The Visible Classroom

The Visible Classroom project aimed to use lesson transcripts to promote effective teaching practice and improve the attainment of pupils in primary school. The approach used ‘real-time captioning’ technology to generate a live transcript of teachers’ speech in lessons and was developed by the University of Melbourne and technology provider Ai-Media UK.

Lesson transcripts were made available to teachers and used as the basis of a personalised ‘dashboard’ which provided information about key features of lessons, such as the balance of teacher and pupil talk, the amount of ‘thinking time’ given to pupils and the types of questioning used.

In addition, live transcripts could be projected directly onto a whiteboard or tablets. Pupils could use the transcripts to review learning instructions and goals, and used the devices to provide feedback on their learning at the end of each lesson.

This pilot evaluation involved ten primary schools in London and the West Midlands. Participating schools received training and followed the approach over two terms in the academic year 2013–14.

The evaluation had three aims. First, to assess the feasibility of the technology and overall approach. Second, to provide recommendations that could be used to improve the approach in the future. Third, to assess the promise of the approach, and its components, to inform any future trial.

This project was co-funded by the EEF and Nominet Trust as part of a funding round focused on digital technology.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. Overall, teachers were positive about the Visible Classroom approach, and believed that it had the potential to benefit both themselves and their pupils.

  2. Most teachers were adept at using the technology in the classroom, even if they had not done so before this trial. There were some technical problems related to hardware, software, and internet connections, but after an initial bedding-in period most were overcome.

  3. Though few teachers spent time reviewing the verbatim transcripts, the online dashboard and more detailed feedback reports based on the transcripts were seen as valuable tools to support teacher development. To maximise the impact of the feedback, teachers would benefit from being given greater opportunity to review and discuss their practice with peers and managers.

  4. Pupils did not seem to use live transcripts of teacher dialogue regularly, consistently, or in a way that would suggest an obvious benefit in learning. Teachers had mixed views on whether the live transcripts might have additional benefit for disadvantaged pupils or their peers.

  5. Further research would be required to assess the level of impact the approach has on academic attainment. Prior to considering a full trial it would be valuable to undertake some additional development work to refine the approach.

What is the impact?

The pilot study found that the Visible Classroom approach is feasible and has the potential to make an impact on teacher practice that may lead to benefits in pupils’ learning.

Most schools that participated in the project were enthusiastic about the approach. Teachers appreciated having a record of their teaching performance and believed that they benefited from the analysis dashboard and the more detailed feedback reports. Though very few teachers spent time reviewing the entire transcripts of their lessons, all participating teachers used the dashboard regularly, and felt that this was the aspect of the approach most likely to change their behaviour and lead to increased pupil attainment. To further improve the impact of this component, it would be valuable to ensure that teachers are provided with allocated time to reflect on feedback, and are able to discuss the feedback with peers or managers. Most teachers were adept at using the technology, even if they had not done so before the project.

There was less evidence that live transcripts of lessons directly benefited pupils by increasing their engagement or enabling them to review previous parts of the lesson. Though some teachers thought that the transcripts were of benefit to children, many classes did not follow the live transcripts and some teachers actively discouraged pupils from following the live transcript during whole-class teaching.

Teachers also had mixed views about which pupils were likely to have most benefited from the live transcripts. Some felt that transcripts offered reinforcement and information checking for poorer performing pupils whilst others felt the pupils had to be fairly skilled to find the information they needed and so only the higher performing children were able to do this.

How secure is the finding?

The pilot was a qualitative evaluation of the Visible Classroom approach based on 27 semi-structured interviews with staff in participating schools, and two classroom observation visits. During observations the evaluation team assessed how the approach was used, levels of pupil engagement, and the use of tablets.

To view the project protocol please click here.

How much does it cost?

The approach is estimated to cost approximately £367 per pupil, based on five hours captioning per week over one school year and class sizes of 25 pupils. This estimate includes analysis costs (£158 per pupil), equipment (£12 per pupil), training (£125 per teacher), and live captioning (£192 per pupil).