Using the Toolkit

Using the Toolkit

Like any toolkit, the Teaching and Learning Toolkit will be most useful when in the hands of professionals. The aim of the Toolkit is to support teachers to make their own informed choices and adopt a more ‘evidence based’ approach. The evidence it contains is a supplement to rather than a substitute for professional judgement; it provides no guaranteed solutions or quick fixes.

We believe that the Toolkit should be used as one step in a decision making process. One possible process is shown in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1. How should the Toolkit be used?

Step 1

Before identifying a new strategy and considering how to evaluate it, it is important to consider your school’s context, and what you want to achieve. Much depends on your school, its teachers (their levels of knowledge and experience), and its pupils (their level of attainment and their social background). Internal data and professional judgement should be used to identify priorities.

Step 2

Having identified what you want to achieve, the summaries in the Toolkit can be used to help identify solutions. Crucially, the summaries in the Toolkit combine evidence from a range of different research studies into a single average for each area. This average will not necessarily be the impact of this approach in your school. Some of the approaches which are less effective on average might be effective in a new setting or if developed in a new way. Similarly, an approach which tends to be more effective on average may not work so well in a new context. However, we think that evidence of average impact elsewhere will be useful to schools in making a good ‘bet’ on what might be valuable, or may strike a note of caution when trying out something which has not worked so well in the past.

To take an example we have discussed with many teachers since the Toolkit was launched in 2011, the fact that the average impact of teaching assistants (TAs) is not positive in no way means that TAs cannot have a positive impact on attainment. However, it does imply that schools might want to think carefully about the strategies they use to ensure that their TAs are deployed and supported effectively.

Step 3

As a result of the importance of context, it is crucial to use the Toolkit alongside on-going evaluations of the impact of the decisions you make, to ensure that the approaches you use are having the desired effect. To help with this step the EEF has published a DIY Evaluation Guide which provides advice for schools on how to evaluate new strategies as robustly as possible. Many changes in schools initially feel positive but have little lasting impact on learning so this step is essential.

Finally, it should be noted that the evidence summarised in the Toolkit takes educational attainment as its primary metric. Most of the measures used are traditional measures of attainment such as curriculum tests and examinations. This focus does not suggest that all educational aims and outcomes are captured in the literature that we have pulled together. Though we highlight impacts on other outcomes such as aspiration, attendance or behaviour where this information is available, these outcomes are not systematically recorded, or reflected, in the overall summary.