Collaborative Action Research in Argyll and Bute

Published on: Author: Mark Murphy Leave a comment

by Stuart Hall Senior Researcher ROC

On a sunny afternoon in June I attended a presentation of Collaborative Action Research (CAR)[1] projects from four Argyll and Bute schools in Colgrain Primary School in Helensburgh. An invited audience of councillors, local authority staff from Argyll and Bute, Highland and Moray councils as well as teaching staff from across schools in Argyll and Bute heard how small short-term CAR projects were helping to improve pupil literacy in primary schools.

By pooling some of their Pupil Equity Funding (PEF)[2] teaching staff from Colgrain, John Logie Baird, Roseneath and Garelochead Primary schools have been working together over the past year to develop, implement and evaluate a number of literacy based interventions aimed at improving the learning of pupils. The schools have been supported in this endeavour by Alison Drever, a Senior Education Officer from Education Scotland and by a small team from the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change led by Professor Chris Chapman.

Professor Chris Chapman and Argyll & Bute Teachers Networking

Alison organised planning meetings with school staff over a period of a few months in Spring 2017 to support them in identifying the focus of their proposed intervention and developing specific aims and objectives for the programme. The Robert Owen Centre team became involved in the initiative during the summer term 2017 initially providing input and support for the Collaborative Action Research process.

By September 2017 four teams had emerged, each with a different literacy focus, targeting different pupil groups, and each posing a specific research question. See below

  • Through the implementation of Bloom’s Taxonomy how can effective questioning techniques improve reading comprehension?
  • Can effective evidence be gathered using Bloom’s Buttons questioning to show progression towards First Level?
  • Is Bloom’s Bears an effective strategy for developing reading comprehension in the Early Years?
  • Is a whole class novel an effective way to improve children’s reading comprehension?

Each cross school team developed a relatively short-term intervention, typically 8-12 weeks, and an evaluation plan to investigate the extent to which their intervention was successful. Lesson Study[3] was a feature in each of the Interventions.

June 2nd brought all of this experience together as the individual teams presented their CAR project and outcomes to a wider audience. Each presentation  highlighted: the planning process; the action taken by the team; the data they had collected; and the conclusions that they arrived at following the intervention. Presentation: Argyll & Bute CAR Sharing 2018

In each of the presentations it was abundantly clear that the staff found the experience very worthwhile, particularly the visits to each others school. This was not just about experiencing Lesson Study but was also important in widening their knowledge of practice in other settings.

It was also evident from the data presented by the teams and the narrative of staff that that in each of the four interventions pupil literacy had improved beyond staff expectations. Workshop discussions which followed the formal team presentations underlined the progress which many pupils had witnessed in their literacy as teachers spoke about the experiences of individual pupils and their families.

Looking to the future, Alison Drever and the Robert Owen Centre will be continuing to support the initiative over the 2018/2019 academic session. However, much of the support will be geared towards widening the impact of the initiative across the authority through supporting the development of school networks. Beyond the authority the ROC team are development their Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) and it is expected that the work in Argyll and Bute will form part of this national initiative.

[1] CAR basically involves a team of practitioners coming together round a specific issue, planning and developing an intervention, implementing the intervention and evaluating the extent to which the intervention was successful.

[2] The Pupil Equity Fund is provided as part of the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund which will be invested over the current parliamentary term (2016 to 2021). The PEF is allocated directly to schools and targeted at closing the poverty related attainment gap. 95% of schools in Scotland have been allocated funding for pupils in P1-S3 known to be eligible for free school meals. This funding is spent at the discretion of the head-teacher working in partnership with each other and their local authority.

[3] Lesson Study typically involves teachers working in small groups to plan lessons that address a shared learning goal for pupils. These lessons are delivered while their peers observe, and refine the lesson plans based on feedback and review. The focus of peer observations is on the learning of particular pupils rather than the teacher.


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