EXPLORE: Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement.
If an implication of an evidence-informed approach to implementation is doing ‘fewer things better’, then it matters more than ever that we make the right decisions on what to implement.
The Explore section of Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation outlines how to make well-informed decisions, by breaking this process down into three parts:
- Specify a clear priority that is amenable to change
- Make evidence-informed decisions on what to implement
- Judge the feasibility of various options in the school’s context.
In the video below, Jo Lamb and Louise Quinn describe how they decided to introduce retrieval practice as a new teaching strategy at Bedlington Academy. The first step was to develop a detailed understanding of some of the barriers to pupil’s learning, by aggregating insights from a range of different sources. This included speaking to staff and pupils, looking at pupil’s work, analysing performance data, and looking at Ofsted reports, among others.
This process led them to notice that pupil’s ability to recall information in lessons and examinations was an issue, especially in light of the increased knowledge demands of the new GCSEs, and that focusing on memory could be worth exploring. In their implementation plan, notice how precisely they have characterised this issue, and from a range of perspectives – teacher behaviours, pupil behaviours and pupil outcomes. Further examples of completed implementation plans are available here. Exercise two helps you confidently identify a school improvement priority.
Once Jo and colleagues had identified this specific issue, they began looking at some possible solutions. They identified retrieval practice as a potentially promising strategy, which emerging research from cognitive science suggests could be valuable in consolidating long-term memory and embedding learning (see here).
Recognising that this was an innovative approach, and that it was worth testing the feasibility of any new teaching strategies in their context, they decided to pilot retrieval practice before rolling it out more widely. Encouragingly, this pilot study showed signs of improved pupils’ outcomes, so they began creating a detailed implementation plan to introduce the pedagogical approach more widely (see Prepare section).
As you consider different options on what to implement, try and look at a broad range of evidence-based resources, including the Teaching and Learning Toolkit and Guidance Reports. Some principles of how to engage with research evidence are outlined in the Explore section of the implementation guidance report.