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Every day, teachers make decisions in their day-to-day practice that aim to improve pupil learning but may have limited evidence to support these choices. To help, we introduced a new approach  to evaluation in 2019, Teacher Choices, to generate relevant and actionable evidence to resolve dilemmas teachers routinely face. We also launched a corresponding approach called  School Choices to investigate decisions made at setting level. After some disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now launching a new series of Teacher Choices evaluations and taking stock of what we’ve learned so far.

Consider a whole-class reading lesson in Key Stage 2: is it more effective for pupils’ reading comprehension to read a story continuously (‘GO!’) or to stop periodically for questions and discussion (‘STOP!’)? A research team at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) investigated this question in the  Story Time trial by randomly assigning Year 4 and 5 teachers to carry out either the STOP! or GO! approach with their classes for a period of three weeks. They provided short implementation guides for teachers in each condition to scaffold classroom delivery.

The trial found that pupils taught by teachers who stopped and asked questions while reading aloud scored higher in reading and listening comprehension, on average, than pupils taught by teachers who read aloud without stopping. More broadly, the study demonstrated that the Teacher Choices approach to evaluation is feasible and can be applied to other questions of interest to teachers and early years educators to inform day-to-day practice.

In Autumn 2023, we published the first set of Teacher Choice feasibility studies, including the Story Time trial, as well as A Winning Start’, which compared two approaches to lesson starters in Year 8 classes. These studies aimed to assess whether real-world practice-based questions could be successfully evaluated using a randomised controlled trial (RCT), and whether teachers could integrate a discrete set of approaches into routine teaching without disruption. The findings have left us highly encouraged, with a number of key takeaways.

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