The Sutton Report – Spreading Research in Education

The recent report by Coe et al. discusses What makes great teaching? and in 57 pages (including references) covers three key questions: What makes ’great teaching’?; What kinds of frameworks or tools could help us to capture it? How could this promote better learning?

It’s an interesting read with a lot to take in – my advice for the classroom is to read from page 45 starting at Best bets to try out and evaluate. Point 1 of their quick wins list identifies spreading awareness of research in education and in this vein I would direct you to the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning toolkit. This toolkit summarises 34 (currently as it is updated) topics – for each the toolkit reports on the effect on attainment, the strength of evidence supporting, and the cost for each strategy to improve attainment for disadvantaged pupils.

The toolkit estimates progress in months of progress where 6 months is equivalent to an effect size of 0.45-0.52 which equate to a whole grade improvement. The strategies with the biggest impacts (6-8 months) for secondary phase are:

  • Feedback – To learner about performance and relative to a learning goal.
  • Meta-cognition – Learning to learn / developing strategies to help with learning.
  • Peer tutoring – Learners work in pairs to provide each other with teaching support.

I have summarised the toolkit as a mind map here.


Moderate impact strategies (progress of 3-5 months) which can most readily by utilised within the classroom include:

  • Collaborative learning – working in small groups so all can participate.
  • Digital technology – supporting learning.
  • Homework
  • Mastery learning – break subject into units with clear objectives which are pursued until achieved.

How will this look in the classroom?

As teachers we are trained to be reflective practitioners – this was ingrained for me as a PGCE student, filling in endless evaluation forms / sheets after each lesson, or feedback following observations, peer teaching, and lesson study. We pull apart our lessons daily and think about how we can improve or what we would do differently for our students to make progress. With enough time each teacher would use their own intuition for what works with their classes and many would use the strategies outlined and identified by research. But would all teachers use all strategies? Evidence based teachers (described by Geoff Petty) would use the research to identify strategies (such as above), they would try them out, and critically evaluate the impact in the classroom. Keep the strategies that work and throw away those that don’t.

For more detail into research in education look to the work of Prof Hattie in Visible Learning where 138 influences are discussed and ranked according to effectiveness.

Further reading I would recommend is Evidence Based Teaching by Geoff Petty which critically assesses and importantly shares resources and practical examples for how these strategies will look in the classroom.  His website corresponds to the book and is packed with resources to download.