Evaluation of the TLIF: The GA and ASE Critical Thinking for Achievement project

Claire Wolstenholme, Sarah Reaney-Wood and Bronwen Maxwell (SIOE) and Suzanne Straw, Dawson McLean, Jack Worth and Ruth Staunton (NFER)

29 September 2022

Link to research report on DfE website

Between September 2017 and May 2022, NFER and Sheffield Hallam University undertook the evaluation of TLIF, a three-year funding programme which aimed to support projects offering high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers and school leaders in the areas and schools in England that needed it most. One of these projects was the Geographical Association (GA) and the Association for Science Education (ASE) Critical Thinking for Achievement (CTfA) project which set out to improve the quality of geography and science teaching in schools by providing subject-specific CPD to teachers and subject leads in primary and secondary schools through the application of critical thinking skills.

Key Findings

  • Recruitment to the CTfA project was initially slow due to a late start, meaning schools had already planned their CPD activity for the year ahead. However, over the duration of project GA recruited in excess of their target (380 schools and 1039 participants).
  • The target was for 70 per cent of recruited schools to be in priority areas (Achieving Excellence Areas category 5 and 6 areas) and, of these, 70 per cent to also be priority schools (Ofsted rated 3: Requires Improvement, or 4: Inadequate). GA over-recruited schools in priority areas (84 per cent). However, only 36 per cent of participants from priority areas were also from priority schools (below the 70 per cent target).
  • Participants felt that mixing both subjects (geography and science) and primary and secondary teachers on the same courses did not work for all participants. Often, primary school teachers (when in a group of secondary subject specialists) felt the course was not tailored sufficiently to their needs.
  • Teachers appeared to have made some sustained use of the CTfA activities and planned to continue using these in their schools. A key enabler for implementation was the provision of a variety of activities that were simple and easy to implement.
  • Teachers reported a positive impact on their pedagogy, but little to no impact on their subject knowledge. Lessons with increased pupil-led learning were seen as a positive development for teachers and pupils, and teachers reported an increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning in their pupils. Teachers also reported being more confident and able to teach more complex ideas, and to ask pupils more critical questions.
  • Analysis of the School Workforce Census data provides some evidence to suggest that the project may have had a positive impact on retention of primary school teachers. However, it is not possible to fully disentangle the effect of the project from other non-observed systematic differences between CTfA participants and non-participants. The project was not estimated to have had a statistically significant effect on retention rates for secondary school teachers.