Education Endowment Foundation:Embedding contextualisation in English and mathematics GCSE teaching

Embedding contextualisation in English and mathematics GCSE teaching

Association of Employment and Learning Providers
Implementation cost 
Evidence strengthNot given for this trial
Impact (months)Not given for this trial
0
Project info

Independent Evaluator

London School of Economics logo
London School of Economics
Testing whether teachers can be supported to contextualise English and mathematics lessons for post-16 learners
Schools: 6 Grant: £139,150
Key Stage: 5 Duration: 2 year(s) 3 month(s) Type of Trial: Pilot Study
Completed July 2019

Embedding contextualisation in English and Mathematics GCSE teaching’ trained English and Maths teachers to use real life and vocational contexts and examples in their teaching, to emphasise the relevance of studies to the future careers of students re-sitting GCSE English and/​or Maths.

The EEF funded this evaluation to build the evidence base on contextualised learning, An EEF review into post-16 approaches suggested that an integrated, contextualised approach could be more accessible and engaging to vocational students who struggled with GCSE Maths than a more traditional academic approach. Since 2014, students without a good pass in English and Maths GCSE (a 4’ or higher under the new GCSE grading system) must continue to study these subjects until they are 18, or secure a qualification in them.

This pilot study found limited increases in the use of contextualised learning in the classroom. It was therefore difficult to assess whether the intervention had an impact on outcomes like retention and attainment. The intervention helped to raise the profile of contextualisation among teachers and senior leaders, however teachers reported concerns about the challenge of applying contextualised knowledge to a non-contextualised GCSE exam

EEF has no plans for a further trial of Embedding contextualisation’ but will continue to consider other projects which aim to improve English and Maths outcomes for students re-sitting their GCSE exams.

  1. Overall, the increase in the use of contextualised learning in the classroom was limited and it was therefore difficult for teachers to assess whether the intervention had an impact on outcomes like retention and attainment.
  2. The intervention helped to raise the profile of contextualisation among teachers and senior leaders. Further education teachers and senior leaders generally supported the idea of using contextualised learning to improve pupil motivation and believed in the potential of this type of intervention.
  3. Teachers reported concerns about the challenge of applying contextualised knowledge to a non-contextualised GCSE exam. They also reported students’ tendency to respond better to real-life, rather than vocational, contextualisation due to a lack of interest in their vocational area.
  4. The intervention required teachers to attend four full-day training sessions. This was considered to be a significant investment, and may have been more attractive for settings if the training days had been more time-effective and were shown to have proven impact.
  5. If the intervention is taken forward for wider rollout, it needs significant changes. These could include the provision of additional resources, changes to the structure of sessions, and more clarity about the expectations of participating staff.
Question
Finding
Comment

Is there evidence to support the theory of change?

Mixed.

There is some evidence that the project raised awareness of contextualisation among teachers and senior leaders. However, there was limited increase in the use of contextualised learning post training. This meant that it was difficult to assess the impact of the intervention on pupil outcomes.

Was the approach feasible?

Mixed.

All providers completed the training days, though with substantial variation in the number and proportion of participating teachers. Providers generally supported the idea of using contextualised learning to improve pupil motivation, however, the evaluation identified a number of barriers including the high time commitment required, concerns about students’ ability to apply contextualised knowledge in the non-contextualised GCSE exam, and some students’ lack of interest in their vocational area.

Is the approach ready to be evaluated in a trial?

No.

Changes need to be made to the intervention before it is ready to be trialled. These changes may include the provision of additional resources, changes to the structure of sessions, and more clarity over the expectations of participating staff.