Research in Schools
Topics to Research
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Technology and innovation
Schools continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of their learners and communities, often deploying new technologies in support of the innovation. These web pages are intended to help teachers, schools and others ensure that any innovation or use of technology is informed by the existing evidence and is properly evaluated so that successful innovations can become embedded in teacher and school practices.
At the outset it is important to be clear on the aims of any innovation, as these will form the basis for evaluating success, and the ‘logic model’ that sits behind the innovation, as this will form the basis of any changes in practice arising from the innovation.
Two types of innovation can be characterised:
Process innovations, where the aim is to develop a new way of meeting an existing objective. Examples might be using text messages rather than paper newsletters to inform parents about key dates, providing one-to-one tuition online, or using an e-learning solution to improve boys reading;
Outcome innovations, where the aim is to meet a new objective. Examples might be using text messaging to improve parental engagement in formative feedback, or using videoconferencing or an e-learning solution to offer a new modern foreign language.
A ‘logic model’ sets out the chain of cause and effect within the intervention. Where the logic model is not clear (for example, when a school introduces tablet computers without a clear view of the changes in pedagogy needed to achieve impact) it is difficult to develop an effective research project. The logic model for a ‘flipped learning’ innovation might be:
the teacher asks the pupils to engage with some online introductory resources prior to starting a topic;
as a result pupils arrive in class equipped with the introductory knowledge and skills needed
this frees up time in class for the teacher to cover more demanding areas of the topic
as a result pupils performance increases.
It becomes immediately apparent that this ‘chain’ could break at a number of places. This helps identify suitably focussed research questions.
What could I research?
There are many topics within technology and innovation that schools could investigate.
Here are some ideas:
|How can the schools' communications technology be used to engage parents in their children's learning?||How can the schools' management system be used to monitor progress and identify teaching interventions?||What are learners' experiences of technology outside the school and how can these be built upon?|
|Can the impact of a particular innovation on learners' attainment be tracked?||Research ideas||Are teachers clear how the available technology can be used to support teaching and learning?|
|What areas of expertise, skills or examples of best practice do staff have that they can share with colleagues?||How confident are teachers in using the technology that is in the school?|
What research design should I use?
Here are some things you will need to consider when designing your research project.
|You will need to consider who to include in your research. You may want to involve senior leaders (e.g. to find out how they identify for any innovation); technology coordinators (e.g. to identify the implementation priorities for the next year and the reasons for this); staff who have implemented the innovation and/or learners (to help measure impact). Depending on the scope of your research, you could compare and contrast different stakeholders’ views within (or between) schools.|
|When assessing the impact of any innovation, you are likely to use qualitative, quantitative and observational methods. The methods chosen will relate to the aims of the innovation and its logic model. For example you may interview staff to find out what uses of technoloy they find most useful and why; or you may choose to survey staff to explore what their training needs are. Observation before, during the implementation of the innovation, and after it has become established can help you monitor changes in practice, application of learning and any barriers. You could also consider an action research approach so that learning can be applied, monitored, adapted and reviewed more widely.|
|When evaluating an innovation, you will probably want to assess its impact. You can do this by collecting information on intended learning outcomes and how this knowledge will be transferred to learners (do this before the innovation event). You can then assess whether these outcomes have been realised after the activity, and measure to see if there has been any change in learners’ attainment, attitude or behaviour.|
Working with other schools
|You may want to work with a cluster or network of schools to find out if you share common needs or to identify who has specific skills in priority areas, so that learning can be shared, and to implement and evaluate the innovation jointly. Research findings from your school may be of interest to colleagues in other schools locally and nationally.|
Relevant research and guidance
NFER has carried out a great deal of research into technology and innovation. Here are links to some of our publications.
NFER also offers a facilitator-led session in your school on future planning, which includes how technology will impact your classroom.
You may also find some of these organisations’ publications useful:
Education Endowment Foundation:
The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary