The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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All singing from the same hymn sheet: a new approach to assessment

By Claire Hodgson

At NFER we have long been involved in assessment and have worked closely with schools to help provide assessments and other products and services that support effective teaching and learning. We were aware that the abolition of reportable national curriculum levels created a dilemma for schools – on the one hand it gave them greater autonomy in the way they plan and assess learning; on the other, it created uncertainty about what this new way of assessing should look like. NFER was not alone in recognising this dilemma and, in partnership with ASCL (The Association of School and College Leaders) and SSAT (The schools, students and teachers network), decided to develop a free-to-use resource to support schools in developing their own approach to assessment. Continue reading


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Building bridges between teachers and researchers

By Matt Walker

Schools and teachers are increasingly expected to engage with research evidence to enhance teachers’ professional practice, pupil outcomes and school capacity for self-improvement. However, this is easier said than done and it can be difficult to know where to start. Last week I attended the first day of a two-day conference which brought together researchers and teachers to talk about using research to improve teaching and learning of STEM subjects.
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The power of collaboration: what schools can achieve through effective school-to-school partnership working

By Robert Smith

In a recent blog post I described what emerged from NFER’s evaluation of the Lead and Emerging Practitioner Pathfinder Project in Wales. I looked particularly at the characteristics of effective collaboration between schools. In this post I’ll describe the activities that resulted from this collaboration, and their perceived contribution to school improvement.
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Stronger by working together: Lessons on what makes for effective collaboration between schools in Wales

By Robert Smith

Allowing practitioners to design and lead change in the school system is increasingly the way that successful systems across the world are approaching educational reform. This trend is evident in Wales where policymakers are looking to harness the talent and enthusiasm that exists in schools to bring about a radical transformation of the way the education system works and an improvement in learner outcomes. This is regarded as essential if pupils in Wales are to fulfil their potential. It is also key to Wales’ effort to overcome disappointing outcomes, for example in recent PISA tests.
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Weaving a little magic

By Gareth Mills

Every day teachers have to weave a little magic. They have to take the dry words of a curriculum document or syllabus and turn them into engaging and memorable learning experiences for young people.

As teachers working hard to make a difference, we need to enjoy memorable and engaging learning experiences too. While one-off courses and conferences have their place, evidence suggests that the best CPD takes place over time, is focused on real classrooms and involves a degree of collaborative enquiry. That’s why NFER designed the Enquiring Schools approach to professional learning. Continue reading


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Striving for ‘knowledge animation’ – can we bring evidence-informed practice to life?

By Julie Nelson

Last month, Professor Carol Campbell (University of Toronto and Knowledge Network for Applied Educational Research) and I co-hosted a round-table discussion at the International Congress for School Improvement and Effectiveness, and simultaneously issued a call for papers for a special issue of Educational Research on evidence-informed practice (EiP) in education. We were joined by researchers, policymakers and teaching professionals from many countries.

The discussion provided an opportunity to discuss the issues planned for coverage in the journal.
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Research in schools: experience and tips from the frontline

By Caroline Fisher, NFER Product Manager

Recently, we were thrilled to get a group of school leaders together with whom NFER has worked independently on research engagement over the past couple of years. We wanted to find out how these schools have successfully managed to engage with research and what they have learnt from the process.

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ResearchED 2015 – Working out what works

By Ben Durbin

In his opening address at the third of his national conferences bringing together over 860 teachers, researchers, and policymakers, Tom Bennett compared ResearchED to his young toddler. Both born at a similar time in 2013, each seems to have a mind of its own and to grow and develop in ways far beyond Tom’s control. Continue reading


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Green shoots at the grassroots will grow a better profession

By guest blogger Alex Quigley, Director of Learning and Research at Huntington School, York

Few subjects in education can offer the promise of a consensus of opinion. Teachers, politicians and the mass of organisations in between, rarely agree on anything. And yet, there is a small number of emerging themes on which, it seems, many of us can find common ground – such as the need for a self-improving school system. Continue reading


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Standards and status – supporting the role of evidence in a College of Teaching

By Kelly Kettlewell

On Tuesday this week the Government announced plans to develop a College of Teaching, to ‘drive forward the culture change which is already starting to make teaching a more evidence-based profession which confidently grounds its practice in robust research and evaluation’. It will be supported by, but independent of, government and a consultation is now live.
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