TLRP's ten principles for effective pedagogy: rationale, development, evidence, argument and impact

Mary James, Andrew Pollard
2011 Research Papers in Education  
The ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme worked for ten years to improve outcomes for learners across the United Kingdom. Individual projects within the Programme focused on different research questions and utilised a range of methods and theoretical resources. Across-programme thematic seminar series and task groups enabled emerging findings to be analysed, synthesised and communicated to wider audiences. One outcome of this activity was the development of ten 'evidence-informed'
more » ... ence-informed' principles, which engaged with diverse forms of evidence, whilst acknowledging that 'users' would need to judge how best to implement such principles in their particular contexts. Synopses of these principles were published in posters and booklets, from 2006, but the evidence and reasoning underpinning them has not been fully explained. This contribution attempts to fill this gap. It provides a justification for the production of the TLRP principles and describes the iterative process by which they were developed. It clusters the ten principles in four broad areas that reflect the multilayered nature of innovation in pedagogy: (1) educational values and purposes; (2) curriculum, pedagogy and assessment; (3) personal and social processes and relationships; (4) teachers and policies. It elaborates the argument and evidence for each principle, drawing not only on findings from projects but, crucially, the thematic initiatives that began the synthetic work. There is also an attempt, though by no means comprehensive, to relate TLRP insights to research and scholarship beyond the Programme's school-focused work in order to ground them in a wider literature: to work in other sectors of education; and to the broader literature that has accumulated internationally and over time. Finally, the five years since the principles were first published provides some evidence of impact. Although direct impact on learner outcomes cannot be measured, it is possible to provide an account of take-up by mediating agencies and others. The piece has been prepared as a contribution to international dialogue on effective teaching and learning and to provide a focus for scholarly comment, sharing of expertise and knowledge accumulation. Rationale The bold aim of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) was to work to improve outcomes for learners of all ages in teaching and learning contexts across the United Kingdom. At the conclusion of TLRP's work, 1 it is appropriate to consider what it has contributed to the understanding and advancement of effective pedagogy. What is meant by 'effective pedagogy'? The effectiveness of educational provision needs to be evaluated by reference to the goals and values of the society it serves. Within contemporary Western democracies, three major strands of philosophical and political thinking on educational purposes are well established. The first concerns teaching and learning linked to economic productivityand has taken various forms historically as labour market needs have evolved. The second concerns social cohesion and the inclusion (or control) of different groups within societythis remains important within our unequal and diverse communities today. The third concerns personal development, fulfilment and expressionwith a contemporary manifestation perhaps in the term 'wellbeing'. The three are, of course, deeply interconnected. Indeed, the view taken here conceptualises 'effectiveness' as a mutually beneficial synergy among the three. What then of 'pedagogy'? Many years ago, Brian Simon published a paper entitled: 'Why no pedagogy in England? ' (1981). He compared the multi-disciplinary and 1 TLRP's generic phase ran from 2000 to 2009. Some additional work on technology-enhanced learning (the TEL phase) completes in 2012. scientific tradition of pedagogic thought and practice in Europe with the more instrumental approach to teaching that he found in England. Here, he argued, the development of teaching was dominated by a concern with the individual differences between learners and groups of learners, and how to respond to them. In contrast, as Simon put it: To develop effective pedagogy means starting from the opposite standpoint, from what children have in common as members of the human species; to establish the general principles of teaching and, in the light of these, to determine what modifications of practice are necessary to meet specific individual needs. (p. 131) This argument can be chased through at two main levels. It has implications for forms of institutional provisionand Simon was a strong supporter of the comprehensive principle. It also has implications for teaching and learning practices and the way the highly contentious phrase, 'what works', is understood. The TLRP, which has supported more than 100 projects, fellowships, thematic groups and capacity building initiatives, focused primarily on the second of these two levels: on teaching and learning in authentic settings inside and outside of schools and other institutions, through the life course. The specific findings of TLRP's projects are described in research briefings, articles, books, websites and other media. Its crossprogramme thematic work is published in a series of commentaries on contemporary policy issues, as well as in special issues of journals, research reviews for external bodies, and in briefing papers for direct communications with policy makers. 2 A major ambition of the Programme, for both analytic and impact purposes, has been to try to produce an evidence-informed statement of 'general principles' of teaching and learning, just as Simon advocated. The basic view is that a great deal is actually known about pedagogy, both in the UK and internationally, but that the synthesis, communication and implementation of such knowledge are far weaker than they should be. Why general 'principles' are an important outcome of TLRP? The diverse nature of TLRP's projects, which focused on different research questions in different contexts, sometimes using different methods and theoretical perspectives, did not permit formal quantitative meta-analysis rendering aggregated effect sizes of interventions as indicators of 'what works'. However, each project engaged with existing research in its own particular field or sub-field and built on this to take knowledge forward cumulatively. Through the mechanisms for knowledge exchange set up by TLRP, and drawing on their own particular networks and resources, research teams also developed thinking in dialogue with other researchers and users. In this way new insights were located in intellectual and political context through social processes. 3 2 Details of these outputs can be found on the TLRP website at: and via the British Education Index at (Accessed 17 th May 2011) 3 See James, 2006, for a detailed example drawing on the experience of one large project. 6 The expectation that the research would be carried out in authentic settings made it impossible to control all the variables operating at any one time. But it enabled researchers, working with practitioners, to grapple with the issues of implementation that so often confound best efforts to 'scale up' promising innovations. Furthermore, it enabled practitioners to use their knowledge, of the features of particular settings and characteristics of learners, to develop and refine generalisations from the original research. For all these reasons, when TLRP was asked what it (as a Programme) had found out about effective teaching and learning, generally, it was not justifiable to make unequivocal claims about findings in terms of categorical knowledge or cause-effect relationships. However, it was possible, in our judgement, to offer 'evidenceinformed principles', which could engage with diverse forms of evidence whilst calling for the necessary application of contextualised judgement by teachers, practitioners and/or policy-makers. Such principles, we believed, could enable the accumulation and organisation of knowledge in resilient, realistic and practically useful ways, and had the potential, progressively, to generate understanding and language for use within public debates. How the ten principles were developed The analytical and synthetic approach to reviewing the TLRP evidence involved an iterative process of working between the conceptual map that TLRP had developed to represent the scope of its interests with reference to teaching and learning (see Figure ' Outstanding' by independent peer and user referees appointed by the ESRC. 6 The single exception was not criticised for the quality of its design, methods or analysis but because its outputs were rather thin at the time when the end of award report was submitted. 7 Preliminary work on this narrative review, the explicit aim of which was to add value to the TLRP by synthesising its most important findings, was accelerated by the need in 2005 to respond to an invitation from the education team at HM Treasury, under the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to brief it about the progress of TLRP research. Aware of the current policy push for 'rapid reviews' or 'rapid evidence appraisal' (Boaz, Solesbury and Sullivan, 2004) , and the limited time to present an oral account of TLRP's work, the notion of ten principles offered a purposive framework for an initial summary of findings from projects just completing, and some suitably tentative implications for policy in the light of the recently published 2005 Budget Report.
doi:10.1080/02671522.2011.590007 fatcat:vlxpohslgzfgvh4liv63yjs6yi