Real Impact is connecting research and practice

By working with reception teachers from Chestnut Learning Federation, the research carried out by Professor Chris Brown has informed teaching practice, resulting in improved writing outcomes of summer-born children.

The Problem

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, children born later in the school year perform significantly worse in exams than their older peers. Indeed, the number of parents requesting that their summer-born children – children born between 1 April and 31 August – start school later than their peers has notably increased in recent years; and yet there is little evidence to support the notion that delayed school entry improves attainment.

The Research

Research-informed teaching practice (RITP) involves teachers and school leaders engaging with high quality research evidence, the purpose being to use the insights gained to improve specific aspects of teaching and learning.

Professor Brown worked with reception teachers from three small, church infant schools, which are based in Hampshire and are part of the Chestnut Learning Federation. In standardized tests, the schools’ summerborn children typically had lower educational attainment than those born at the start of the year.

In between workshops, participants were also expected to share the research knowledge they had gained with their colleagues, and enable them to assist with the development, trial, roll-out and impact assessment of the intervention.

As part of the Research Learning Communities (RLC’s) process, teachers and school leaders engaged in four workshops held over the course of two school years, each corresponding to a stage in the RLC ‘cycle of enquiry’. In the four workshops, the teachers were asked to:

  1. Relate research to their own practical knowledge and knowledge of their context;
  2. Develop an intervention, grounded in research findings and their own practical knowledge, which is designed to enhance specific aspects of teaching and learning (i.e. improve the writing outcomes of summer-born children);
  3. Trial and refine their intervention to maximize its effectiveness; and
  4. Ascertain the intervention’s impact and roll it out within and across the three schools.

In between workshops, participants were also expected to share the research knowledge they had gained with their colleagues, and enable them to assist with the development, trial, roll-out and impact assessment of the intervention.

The Impact

The RITP resulting from the RLC activity with Chestnut Learning Federation appears to be responsible for a substantive increase in the Federation’s summerborn children’s outcomes:

  • In 2014-15, 60% of summer-born children achieved the expected level of the Early Learning Goal (ELG) for writing. In comparison, 87.5% of their autumn-born peers and 67.3% of summer-borns in Hampshire met their ELG for writing.
  • In 2016, in the first year of the RL C, 86% of summerborn children achieved their ELG for writing: an improvement of 26%.
  • In 2017, in the second year of the RLC, 82% of summerborns met their ELG for writing.
  • Over the same two-year period, the average for all children within the Federation remained at 83%.

“Although these figures don’t provide a concrete demonstration of causation, they augment recent randomised control trial evidence suggesting that the RLC model helps teachers engage with research-evidence and that research engagement leads to improved outcomes at Key Stage 2 (7-11 years),” says Professor Brown.

Certainly, the RLC conducted at the three Chestnut Learning Federation schools is an example of how research activity can be developed into an intervention that successfully drives improvements in classrooms and schools.

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