Ready, steady, bake!

#145 Great British Bake Off meets EEF thinking


One of my lecturers at university told me that he knew he’d got it right when we started to link our learning of the technicalities of third year degree geology to food! From fruit cakes to a pint of Guinness, almost 25 years later (?!) I can still draw to mind the analogies and remember how they helped me understand theory.


So, little wonder that when considering the most recent EEF Guidance Report, Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation a culinary analogy or two spring to mind.

This valuable new guidance report aims to give schools the support they need to put evidence to work in their classrooms and implement new programmes and approaches effectively.

The report highlights how good and thoughtful implementation is crucial to the success of any teaching and learning strategy, yet creating the right conditions for implementation – let alone the structured process of planning, delivering and sustaining change – is hard.

The guidance offers six recommendations to help schools give their innovations the very best chance by working carefully through the who, why, where, when and how of managing change.  They can be applied to any school improvement decision: programmes or practices; whole-school or targeted approach; internally or externally generated ideas.

The report frames implementation in four stages: explore; prepare; deliver; and sustain. It also provides guidance on how schools can create the right environment for change, from supporting staff to getting leadership on board.

So, the four phases but with a culinary Bake Off twist might be …

1. Mmmm, what shall I make? … aka the ‘explore’ phase

Think about the occasion you are baking for (.. examine the fit and feasibility of possible interventions to the school context)

  • identify what it is you want to bake (.. specify a tight area of focus for improvement that is amenable to change) then,
  • select a recipe you know has a strong chance of working (.. determine a programme of activity based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before)
  • decide you’re going to give it a go (.. make an adoption decision)

2. Follow the recipe!  … aka the ‘prepare’ phase

Have a good plan (.. a clear, logical and well-specified implementation plan) which includes awareness of:

  • what are the (active) ingredients (.. of the intervention)
  • where ingredients/equipment could be substituted without dramatically impacting the end result (.. know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’)
  • follow a tried and tested recipe that has been proven to work previously (.. develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies)

3. Ready, steady, bake!  … aka the ‘deliver’ phase

Get baking with enthusiasm and an open mind, even when it starts to get a bit tricky (.. adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the turbulent initial attempts at implementation)

  • ask someone who really knows how to bake and enjoy sharing your successes and failures! (.. complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration)
  • get creative and innovative when you’ve perfected the recipe (.. make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented)

4. “When I cater for more people”  … aka the ‘sustain’ phase

An essential element of effective implementation includes being able to sustain and scale up an innovation, so:

  • go back to the start of the process before making a bigger batch (.. treat scale-up as a new implementation process)
  • bask in successes, take advice and enjoy the fruits of your toils when you can (..continuously acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices)

Enjoy the weekend and happy baking!






Brand new EEF Guidance Report

#144: Bananarama meet Gardener’s Worldaint what you do

Any ideas how the two can be linked?

How about if I throw in the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)?

Final clue … I’ll be showing my age as I reveal that it hinges on a well known lyric in an 80’s chart classic from a collaboration between pop legends Bananarama and Fun Boy Three?!

The big reveal … it’s all to do with their iconic lyric:

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it (repeated three times!) … and that’s what gets results.

But how now to link in to the EEF?

Well, today sees the launch of a seminal piece of evidence-based guidance, Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation. This brand new guidance report offers six practical and evidence-based recommendations to support successful implementation. They can be applied to any school improvement decision:

  • programmes or practices;
  • whole-school or targeted approaches;
  • internal or externally generated ideas.

The report is free to access and available via this link.


The report highlights how good and thoughtful implementation is crucial to the success of any teaching and learning strategy, yet creating the right conditions for implementation – let alone the structured process of planning, delivering and sustaining change – is hard.

Essentially even the very best intervention or idea will fail to have the impact it could have if implementation is not aligned to context and necessary detail.

The six recommendations detailed in this new guidance will be invaluable to those working in education. They will support schools in giving their innovations the very best chance of success by working carefully through the who, why, where, when and how of managing change.  The real beauty of these recommendations comes in the shape of just how applicable they are.

Just like the EEF’s evidence-informed school improvement cycle they can be applied to any school improvement decision from the individual teacher shaping a new evidenced approach to a scheme of work right through to whole school initiatives and even beyond through TSA/MAT programmes and even system wide change.

The report frames implementation in four stages: explore; prepare; deliver; and sustain. It also provides guidance on how schools can create the right environment for change, from supporting staff to getting leadership on board.

In this super helpful blog, Shaun Allison, Director of Durrington Research School has summarised the main findings and provides insights to aid to understanding the context and introducing the recommendations of this long-awaited guidance report.

But going back to the title … where does Gardner’s World come in? Well, even the grandest of planned gardens or vegetable plots, planted up with the very best quality plants, will wither and fade if:

  • the ground is not prepared well enough (too cold, too stony, too thin, too rich etc)
  • the plants you choose don’t match the conditions you have
  • those chosen are sited in the wrong aspect (in full sun/shade/partial shade)
  • you fail to water the new plants appropriately (too little/too much)
  • the weather takes an unpredicted turn

So whether it’s for your teaching, leadership of change, gardening or next DIY project, this brand new guidance reportPutting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation will be invaluable in seeing the green shoots of your ideas grow, thrive and flourish, and ensure your next venture is provided the very best chance of success.

garden 2


A compelling case … Kevan or Linda?

Last week in our Research School Newsletter I put front and centre a link to a compelling video clip from the recent IOE Public Debate chaired by Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

The expert panel were debating …

“What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom?”

This short KC imageclip (3:09 minutes) captures a compelling reason, an ‘inspiring why’ from Sir Kevan Collin, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). His insights, are drawn out initially from two classrooms, his and ‘Linda next door’.

What he narrates with passion and purpose provides a clear justification for our right and obligation as educators to know and apply what is known in education.

I hope you do click the link and that this short cameo inspires determination and an open mind as we head in to the final week before half term.

What next?

  • Share this with a colleague
  • For the full debate, follow this link.
  • Click the following link to the referenced EEF Guidance Reports on Literacy (and see also those on Making the Best Use of Teaching Assistants and Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 & 3) and check out the easy to digest summaries
  • Look back at my recent posts on meta-cognition for a range of resources and links to bring in to your practice

Enjoy the weekend!





Read all about it!

This week my blog is a link to the e-newsletter I compile as Director of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust Research School. As one of the 23 designated Research Schools we aim to lead the way in the use of evidence-based practice.

Through the network of Research Schools we share what we know about putting research in to practice, and support schools in our regions to make better use of evidence to inform teaching and learning so teachers can really make a difference in the classroom.

The Research School Network ... now with added Ipswich RS to be plotted!
The Research School Network … now with added Ipswich RS to be plotted!

Chief Executive of the EEF, Sir Kevan Collins took part in Tuesday’s UCL IoE debate on “What if… we really wanted evidence-informed practice in the classroom?” In this short extract/clip (3:09 mins) he shares a compelling and inspiring rationale not to be missed.

50% of our activity revolves around creating regular communication and events to encourage schools in our network to make use of evidence-based programmes and practices. Our monthly e-newsletters include an array of links to blogs, podcasts, articles, reports and sources of inspiration to inform evidence-based practice.

This month sees a star studded compilation with input from inspiring colleagues within and beyond the network …

…take a look and find out who is in this month’s here

…share with others

… and subscribe to receive future editions straight to your inbox

A sneak preview of our January e-newsletter available now

I hope you find it a useful resource and enjoy browsing the links.


Meta-cognitive strategies from The Learning Scientists

This week saw the final day of our TSC EENEL RQT Programme. It was a great day and a wonderful opportunity and an absolute pleasure to work with a group of talented teachers from local schools in the early stages of their career.


During the course of the day we explored a variety of evidence based resources including a number relating to last week’s blog focus, meta-cognition. Engaging with evidence can inspire significant professional learning and the adopting of ever more effective practices and habits. In a previous blog I outlined how evidence can provide ‘best bets‘, and, when combined with professional experience within a context, has the potential to inform highly effective learning.

One set of resources that were seen to be really valuable and highly transferable across age phases were the Six Strategies for Effective Learning by the Learning Scientists,

“… cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!)

Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators.

We aim to :

  • Motivate students to study
  • Increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research
  • Decrease negative views of testing

This is not a product or a sales pitch – just science!”

The Learning Scientists, About Us,

They share their research freely via their website, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channel and Twitter (@AceThatTest) so if you haven’t capitalised on them do check them out!

The six strategies are brought to life by the talents of Oliver Caviglioli utilising and modelling one of the strategies itself, dual coding.

SUMMARYEach of the strategies is clearly presented and available in a range of formats – posters, powerpoints, bookmarks and stickers. Through the dual coding and simple language they are highly accessible.

As a resource for teachers they are invaluable and great to explore, share and use with pupils/students … and with parents.

I have certainly benefitted from embedding these strategies within my own teaching (of children and adults) and learning since ‘discovering’ them via one of their blogs in early 2016.

We were fortunate enough to welcome co-founders Yana and Megan to Suffolk as part of their ‘UK Tour’ in summer 2017. This was the result of a speculative invite sent to the Learning Scientists, via Twitter, by a colleague saying ..’if you are ever in the UK …’ and proves that asking a question can open doors of opportunity! The half day workshops they ran were fantastic and highly valued by teachers from across age phases from early years to post-16. We included student workshops as well and they were equally appreciated and even saw a re-naming of ‘interleaving‘ (to ‘jumbling it up’) by one of the students taking part which then formed the basis of a Learning Scientist blog.

Since then the language of these strategies have become more apparent in the schools and classrooms of our trust and in professional conversations which are further developing our practices.


If new to the Learning Scientists …

  • check out their resources via their website
  • download and study the resources for one of the strategies (maybe start with retrieval practice or spaced practice)
  • think about how the strategy might be utilised in your classroom/own learning aided by their blogs and podcasts (such as these on spaced practice)
  • follow them on Twitter

If aware of them, go further …

  • subscribe to their great blogs
  • check out their whole range of resources including podcasts and searchable library of blogs
  • ask them questions via Twitter, for example via their regular Twitter Chat #LrnSciChat – the next one being on Monday 22nd January at 9pm

And for those familiar with all of the above ….

  • make it your mission to share your knowledge, understanding and application of this evidence based set of strategies with:
    • a colleague yet to discover the potential they hold
    • a struggling pupil/student (especially if sitting exams this year)
    • their parents!







Unpacking Meta-cognition

Last week I shared the following image, a snapshot from Dr Jonathan Sharples’s presentation on our SWA Trust PD Day:

metacog definition

So, this week, a little more elaboration on such a promising approach within teaching and learning.

A glance at the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit will highlight meta-cognition’s low cost (single ‘£’), high evidence strength (four padlocks) and high impact (+8 months)As seen below, when plotting toolkit strategies using cost per pupil and effect size, meta-cognition is clearly highlighted as one of the most promising set of approaches and interventions that we should consider for pupils’ learning.


source: J Sharples, EEF Presentation, Jan 2018

So what is involved?

With the help of extracts from the printable EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary and a couple of other useful sources, here we go …

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

Dylan Wiliam describes and explains it with clarity and precision in this short linked YouTube clip.

As broken down in the image at the start of this post, successful meta-cognition requires knowledge of task, strategies and yourself as a learner. Applying this knowledge through planning, monitoring and evaluating learning is something that we as teachers, parents and carers should take every opportunity to actively encourage and model.

This can often be done by encouraging pupils to ask themselves questions such as these from this Inner Drive poster below; the simple act of modelling this to pupils by verbalising your own thinking as a teacher, can be a powerful influence and illustrates the teacher as ‘model learner’.


At this point I would add that meta-cognition is not ‘achieved’ through a plethora of posters or checklists within lessons, rather by it being embedded within learning and instruction in the classroom. Hearing yourself and your pupils say things like these further question stems below would tend to indicate meta-cognition is ‘in progress’.


source: Pinterest

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils.

These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion.

A final example of how we can model and encourage meta-cognition, courtesy of the dual coding of Oliver Caviglioli, illustrates how just a few words/prompts can be all that is required:


source: Oliver Caviglioli, teachingHow2 library

However, a word of caution …

The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed.

There is no simple method or trick for this. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then reduce the support to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary

So, what should we consider?

Before we implement meta-cognition in our learning environment, we should consider the following:

1. Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation.

2. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate specific aspects of their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently?

3. Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)?

4. Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track?

5. Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?



Experience + Evidence

Our fourth annual cross-trust professional development day was our biggest yet with staff from 19 schools collaborating in three venues.

untitledWe were delighted to welcome Dr Jonathan Sharples, Senior Researcher at the education Endowment Foundation (EEF) whose inputs to both primary and secondary staff (teachers, leaders, TAs, pastoral staff and cover staff) shared a wealth of insights on bringing evidence to life in schools including …

1. The background behind the EEF and their work:


2. The wealth of resource found within the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit:

toolkit steps

3. The significant potential around metacognition:


metacog definition

Thinking about these four requirements within our teaching we should seek to embed and explicitly model these mental processes that are in integral to learning which we, as teachers, can often take for granted.

The two YouTube links he mentioned, from Dylan Wiliam and Josh Walker add further introductions, considerations and explanations.

A very useful digest which I shared via our December edition of our Research School e-newsletter is this from Cambridge Assessment on ‘Getting Started With Metacognition’.

4. The strong evidence and catalogue of associated resources evolved out of the EEF Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report


The Guidance Report itself and the Summary of Recommendations poster make very useful and accessible reading for all involved in teaching and supporting children in their learning. The Scaffolding Framework provides a practical framework designed to help scaffold pupils’ learning and encourage independent learning – another link to metacognition (above).


5. Opportunities for staff across the spectrum of experience to utilise the EEF Cycle of School Improvement

As I wrote about in a previous blog, #136 on Evidence Informed Improvement, this overarching or underpinning cycle is a great tool to support ever more effective approaches within school improvement.



In the coming weeks and months we will be sure to capitalise upon the questions Jonathan raised, resources he shared and evidence he outlined.

As John Tomsett, Headteacher of Huntington School (another of the 22 Research Schools) posted earlier this year in one of his blogs:

Evidence supplements experience, it doesn’t supplant it. Since the summer of 2013, when I began working with educational researcher Dr Jonathan Sharples from the IEE and the EEF, I have been learning how to teach more effectively. I have been combining the evidence available about how children learn with my years of experience as a teacher and I am, today, as good a teacher as I have ever been. And I now work in a school where every teacher is learning how to teach better, in a deliberate, conscious way.

Evidence can provide ‘best bets’ from which to explore effective next steps in school improvement from the classroom to the Trust Board. Blended with professional experience and considered within a specific context the scope for enhancing practices and improving outcomes are significant.

Here’s to an evidence-informed 2018.