I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about The Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit and the Golden Thread from evidence to student outcomes, via deliberate intervention.
Can evidence really inform practice so that student outcomes improve? The go-to source of evidence about effective interventions is the The Sutton Trust/EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit. What follows is a tale which illustrates the Golden Thread from evidence to student outcomes, via deliberate intervention.
Interventions to help students learn can be done for next to nothing. The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Learning Toolkit rates Meta-cognition & self-regulation as a cheap and highly effective strategy to improve students’ learning.
How do students learn how to train their brain to operate effectively during the 90 minutes of an AS level examination? Like many people, my students’ AS mock examination results were pretty disappointing. I know they know their economics theory, but under examination conditions they do not seem to have a sharp enough grasp of how to respond effectively to score as many marks as possible. Command words are ignored; diagrams are left unlabelled; answers are expressed carelessly. On the evidence within their examination papers, my students’ powers of meta-cognition & self-regulation in the examination room are modest at best. Instead of despairing, I spoke to Alex Quigley, our Research Lead who chatted about the EEF materials on metacognition and self-regulation pointed me towards a paper called “Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Craft of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics” by Allan Collins, John Brown and Susan Newman. Read it – it’s genius and, as I detail below, transformed my students’ performance!
Modelling thinking so that students’ learning improves is a challenge. What I did in response to my students’ AS mock examination results – guided by the research Alex sourced for me – was model for them explicitly my own thinking, something I had never done before. I completed the same examination paper, not answering the questions but writing on the paper what my brain would have been saying to itself, question by question, should I have attempted the paper. I then talked them through the pdf, showing them just how alert and alive my brain is when I am being examined, teaching them how to think about their own learning more explicitly.
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What makes great teaching? According to Professor Rob Coe et al, great teaching is defined as that which leads to improved student progress. Well, explicit modelling/teaching of examination room meta-cognition and self-regulation skills might just be the teaching and learning strategy I’ve been searching for these past twenty-six years. The students who have re-sat the AS Economics examination because they attained a U grade first time round have all improved by three or more grades. The one student who I know for sure improved precisely because of his use of the meta-cognition and self-regulation intervention I modelled for him is Oliver. He went from getting 24/60 and a grade U in his first paper to getting 51/60 and a grade A in his second paper, a completely different paper to the original mock (and I only gave him 30 minutes’ notice before he sat the re-take paper).
Why am I so sure it was the intervention which helped Oliver improve? Well look at how he has made explicit on paper his mental checklist for ensuring he completed the question thoroughly.
The Golden Thread: Professor Steve Higgins, Professor Rob Coe and Dr Lee Elliot Major write The Sutton Trust Teaching and Learning Toolkit – the Education Endowment Foundation become co-authors of the Toolkit – our school starts reading the Toolkit and we begin thinking harder about how we develop our classroom practice – we appoint a Research Lead, Alex Quigley, in our drive to become an evidence-based school and begin working with the EEF – Oliver does badly in his mock exam and our baseline data before my pedagogic intervention is his mock result – Alex reminds me of what the Toolkit says about meta-cognition and self-regulation – I read the paper “Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Craft of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics” by Collins et al – I devise my intervention and implement it – Oliver recognises how the intervention might help his performance and consciously changes his behaviour in his re-take examination – Oliver improves by 27 marks and five grades. Go figure…