This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the delivery has been delayed and the evaluation will be completed later than planned. The evaluation protocol is being updated and will be published here as soon as possible.
Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) is a professional development programme designed to improve science outcomes by making science lessons more focused, creative and effective. Teachers are trained to develop and teach challenging lessons that incorporate more practical activities, deeper thinking and discussion, and enquiry-based learning.
Primary teachers are trained in the TDTS approach over four-and-a-half face-to-face CPD days staggered throughout the school year, with gap tasks for teachers to try out specific strategies and evaluate these in their own contexts prior to the next CPD session. Training sessions are designed to be interactive and practical and each one is led by two TDTS trainers to maximise these features of the training. All teachers also receive a very detailed resource pack to support delivery of the programme.
Prior to EEF funding, a quasi-experiment in primary schools in rural Oxfordshire was conducted. In that study, 16 treatment schools were matched with 16 control schools. At the end of the study the proportion of pupils achieving level 5 in science increased by 10 percentage points more in treatment schools than in control schools.
TDTS was then tested as an EEF-funded efficacy trial in 41 schools with positive impact of +3 months progress and an EEF effectiveness trial in 205 schools. Both of these trials were randomised controlled trials targeted at pupils in Year 5. The effectiveness trial showed no impact overall for science outcomes, a small impact for FSM science outcomes, as well as impacts on secondary outcomes of pupil interest in science and science self-efficacy. Between the efficacy and effectiveness trial, The Oxford Trust needed to develop a scalable model to deliver to a larger number of schools, which included training new trainers who were delivering to schools for the first time as part of the effectiveness trial
EEF are interested in re-testing TDTS to understand if the scalable mechanism can be improved to ensure better fidelity and therefore hopefully maintain the effects seen during the efficacy trial when the intervention is scaled up. As with the previous effectiveness trial, the new effectiveness trial will be delivered across several different regions.
This project is co-funded by the EEF and the Wellcome Trust as part of our Improving Science Education grant partnership programme.
The trial, led by Louise Elliott at York Trials Unit, will be a two-arm randomised control trial comparing Year 5 pupils in the treatment arm who receive TDTS with pupils in the control arm who will experience business-as-usual science teaching.
The trial will look at pupils’ science outcomes at the end of the first year of delivery using a standardised science outcome measure, there will also be a delayed post-test looking at outcomes for the next cohort of Year 5 pupils who are taught by the TDTS-trained teachers. This delayed post-test will enable us to understand what the impact of the programme is once it is embedded in schools and teachers become more expert at its delivery. Pupils in the first cohort will also be followed to the end of Year 6 to allow us to look at longitudinal outcomes.
The evaluation will include an implementation and process evaluation, which will analyse how the programme is implemented across different schools, the barriers and facilitators to implementation and to understand more about the success or failure of the scale-up model.
The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2025.