to focus on?

We had a few initial ideas about what we could concentrate on, mainly based on subject-specific action plans following results analysis. For example, the recent changes in specifications and assessment criteria in A-level science subjects posed several challenges. Teaching staff fed back that students needed to improve their analytical thinking skills to access the higher grades, but that there was limited time to develop these in lessons due to the large amount of content that still needed to be covered. The solution appeared to be to develop students’ independent learning skills outside of class to move some of the content delivery out of lessons and free up time for skills development.

 

Is there any existing evidence of ‘what works’ to develop students as independent learners?

Once we had identified the area for improvement, we focussed our research on finding strategies that have been shown to successfully overcome the challenge. There were a lot of ideas out there and we had to remind ourselves to only look for those with evidence of effectiveness and stay away from anecdotal evidence. Here are some links to websites we used to find evidence for what works and/or get new ideas.

 

The Education Endowment Foundation Links:

Teaching and Learning Toolkit

Guidance Reports

 

Chartered College of Teaching

Impact Journal

 

The Institute for Effective Education

Best Evidence in Brief

Evidence 4 Impact

Evidence for the Frontline

 

Educational Research journal articles from our LRC

Ipswich Research School were also of great assistance finding evidence

Websites of other Research Schools, e.g. Meols Cop High School

 

One of the guidance reports published by the Education Endowment Foundation focused on developing students’ metacognitive skills, which included strategies for independent learning. More importantly the report showed that some of these strategies have been demonstrated to be highly effective showing a clear positive impact on student attainment.

 

How can we implement the ideas we have found?

Having come across potential solutions during our secondary research, the temptation was to jump straight in to try these out in our local setting. However, implementation had to be carefully planned to ensure that we could evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy in our setting, and the interventions were sustainable.

There were many more questions that needed to be answered: What resources do we need, including staff time and physical resources. Are relevant staff on board with the idea of the project? How can we measure if our strategy is making a difference to student outcomes?

 

More detailed planning and completing the form

Once we had an outline of the project, more in-depth planning took place. We decided on the subject we wanted to focus on (i.e. Biology) and which groups of students and staff would be involved (Year 12 and Year 13).  We planned what exactly the intervention would consist of (specific resources to give to students), utilising the guidance report as a starting point, and who was going to plan implementation and prepare the necessary resources (members of the subject teaching team). We considered how long the project would run for (whole academic year) and when/how often we would evaluate the impact (half termly).

There are a number of forms available which helped us to finalise our thought-processes before you had a go at the application form (link to logic model).

 

I have tried to summarise the process we went through below.

Final tip

Don’t make it too complicated. Following scientific principles, the best projects focus on one thing at the time! Be prepared to stop the intervention if it is not effective, or worse has a negative impact on student attainment. Please feel free to contact me for any further hints or questions –

Tanja Hofmann (Research Lead – Suffolk One) tanja.hofmann@suffolkone.ac.uk

Posted on 10 October 2018
Posted in: Blog

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