A Winning Start: A Teacher Choices Trial - School Information Sheet

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What is the Teacher Choices project?
The Teacher Choices project is exploring the feasibility of running robust evaluations of teachers’ everyday choices in the classroom. In every lesson, teachers choose how to approach teaching and learning such as how to start a lesson, how to engage pupils or how to manage behaviour. The Teacher Choices project aims to find out how everyday choices are implemented and how they affect outcomes in the classroom, exploring if a randomised controlled trial (RCT) methodology and teacher tests can be used to do this.

Who is conducting the study?
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded this study. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is conducting the evaluation.

What is ‘A Winning Start’?
‘A Winning Start’ is the first trial in the Teacher Choices project. It will evaluate two different approaches to starting lessons to examine how teacher choices impact pupils’ learning in science via a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). The study will compare two popular forms of lesson starters: quizzes and discussions. Quiz starters build on evidence about the impact of retrieval practice and aim to help students remember key facts and ideas. Discussion starters are a popular way to begin lessons that aim to engage students in the topic they are studying.

Year 8 teachers in science departments in schools in England will take part. The trial will recruit from September 2019, and the choices will be implemented in school in the Spring term (Jan-March 2020). Year 8 teachers from the participating schools will be given a short teacher guide to enable them to implement both approaches. The teachers will experience both types of lesson starters - one in the first half of Spring term and the other in the second half of Spring term. The type of lesson starter for each topic will be randomly allocated to teachers by researchers at the NFER.

The end of topic test scores from schools will be collected to assess whether quiz or discussion approaches are more effective. Researchers will also use another commercial science test to help assess the robustness of the analysis. At the end of the trial schools will receive a payment of £150 per participating teacher as a small Thank You for the time taken in being involved in the trial.

In addition to guidance on how to use the approaches, teachers will also be provided with telephone calls from a team at the EEF led by Professor Rob Coe, as well as email support.

We would prefer all participating science departments to implement the choices in the chosen topics that are listed below:

  1. The Periodic Table or your school’s equivalent topic that covers:
    • the varying physical and chemical properties of different elements
    • the principles underpinning the Mendeleev periodic table
    • the periodic table: periods and groups; metals and non-metals
    • how patterns in reactions can be predicted with reference to the periodic table.
  1. Light Waves
    • the similarities and differences between light waves and waves in matter
    • light waves travelling through a vacuum; speed of light
    • the transmission of light through materials: absorption, diffuse scattering and specular reflection at a surface
    • use of ray model to explain imaging in mirrors, the pinhole camera, the refraction of light and action of convex lens in focusing (qualitative); the human eye
    • light transferring energy from source to absorber, leading to chemical and electrical effects; photosensitive material in the retina and in cameras
    • colours and the different frequencies of light, white light and prisms (qualitative only); differential colour effects in absorption and diffuse reflection.

If the above topics are not suitable for your school’s science teachers to implement lesson starters within the project timeline, please let us know which two science topics are your school’s preference.

Which schools and science departments can take part?
‘A Winning Start’ is being run in science departments in secondary schools in England. To join the trial, the headteacher will sign up with the head of science being the main contact, and individual Year 8 science teachers will then take part. See ‘Joining the trial’ for further details. 

Which teachers can take part?
The trial will involve Year 8 teachers in science departments in secondary schools. Schools are welcome to nominate as many Year 8 science teachers as they wish to participate (a minimum of two per school is needed). To participate in this trial, we are asking teachers to teach two chosen topics in their entirety to participating class/es, over two half-terms.

What will the evaluation involve for teachers and schools?

Joining the pilot: Each school headteacher will sign the online Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and nominate their head of science department as the point of contact for the trial. Schools will identify which Year 8 science teachers will deliver lessons that cover the chosen topics and share their contact details with NFER.

The head of science will provide brief details of their student grouping practice in these teachers’ Year 8 science classes (e.g. setting, mixed attainment, streaming) and details on the current attainment levels of pupils in these classes. Researchers will take this into account in the randomisation, so that, for example the quizzing approach does not get allocated by chance to all the top sets for one of the topics. The Head of science will also provide their preferred science topics if participating teachers cannot implement the choices in ‘The Periodic Table’ and ‘Light Waves’

Baseline data: NFER will provide a template on the secure school portal for teachers to provide the baseline data required for the trial. This will include class lists for each teacher involved in the trial and end of Year 7 science assessment results for each pupil in the teachers’ classes.

Random allocation: Teachers will be randomly allocated by the NFER to the quiz or discussion approach to be used in teaching and learning with their classes during Spring 1. Each teacher will then switch to the other approach in the other topic in Spring 2. It is very important that teachers do not switch approaches with another teacher in their school. This is to ensure that we can properly understand the impact of each of the choices.

Follow-up data
Teachers will be asked to use their usual end of topic tests with their classes. They will need to provide copies of the tests, individual pupil results for each question and their overall score to NFER. It is important to have assessment data about every class/pupil in the trial at follow-up.

Evaluation logs and materials
Teachers will be provided with a trial log and guidance to help them briefly log each activity in the trial such as, how many times they used the approach, whether they adapted it and when their pupils did their end of topic test. It would also be very helpful for teachers to provide NFER with their materials used in quiz and discussion starters and a brief outline of their schemes of work for the topics. NFER will provide a user friendly trial log via secure school portal which will help schools to provide this data in a secure and systematic way.

Other evaluation data : All teachers involved will be asked to complete a short survey to provide their views about the approaches and the trial. Some teachers and heads of science departments will also be invited to take part in evaluation observations, short interviews and focus groups to give further views on the approaches being piloted and their experience of being part of the trial. The NFER researchers would also like to gather some pupils’ views about what they like or don’t like about the different discussion starters in a small number of interviews/discussions when visiting schools.

When will my school need to get involved?



Further information

September – mid November 2019

  • Sign-up to the trial with the NFER, and identify teachers to be involved


Schools Provide:

  • Head of science contact name and contact details, name, job role and contact details of Year 8 science teachers who are keen to participate and their class names
  • Teacher/science class level grouping information, e.g. mixed attainment or setting by attainment
  • School’s preferred science topics if the given topics are not suitable
  • Pupil names, date of birth, gender, EAL, FSM, end of Year 7 science score for all participating pupils and their science set/group

The NFER will provide an online data template for schools to complete the required data.

The NFER will also provide schools with a letter for parents that explains the research and gives them the opportunity to withdraw their child from the data collection for the study. This should be shared with all parents in the relevant class ahead of intervention.
Once the school has provided all the data, the NFER will provide the teacher guide and the random allocation of type of lesson starter for each topic and for each teacher.

November-December 2019

Participating science teachers to prepare lesson plans for the Spring term using the guidance document

NFER will provide the teachers’ guide that is prepared by the EEF

January - February 2020 (First half of the Spring term)

Schools start the intervention by delivering the given topic in the quiz or discussion arm.

Teachers and their classes to use the first lesson starter approach.

Teachers to complete end of topic tests with both groups of pupils.

Some short teacher telephone interviews and observations to provide feedback on experiences so far.

End of topic tests should be those normally used by the school.

End of February 2020

Schools to provide:

  • a record of lesson starter and trial activities
  • the end of topic test results for each pupil (for each question and an overall ‘score’)
  • the end of topic questions used
  • the quizzes and discussion starters used
  • an outline of the scheme of work for the topics taught

The NFER will provide a template trial log to teachers/schools to provide this data.

February - March 2020 (Second half of the Spring term)

Teachers and classes to swap discussion and quiz arm and deliver the intervention in the second topic.

Teachers to complete end of topics test with both groups of pupils.

Some lesson observations and short interview discussions with teachers and pupils.

Schools choose test date for GL Assessment’s Progress Test in science (PTS).

End of topic tests can be teacher chosen questions.

End of March 2020

Schools provide:

  • a record of lesson starter and trial activities
  • the end of topics test results for each pupil (for each question and an overall ‘score’)
  • the end of topic questions test used
  • the quizzes and discussion starters used
  • an outline of the scheme of work for the topic taught.

The NFER will provide test dates via portal for schools to choose.

The NFER will provide a template trial log to teachers/schools to provide this data.

March-April 2020

Pupil assessment (using GL Assessment’s PTS) administered with Year 8 classes by the NFER Test Administrators.
Teachers to provide their views on taking part in this study in a short survey.

Some telephone interviews with teachers and heads of science.

Payment of £150 per participating teacher made to all schools once the trial requirements are fulfilled.

The NFER Test Administrators are experienced, DBS checked ex-teachers who will work with schools to accommodate their needs.

July 2020

Teacher focus group (for a small sample of teachers).


September 2020

Summary report to schools.



How will my school and teachers benefit from taking part?
The trial aims to provide evidence that will be useful for teachers, departments and schools when making decisions about teacher choices in their classrooms. Your school’s participation will help to strengthen the evidence on the impact teacher choices can have on pupils’ attainment and how to robustly evaluate teacher choices.

By participating in the trial, we hope teachers will learn practical information that improves their teaching, benefit from the experiences and results of the trial and help generate new knowledge that can benefit all teachers’ everyday classroom decisions.

Schools that complete all the trial requirements will receive a payment of £150 per participating teacher.

How will the findings be used?
All teachers involved will receive a summary of the trial findings and this will also be freely available on the NFER and the EEF websites. The findings will also be used to provide a report to the EEF on the feasibility of running Teacher Choices trials in future.

Who needs to give agreement for participation in the pilot trial?
Schools will join the trial via their headteacher and/or head of science department. We will provide you with an information sheet for your science teachers to be passed on to your Year 8 science teachers.

We will provide schools with a letter for parents to inform them about the study and their child’s participation. Schools should share the letter with parents/carers of the pupils in the participating Year 8 classes.

Note that in a randomised controlled trial all data is important. It would be really helpful if we could collect data about all relevant classes/pupils taught by the teacher involved. The trial team really appreciate schools’ and participants’ support for the data collection.

What happens if a school, teacher or pupils wants to withdraw from the trial?
A school, teacher or pupil can withdraw from the trial and/or from their data being used in the trial at any time. Schools must notify NFER of any pupils or teachers who withdraw from the study.

Parents can choose to withdraw their child from the data collection of the trial at any time. They can do this by returning the form on the bottom of the parent letter to their school. Schools must not provide data about children whose parents withdraw them from the data collection. If the withdrawal takes place after the study commences, schools must notify NFER of such pupils to be removed from datasets and subsequent analysis immediately.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?
All data gathered during the trial will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018, and GDPR and will be treated in the strictest confidence by NFER. Your school’s key contact details and teacher contact details for the study will be shared securely between NFER and EEF – so that the EEF can get in touch with schools and teachers to provide guidance and support. No pupil-level data will be shared with the EEF.

All teacher and pupil-level data shared by schools with NFER will be done so via a secure school portal. For the purposes of the trial, all pupils will have an ID number.

No school, teacher or pupil will be named in any report arising from this work.

A Privacy Notice for the study is available here.

Who can I contact for more information?

For further information, please contact Jishi Jose, NFER Researcher on teacherchoices@nfer.ac.uk or on 01753 637205.