Last year, three education researchers from Durham University tried an interesting experiment. They carried out an intervention with several primary schools – an intervention that should have had a positive impact on their students' learning. But the researchers weren't interested in the outcome for the students – at least, not directly. What they were interested in was how the teachers implemented the intervention.
The intervention was based on research published in 2007 by John Hattie and Helen Timperley on enhanced feedback. Their research highlighted the characteristics of effective feedback and formalised those characteristics into a structure teachers could apply in their teaching. The effectiveness of the implementation of enhanced feedback was not in question in the Durham study: several previous studies have shown an effect size of around 0.6.
Beng Huat See explains: 'The aim of the project was to see if the schools could engage with research evidence and use it to inform their instruction. So the schools came together – the heads, lead teachers and subject leaders – and they read the paper by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, extracting information to help them understand the different types of feedback strategies to be used in a classroom. Afterwards, they went back to their schools and cascaded the training to the other teachers.'
Nine primary schools took part, involving all Year 2–6 pupils over a whole academic year.
Once the training had been given to all the teachers, the researchers went in to the schools to evaluate how enhanced feedback was being implemented. 'Our job as evaluators was to go and observe how the training was being implemented in the school and the challenges the teachers faced,' Beng Huat explains.
The researchers observed lessons and interviewed teachers, subject leaders and pupils. And they also evaluated the academic achievement of students in the schools and compared with other schools in the borough and nationally.