Thursday, 24 October 2013

Marginal Gains Project: My Introducation to Staff

I had 5 minutes at a staff meeting to launch our small-scale action research project to staff. It's based on the concept of marginal gains. Here it is my script (which I kind of stuck to):

Could you be better? How can you work out what could make you better in these very specific, and special, surroundings ?

Will Gove's latest idea make me a better teacher in Y13 philosophy lessons? Will the latest idea I see on Twitter help me teach 9L better? Will the new initiative from SLT improve the number of A*s I get with 11/1?

What do I know? I know for a fact that my Y13 class, results wise, have performed as well, no better, but no worse, in a unit they self taught in the summer term. I've got some feedback, some really enjoyed it and got a huge amount of satisfaction, others were indifferent and some felt worried but are pleased with the results. Last year, I firmly believe Y12 were not convinced - and nor were we - that this would work and we'd have to reteach, but it did.

What do I also know? I said to the ACE group that at another school, they had a 97% return rate on the Family Learning Project. I raised a few eyebrows, no one thought it would be that high at Sacred Heart. They were right, it was only 96%.

Research is not just about data. It's about predicting, testing, reflecting and changing to see what works.

Ben Goldacre, of TV's 'Bad Science' fame was a key note speaker at the ResearchEd conference. He drew parallels between us and our fellow professionals in medicine. How would you feel if you doctor said, "Try this, I've always suggested it and it's been alright." You then find there have been no trials or tests of any kind of evidence to back it up. Would you take that medicine? Would you go back to that doctor?

Research needs to take place as part of a community. What works for me, may not work for you, but when we share ideas we may find something that works for both of us. How can we teach our students better? How can we react to the very individual environment in which we work? How can we help our departments? Year groups? The wider school community?

If you fancy trying something, there is a mini-project we're launching. We're asking staff including teachers and support staff to consider looking at small parts of their teaching, small things that might give small gains. Then to come back to share with us what they've learnt. What's worth putting time and energy into, and what's not? Over time, we start to build a picture of teaching in Sacred Heart, one that helps both us and the students achieve more. The mantra of marginal learning gains is “Tiny Changes, Big Difference”, let's try and work out what those tiny changes need to be in Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School.

To download the document given to staff <here>. Big thanks for Kev Bartle for sharing his schools' work on this.

This is a very interesting TED talk about how just 30 days can change habits... can our staff do this?

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