Last week the EEF introduced a new initiative called Teacher Choices. It aims to generate the kinds of evidence that teachers can put to practical use in their classrooms with their students. These short teacher-led research studies should be able to help provide teachers with answers to some of the questions they want to ask, rather than the ones often asked on their behalf.
Whilst large-scale research clearly has its place, the focus is not always on the experiences of the classroom teacher and the decisions he or she has to make as routine, often on their own with little or no support and guidance. They tend to answer bigger and more generalizable questions operating at institutional or system-level.
There can also be a lag between the commissioning of big studies and some of the answers teachers want help with right now, such as how exactly should I be using these knowledge organisers I’ve produced? What does it actually mean to quiz frequently in my subject? When is dual coding most useful in lessons? What is the best way to model writing under the visualiser?
This shift in emphasis has the potential to be a helpful and responsive way of drawing upon the knowledge and expertise of the EEF to better support practitioners to make more informed choices. Often top-down decisions can overlook the role of the teacher in making change happen. The Teacher Choices initiative addresses this problem by directly comparing different approaches used by teachers.
The first Teacher Choices trial involves a comparison of different ways of starting a lesson. It compares opening a lesson with a retrieval quiz with starting a lesson with a short discussion. This is exactly the kind of choice that many teachers – including this one – have made over the years and would like to be more informed about in the future.
Other proposed questions include the most effective way to read with a class and whether or not getting students to line up outside a classroom improves behaviour or not. In most schools, it would be really useful to know if asking questions during reading makes a difference to learning or gets in the way on an initial read through. We often do things out of habit without any evidence that it is that effective. Teacher Choices could fill this insight gap.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the new EEF approach is that it is driven by teachers themselves. It is classroom practitioners who can frame the direction the EEF takes in this initiative. With this in mind, it would be great to get as many teachers involved in these trials as possible. Recruiting has begun and closes on 7 October 2019.
If these initial questions are not really relevant for your context, it might be worth starting to formulate ones that are. There are lots of possibilities, not just for generalised aspects of classroom teachers, but also for those with a more subject-specific focus. The scope to get evidence on various aspects of subject pedagogy is exciting and a chance to hone our day to day practice.
Here are some suggestions for additional Teacher Choices studies:
- Does using PPT slides help improve learning?
- Does greeting your students at the door improve conduct?
- What is the most effective way of improving students’ notetaking?
- What is the best way to end a lesson?
- What is the most effective way to give exam feedback?
- What is the best time to give back the results of a test?
- What is the most effective way to model writing?
- What is the best way to introduce a new poem to class?
- When is the best time to start teaching analytical writing?
This is a great opportunity to get involved in the future direction of the EEF and get answers to some of the things that you want to ask and that will help improve the impact of your teaching.