Dr Kevan Collins discusses the findings of the latest batch of EEF reports.
We live on a spinning Earth so why don’t we see or feel it moving?
Think about it for a moment. How would you go about answering this? Most adults would guess that our planet rotates so slowly we just don’t notice it. But in reality the Earth rotates at 700mph – faster than the cruising speed of a jumbo jet.
One Year 5 pupil responded to this question by saying: “if everything is moving all the time, like all the trees and houses, you don’t feel anything different from anything else.”
That, in a nutshell, is relativity! You need to be able to see something that isn’t moving or is moving at a different speed in order to be aware of your own motion. Everything we see moves with us.
Questions like this and the thought processes they provoke are an integral part of Thinking, Doing, Talking Science, a creative approach to teaching science in primary schools that we have funded, trialled and evaluated in 42 primary schools across the UK.
Over a year, the programme provides five professional development sessions to two teachers from each school. The training sessions help the teachers to deliver lessons that include creative investigations and class discussions that develop their pupils’ higher order thinking.
The independent evaluation of our trial, published on the EEF website today, found that this approach improved pupils’ science scores by as much as an additional term over a school year. Their attitudes towards lessons were better too with half of pupils reporting they found science lessons interesting, compared with 37% of pupils who were not involved in the intervention.
It’s likely that Thinking, Doing, Talking Science is even more effective for disadvantaged children. At a cost of just £26 per pupil, this will be welcome news for teachers and school leaders looking for resourceful ways to spend their pupil premium funding.
We’ve published nine more reports today, the results of trials we have funded and evaluated. These include the results of Improving Numeracy and Literacy, another intervention centred on effective teaching. This programme of teacher training and teaching materials is accompanied by a series of computer games designed to help engage the pupils with their learning.
It focuses on promoting children’s mathematical reasoning and our evaluation found it to have a positive impact on primary pupils’ numeracy skills, with their attainment in this area improved by three months. Interestingly, there was an association between greater use of the computer games and greater impact of the intervention, suggesting the computer games are important.
It’s fantastic when our evaluations produce solid evidence that a particular approach has a positive impact on attainment. It’s especially rewarding when they boost children’s attitudes towards learning too. But the reality of robust educational research is that these results are the exception and not the rule: many evaluations, including some of the ten we’ve published today, produce results that are ‘inconclusive’ or have ‘no impact’.
But whether trials have a positive or negligible effect on attainment, each nugget of evidence we obtain is equally valuable in helping us to better understand how research can inform our approach to teaching and learning.