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Improving performance, engagement and achievement with teaching and learning

Topics to Research

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Curriculum 

The introduction of the new national curriculum for both primary and secondary schools has heralded a period of change for teaching and learning across the country. The new key stage 1, 2 and 3 curriculum comes into force in September 2014 by which time schools must have planned how they will deliver new material and revised their long term subject plans. Further public consultation is currently being carried out to inform the revisions of the mathematics, English and science programmes of study at key stage 4 so the changes are due to continue for some time yet.

For some teachers, such as those in academies, there is a degree of freedom regarding the curriculum they teach to their pupils. However, for many it is imposed. Despite this there are still a wealth of topics where research would inform the delivery of the curriculum. These web pages can help you carry out the research that is needed to inform practice and policy in your school.
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What could I research?

Here are some ideas that could be researched with respect to the curriculum:

Does the content and structure of alternative KS4 or KS5 qualifications better meet the on-going needs of my pupils?

 

What opportunities do we provide for pupils of different abilities or with different learning styles?

 

Are there curriculum areas in which pupils perform below the national average? What interventions could remedy this?

How will we ensure that all relevent staff are aware of changes to the curriculum?

 

Research ideas

 

How effective and useful is our communication to parents with regard to the curriculum?

 

Are we delivering the curriculum content in the best order?

   

Could the school day be better structured to optimise delivery of the curriculum?

Are there benefits of cross-curricular learning? What opportunities are there for cross-curricular learning (e.g. the presentation and interpretation of data in maths and science)?

 

Can we enrich the curriculum by providing new learning experiences for the pupils (e.g. guest speakers, use of ICT, practical activities, trips)?

 

Are student choices at GCSE and A-level influenced by the different specifications of the qualifications available? Does this have implications for the courses offered?

What research design should I use?

Here are some things you will need to consider when designing your research project.

Stakeholders

As with any research, you will need to consider who to include in your research. For projects investigating the curriculum you could include: learners, all or sub-sections of your school staff; parents/carers; and governors.  

 

Developing young researchers

You may want to encourage your learners to participate in research into the curriculum. They may be able to offer invaluable insights into the questions that should be asked, how information or data should be collected and the interpretation or analysis. They may respond more openly and honestly if they can take ownership of the research and they may be able to encourage parental engagement. Additionally, the activity will also help them to develop their own learning and core skills.

 

Methods

You could use a range of methods, including:

  • interviewing learners and other stakeholders to get their perceptions of change
  • observations of learners and activities
  • interviews or focus groups with stakeholder groups
  • surveys to assess levels of engagement
  • literature reviews to discover examples of good practice elsewhere.

 

Measuring change

If you are evaluating an intervention, it is best practice to use a ‘before’ and ‘after’ assessment so you can track change. This can be done by asking pertinent questions of key stakeholders, at the outset, e.g. about their enjoyment of subjects, again at the end. It is not always possible to ask before (pre) and after (post) questions, in which case, just do so afterwards – this way you can learn from their experiences and implement relevant changes.

Relevant research and guidance

NFER have a set of practical guides to the 2014 National curriculum which identifies the changes in key stage 1 and 2 English, Mathematics and Science programmes.

NFER has researched various topics linked to the curriculum. Here are links to some of our publications:

Key Stage 4 Policy Reform and its Potential Impact on At-Risk Young People

Reforming Key Stage 4 Qualifications

Why mathematics education needs whole system, not piecemeal, reform

Languages at key stage 4 2009: evaluation of the impact of the languages review recommendations: findings from the 2009 survey

The INCA comparative tables (update was completed in March 2013) providing a readily comparable overview of the detailed descriptions of national education policy in the country archives, including curricula

Curriculum and Progression in the Arts: an International Study

Eurydice: History in the Curriculum

Review of the curriculum and qualification needs of young people who are at risk of disengagement

Pupils' experiences and perspectives of the National Curriculum and assessment: final report for the research review

Comparison of the English Core Primary Curriculum to those of other high performing countries

Curriculum and teaching innovation: Transforming classroom practice and personalisation

Evaluation of the STEM Education Initiative in the London Borough of Camden

You may also find some of these organisations’ publications useful: