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Evidence-Based Practice

Skills for Life Network

On the 3-day ‘Developing Advanced Practitioners’ programme we examine the notion of ‘evidence-based practice’, encouraging APs to explore interventions from multiple perspectives as advocated by Dr Gary Jones, for example:

  • What does research say on your topic/ intervention?
  • What is your professional judgement and experience of the topic / intervention?
  • What is your organisation’s context? 
  • What are your key stakeholders’ values and concerns about the topic/ intervention in question? 

I really like this approach as it says my professional judgement matters, my context matters but we can also learn from what’s been researched as long as we approach it critically using our professional judgment.

The Professional Standards are a helpful starting point: 

Sources of evidence

There are examples from other sectors too. In 2017 the DfE commissioned Sheffield Hallam University, Durham University and UCL Institute to examine evidence-informed teaching in the schools sector. Their findings are tiered with implications for individual teachers, institutions and at a national level, and they also informed the design of two Evidence-Informed Teaching  Toolkits. Project findings chime closely with Gary’s multiple perspectives and emphasise the importance of leadership and culture in fostering evidence-based practice. 

Observations and APs

You’ll notice in both the AP Functions and Values professional development card peer-to-peer support, ‘observations that are not graded or linked to performance management’ and ‘developing others in non-judgemental ways’ feature strongly. Many of the 15 collaborative projects, APs on both the CPD programme and CoP strand are actively engaged in supporting teachers’ practice using developmental observations. They are using a variety of approaches ranging from:

  • video peer-to-peer observations and discussion
  • teaching triangles
  • whole department open door weeks.
7 values of the AP role
6 functions of the AP role

Linked to this activity is Professor Matt O’Leary’s research on the topic of ‘classroom’ observations as a powerful tool for teacher development. He features in a Society in Education and Training (SET) article and video which are worth a view if observations are an area you are engaged in. 

Innovative observation

And if you want an overview of an evidence-based innovative observation cycle developed at Birmingham City University by Matt and his colleagues, do watch this short 12 minute video. The HE context is a different one from ours, but there are some interesting pointers.   

#Observeme is an interesting twist on observations from across all phases of the education system, with teachers taking back control of professional development. But again, the culture must be conducive to this.

#observeme sample 1
#observeme sample 2

Search #Observeme on Twitter to see more examples.

One of my colleagues highlighted these examples do, however, point to a ‘classroom’ model of observation. He believes the challenge for the Further Education and Training sector is that observations need to reflect the changing settings in which learning is taking place. If we consider delivery of the new apprenticeship frameworks where only 20% of the time is ‘off the job’ in providers, how does this impact on observation processes? 

So, a question from Colin: 

How do you see observation evolving in the light of your work on the AP project? 

Ofsted’s recent exploration of a range of international (schools based) models may be interesting to explore here. Ofsted is, after all, one of the sector’s key stakeholders. 

Do you have any examples of using observation or peer-to-peer observations as a powerful tool for professional development in a range of settings which you would like to share?

Do get in touch as it would be great to feature your examples.

Finally, I wanted to signpost a series of podcasts (just in case you have missed them) which really magnify for me ‘professional judgement’, and ‘organisational context’, as well as touching on wider research and stakeholders. These weekly podcasts are being recorded by Stefanie Wilkinson (Director of Teaching & Learning at Barnsley College) and Jade Gibson (Head of Quality Assurance at Myerscough College). Stef is part of the AP collaborative project being led by Shipley college: ‘Developing the Advanced Practitioner role’.


Listen to Stef and Jade debating how to best support teachers and managers to improve the quality of Teaching Learning and Assessment. So far they have discussed: 

  • How quality is monitored, assessed, reviewed and supported
  • How and why they do walkthrough observations and how they can contribute to a culture of excellence
  • Designing professional development to improve Teaching, learning and assessment

Joss Kang, Project Director

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