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Impact Case studies

 

Improving Learner Outcomes: The role of awareness in teaching and learning literacy and numeracy in KS2

Project description

This project (2001-2004), led by Terezinha Nunes, Peter Bryant, and Jane Hurry, investigated pupils’ and teachers’ implicit and explicit knowledge of advanced aspects of literacy and numeracy, and the ways in which making implicit knowledge more explicit can contribute to improved learning outcomes for all learners. The research involved large-scale surveys, interview and observation studies, and an extensive programme of intervention studies and correlational studies. The research identified important aspects of numeracy and literacy, which pupils had difficulties grasping and applying, but which were not taught explicitly and systematically in school. These aspects included conditional phonological and morphological spelling rules (in literacy); and intensive quantities (ratios) and fractions (in numeracy). The findings and outcomes of the project contributed to the development of new ways of approaching pupils’ difficulties with literacy and numeracy in KS2.

Practice-relevant knowledge

1) Relevant findings and recommendations: The project generated innovative findings of great practical importance. It showed that explicit teaching of the advanced aspects of literacy and numeracy under study can enable better learning outcomes for many groups of learners, including learners from deprived socio-economic backgrounds, learners with English as an additional language, and learners with disabilities. The practical implications of these findings were carefully teased out and transformed into evidence-based recommendations and materials over the duration of the project and beyond. The study also noted that current curriculum policy and practice did not encourage the explicit teaching of the aspects identified. Thus it recommended changes in curriculum design and materials and classroom practice, as well as targeted initial and in-service teacher training.

2) Development of curriculum materials and classroom strategies by the project team in collaboration with practitioners. For example, the findings about differential outcomes of contrastive versus non-contrastive (or “block”), and explicit versus implicit, methods of teaching and learning of linguistic and mathematical rules were embedded in the elaboration of innovative classroom and professional development materials (including the production of three CDs, two on literacy and one on numeracy, drawing on the observation studies). The materials on morphological interventions were used directly, with researcher support, by practitioners from the Hillingdon Cluster of Excellence in their work with about 1000 pupils and in their individual practice-based projects. They were also made available to many others, together with practitioner guidelines and research briefings explaining the benefits of systematic and consistent use.

Synergies between research and practice

1) Practitioner engagement in assessing interventions, follow-up, and replication: Some of the changes proposed were tested out in the small group experimental interventions included in the study, and strategies were developed, in collaboration with practitioners, in order to transform them into methods that could be used in the classroom. These were replicated in larger, whole-class interventions and follow-up studies, which involved practitioners, at different stages of the research. For example, a whole-class intervention study on the teaching of morphemic spelling rules replicated the findings about the effectiveness of their explicit teaching. Findings about the higher effectiveness of early teaching of ratios rather than of fractions were also replicated, in a Scottish extension of the project. Finally, a Nuffield Foundation funded follow-up project developed findings in relation to the teaching of deaf children.

2) Practitioner research: Other findings and recommendations were voluntarily taken forward and refined by individual teachers and schools involved in the study, and beyond. Several teachers involved in the study obtained Best Practice Scholarships to enable their continued contribution to the project and practical refinement of the issues arising from its findings. The teachers who participated in the dedicated six workshops, four INSETs, and two masters modules, developed by the research team, later became involved in designing further ways in which to assess the classroom interventions developed through the study. For example, teachers from Lauriston Primary School developed further questions, based on their practice, to be addressed through the extended use of the teaching methods and learning tasks developed through the intervention component of this project.

Capacity for engagement in and with research

One of the aspects that are central to the improvement of capacity for good quality research in the UK, a major aim of the TLRP as a whole, is the quality of the partnerships established through and around research and of the connections established across sectors, disciplines, and types of activity. The “Role of awareness” project had major contributions towards the attainment of this aim, as illustrated below.

1) Enabling exchange and impact through partnerships: despite structural barriers mitigating against teachers’ substantial involvement in research,the project team established strong working partnerships with individual teachers, schools, clusters, and other actors (such as the QCA and regional co-ordinators of the National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy Strategy). The partners engaged in the project not only as gatekeepers and respondents, but also as agents of change and development, partners in decisions about research and its use, and co-authors of publications.

2) Practice-oriented knowledge generation and exchange: arguably the considerably impact of this project on classroom practice was facilitated by the practice-oriented forms of exchange which it enabled. These exchanges comprised not only conventional forms of dissemination (such as publications, presentations, and meetings), but also hands-on sessions, including masters-level modules, and creative articulation between the main project and associated practice-based research.

3) Student and practitioner research: a final example of the project’s contribution to improved capacity and quality to engage in and with research (on a broader scale than through the capacity gains resulting from further training and experience of existent research staff) consisted of its role in developing students’ and practitioners’ ability to carry out practice-based research and to contribute to further research projects. The number and quality of student and practitioner projects taking further this study surpassed expectations. In addition, the project contributed to the development of the capacity to identify and use research findings in the development of practice and to design systematic ways in which different types of interventions could be assessed.

 

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