Posted on 7th February 2022

How to make the most out of Ofsted's Research Review in English

3:41 PM, 31st January 2022
How to make the most out of Ofsted's Research Review in English

How to make the most out of Ofsted’s Research Review in English

Nick Wallace, English Mastery

Over the past few months, Ofsted have been undertaking a deep-dive into the educational research available in the curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment protocols for core subjects. Curriculum research reviews for Mathematics, History, Languages and others are currently available, and the research review for English is due to be published in the next couple of months.

So, how can subject leaders in English prepare for and engage with the research review?

Before the research review is published:

1. Browse through the research reviews that are already available.

History, Music, and Languages have lots in common with the discipline of English, and give some clear indications on the topics that will be covered in the English review.

We can expect to find research summaries on:

  • the scope and sequence of the curriculum (why this? why then?);
  • classroom pedagogy (how do you implement the curriculum successfully?); and
  • assessment (how do you know your curriculum is working for all learners?).

When the research review is published:

2. Look for sections that describe your department’s current approach to curriculum and implementation.

Whether deliberate or otherwise, you and your colleagues will already be developing and delivering a curriculum that’s rooted in great practice and educational research. Browse through the research review and identify which areas describe what you and your colleagues are already doing – you may even like to dive into the research further to find out more!

3. Identify areas of the research review where your curriculum is less developed.

The research review will be broad and comprehensive. Naturally, there may be areas where you and your team have less of a grasp on what research suggests leads to the best outcomes for students. It may be helpful to note down these areas and conduct some further reading in your department, or speak to colleagues in other schools to find out how they’re addressing that area of practice to improve their curriculum and teaching.

4. Be prepared to engage critically with some of the conclusions.

One of the best things about English teaching is the diversity of approaches that we see in departments across the country. It’s quite possible that you have some reservations – or disagreements – about the suggestions and conclusions drawn in the research review.

You may think, ‘This doesn’t describe the curriculum we want for students in our school’, or feel that there are other forms of research which haven’t been adequately represented in the review. This is what happened with my colleagues in Maths Mastery when Ofsted published the review in their subject, and has led to some brilliant discussion and debate about the nature of their subjects.

That’s one of the purposes of the research reviews: they provide a robust, comprehensive stimulus to encourage subject and school leaders to continue to engage with the curriculum – the very substance of education.

5. Continue your own journey in engaging with educational research.

There are loads of great books and articles available that offer accessible entry points into engaging with educational research. Some favourites include:

  • Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham – a great starting point which has recently been republished in a second edition
  • Making Good Progress? by Daisy Christodoulou – an engaging insight into the educational research behind assessment pedagogy
  • ‘Principled Curriculum Design’ by Dylan Wiliam – a short paper outlining some key principles in developing – and implementing – a successful curriculum

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