Independent evaluation of the Literacy Octopus

News Release

Friday 1 December 2017

Independent evaluation of the Literacy Octopus suggests more effective ways for research evidence to impact on classroom practice and pupil outcomes

The results of two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the Literacy Octopus, carried out and evaluated by NFER, have been published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) as part of its work to find out more about how academic research can have an impact on classroom practice and pupil outcomes.

The RCTs tested two approaches to the introduction and use of research in the classroom and NFER’s independent evaluators found that neither approach had an impact on attainment for the ten- and eleven-year-olds whose teachers took part in the trial.

NFER recruited 12,500 schools to take part in the first Literacy Octopus RCT that tested whether sending schools high-quality evidence-based resources could have an impact on pupil outcomes. The evidence was provided in a range of commonly used formats such as online research summaries, magazines, webinars and conferences.

The second RCT involved 823 schools and tested whether combining the resources with support on how to use them would have greater impact. Some of these schools received the resources with additional light-touch support, such as invitations to seminars on using the resources in the classroom.

Earlier EEF research found that many teachers struggle to interpret and act on findings from academic research, despite there being a growing appetite to do so. These latest high-quality trials tested a wide range of approaches in a large number of schools and the findings are useful both for researchers and for schools. They suggest that in order to improve pupil outcomes more needs to be done to ensure the evidence is both suitably translated for use in the classroom and to developing the conditions within schools to use research evidence effectively. According to the process evaluation that ran alongside the trials, in the small number of schools that went on to implement changes, in-school collaboration, trying out, reviewing and embedding the approaches seemed key.

Dr Ben Styles, head of NFER Education Trials Unit said, “Although the findings of this research are of critical importance to organisations involved in the translation of research evidence into practice, there are also aspects of these trials that should warm the hearts of those involved in rigorous evaluation research. The fact that over 800 primary schools were willing to sign up to a trial that required various levels of proactive engagement by teachers, in combination with the ability to analyse data from the National Pupil Database has resulted in a rare example of robust quantitative evaluation in this field.”

In 2018, analysis one further year on will assess any impact on pupil attainment as it may take time for any benefits to pupils’ learning to embed.

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