EEF Blog: The Voices informing Teacher Choices

Our senior associate Megan Dixon introduces the latest EEF Teacher Choices trial – The Story Time Trial – as we seek evidence-based answers to the questions teachers most want answering… And invites primary schools to join us and get involved!

Teacher Choices trials are a new strand of EEF-funded projects that explore some of the most common questions teachers ask about their practice. They aim to identify and evaluate the impact of direct choices that teachers make in their own classrooms – you can read about the five features of a Teacher Choices trial here.

With teachers at the heart of the Teacher Choices trials, we have been exploring ways of connecting and collaborating with teachers – listening to the voices of teachers and what they would prioritise. We have run focus groups, presented at conferences, piloted seminar materials, and worked with Teacher Tapp to find out the questions teachers are asking about. 

We curated a list of questions we thought were testable and asked teachers to choose which they would be interested in finding out the answer to. Across the primary age range, the most popular option was to explore whole class reading.

Next we ran our first ‘Teacher Choices, Teacher Voices’ survey in December 2019, featuring it in this EEF blog, and sharing it via our email newsletter and across social media. Within just eight days we’d collected 423 survey responses. Although the vast majority indicated they lived and worked in the UK, there were respondents from as far afield as India, South Korea and Australia.

Using a combination of multiple-response and open-ended questions, the survey asked teachers to share the practicalities and reasoning behind how and what they chose to read aloud to their classes. This was something we had learnt from our Teacher Tapp survey that teachers in primary schools were particularly interested in.

We discovered that many Key Stage 2 teachers in our sample read aloud every day (49%) or a few times per week (37%). They generally read fiction (66%) and the books they read are often chosen to match the topic being studied (46%) or with input from the children (35%). Generally, teachers read to their classes for 10 to 15 minutes each time. The most popular time for reading aloud was before home time.

Get Involved

Get Involved

More than 14,000 schools, as well as early years and post-16 settings, have signed up to be involved in one of the EEF's trials. EIGHT EEF-funded projects are currently looking for volunteers to test the impact of their work.

Register your interest here.

We asked why teachers read aloud to their classes. Overwhelmingly, Key Stage 2 teachers cited a belief that it increases children’s enjoyment of reading (97%), an important outcome in itself. Another interesting finding was that 79% of our sample read aloud to model how to be a good reader and 73% of the Key Stage Two teachers read aloud because they felt it would improve reading comprehension.

There are also different ways of reading aloud. In some classes, teachers read the text aloud, without pausing, aiming to immerse the class in the story. In others, teachers pause regularly and ask questions designed to prompt the children to think about what they are hearing.

There is no consensus over whether one way of reading aloud is more effective for ensuring children comprehend the text they are listening to.

The Story Time Trial: how you can get involved

Which brings us to our next Teacher Choices trial - The Story Time Trial - which aims to compare two ways of reading aloud as the whole class listens: sustained reading aloud; and reading aloud with pauses to ask questions.

It’s easy to get involved in this trial. We will be asking teachers to read a text for 15 minutes every day to their class for three weeks. Some teachers will read continuously and others will stop and ask the children pre-written questions. We will ask teachers to administer some assessments at the beginning and at the end of the trial. It couldn’t be simpler!

If you are a Year 4 or Year 5 teacher or a senior leader or headteacher in a primary school and are interested in becoming part of this trial, please click here to find out more, and to express your school's interest in taking part please click here. Any questions, feel free to email storytimetrial@eefoundation.org,uk.