Reflections of day three of ‘Using the EEF Toolkit to address disadvantage in coastal areas’

15 May 2018

On Friday last week colleagues from schools across the south coast met for the third tine at the Durrington Research School. There were two aims for this final day of the training programme. Firstly, to consolidate our exploration of how the EEF Toolkit can support and enhance interventions for disadvantaged students, and secondly, to refine the mass of collated ideas from the previous two training days into a considered and practical implementation plan ready to take back to school.

There has been one central message that has threaded through all of our sessions on this programme: there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to closing the gaps in attainment between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.  However, what the EEF Toolkit, and other areas of research, does indicate is that the most effective approach for tackling underachieving disadvantaged students is consistently high levels of teaching and learning in the classroom. Consequently, developing and supporting effective pedagogy is vital, and should be the priority for any school intervention.

We started the day with a reminder of the specific topics that we had covered in previous sessions, and delegates then matched these topics to a brief explanatory summary:

  1. Literacy (vocabulary)
  2. Metacognition
  3. Feedback.
  4. The Coastal Academies Report
  5. Parental Engagement
  6. Improving attendance
  7. The EEF report ‘The Attainment Gap’

This was a useful consolidation exercise, and enabled us to remind delegates how the first three topics are the pedagogical strands identified by the EEF Toolkit as having the greatest impact on learning in the classroom, and therefore are likely to have the greatest impact in terms of closing gaps for disadvantaged students. However, many schools will still be looking for interventions outside of the classroom to support disadvantaged students, and so the other topics provided fruitful areas for consideration in this vein. In addition, on Day One delegates had identified student motivation as a forceful barrier in attainment for disadvantaged students. In response to this, we sidestepped for a section of the morning session and explored some of the research findings around student motivation, and how these might influence our interventions for disadvantaged students.

Delegates then spent some time making explicit links between the topics and disadvantaged students. Once again, this exercise illuminated the complexity of the issues at hand. For example, when clarifying how explicit vocabulary instruction can support disadvantaged students, it is impossible to avoid crossover with feedback and metacognition as well. This exemplifies how working with disadvantaged students means intersecting a very tangled web rather than starting at the beginning of a neat, linear flow chart of strategies. Hence, being armed with an implementation plan is crucial for success, and why we spent a significant proportion of the day on developing such plans.

The second session of the day started with a more detailed introduction of the EEF’s Implementation Guide, which delegates had explored very briefly in Day Two. As the EEF explains:

Implementation is a key aspect of what schools do to improve, and yet it is a domain of school practice that rarely receives sufficient attention. In our collective haste to do better for pupils, new ideas are often introduced with too little consideration for how the changes will be managed, and what steps are needed to maximise the chances of success.

The purpose of this guidance is to begin to describe and demystify the professional practice of implementation – to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.

The EEF’s guide breaks down implementation into six different phases. In Day One and Day Two of the program delegates were working in the third ‘explore’ phase, in which the problem is defined and possible approaches are identified. The next step is to ‘prepare’ by creating a clear and logical implementation plan with a very narrow focus. Delegates were led through the following steps of writing an implementation plan:

  • Identifying the problem that needs to be addressed from the perspective of teachers, students and attainment.
  • Identifying the ‘active’ ingredients. These are the essential elements of the changing or new practice that are non-negotiable. The active ingredients need to be specified and shared so that fidelity to the intervention can be monitored.
  • Deciding the implementation activities. This element is multi-stranded and requires an appraisal of the people and processes that are already in place – using what is established will make successful implementation more likely. Examples of implementation activities include reminding teachers, developing educational materials and conducting ongoing training, to name but a few.
  • Identifying implementation outcomes for the short, medium and long term. This step is further broken down into the fields of fidelity, reach and acceptability. When considering how to ensure fidelity, the delegates considered how they would know that the active ingredients were used as the developers intended. In terms of reach, the delegates defined who would be affected by the changes, and finally the delegates isolated the ways in which they would know that the practice has been accepted, adapted and embedded over time in their school.
  • Identifying student outcomes after implementation in the short, medium and long term.

As this was our last training day, we aimed for colleagues to leave not only with an actionable plan for working with disadvantaged students in their schools, but also a much greater understanding of the intricacies and methodical necessity required for the implementation process as a whole. Supporting teachers with mobilising research evidence is the main tenet of Durrington’s CPD offer, and we hope that our three day programme helps to prevent the research being rapidly buried beneath the rubble of school life, and instead becomes a solid structure in the day to day practice of a school.

Fran Haynes





Posted on 15 May 2018
Posted in: Blog

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