Research Based Practice

Research Based Practice

Atwood strives to be at the forefront of academic research in order to improve teaching and learning practice.  This ensures that our teaching does not become ‘stale’.  In practice, this means that senior leaders and teachers collaborate with other high performing schools as well as carry out their own research into what constitutes innovative or emerging practice.  We then consider how new initiatives and practices can be introduced to Atwood on a small scale, sometimes by introducing them to a particular group of children, class, year group or Key Stage.  Senior Leaders then evaluate the successes of such innovations and consider their wider implementation.

Here is a snapshot of our current initiatives:


Growth Mindset

Henry Ford sums up Growth Mindset brilliantly; our children have heard his quotes often.

If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right…’

‘ Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.’

Growth Mindset is based on Professor Carol Dweck’s research which looks at how learners’ particular Mindset affects their ability to learn.

Put simply, Professor Dweck asserts that there are 2 Mindsets predominant in learners:

  • A Fixed Mindset which is characterised by a perception that intelligence is static and therefore, learners with a Fixed Mindset tend to want to appear ‘smart’ and may have a tendency to present the following learning behaviours. When faced with:

Challenges- they tend to avoid challenges

Obstacles- they tend to give up easily

Effort- they see effort as worthless

Criticism- they ignore useful negative feedback

Success of Others- feel threatened by the success of others

  • A Growth Mindset which is characterised by a perception that intelligence can be developed and therefore, learners with a Growth Mindset tend to have a desire to learn and therefore have a tendency to present the following learning behaviours. When faced with:

Challenges- they embrace challenges

Obstacles- they persist in the face of setbacks

Effort- they see effort as the path to mastery

Criticism- they learn from useful criticism

Success of Others- they find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

Staff at Atwood develop and foster a Growth Mindset both through the taught curriculum as well as through the ‘hidden curriculum’, for example, through our pastoral interactions with children and through our management of behaviour and through our PHSE lessons.  It is in everybody’s interest that our children have the mental outlook and capacity to be resilient enough to solve complex problems whilst learning from failure and useful criticism.  Atwood’s staff also carefully target praise in order to ensure that effort, hard work and resilience are also recognised and rewarded. Staff endeavour to ensure praise is specific rather than generic.


Lesson Study

What Is Lesson Study?

Lesson Study is a Japanese model of teacher-led research in which a triad of teachers work together to target an identified area for development in their pupils’ learning. Using existing evidence, our teachers collaboratively research, plan, teach and observe a series of lessons, using ongoing discussion, reflection and expert input to track and refine their interventions.

What is the process for Lesson Study?

Lesson study broadly follows 3 core steps once a focus of research has been decided upon.  These are:

  1. Planning- Plan a lesson together; address your learning activities to the focus; predict how the pupils will react to the activities and how you will assess this; select a small sample of case children
  2. Observe- Teach the lesson with your colleagues observing; pay particular attention to the case pupils; conduct assessments and conferencing with the case pupils
  3. Reflect and Plan- As soon after the lesson as possible, reflect how each activity elicited the desired change- were the predictions correct? Why?

Then repeat!  Atwood’s staff engage in the Lesson Study approach 3 times per year.

Atwood’s staff have the following key questions to consider when engaging in Lesson Study.

What is the focus of the Lesson Study?

What are the reasons for the focus?

What have we learnt?

How have we changed our practice?

How do we disseminate our learning to others across the school therefore levering larger scale improvements to teaching and learning?


At the end of the academic year, all lesson study teams will prepare a case study and throughout the year, teams will present their findings during staff meetings. At the end of the year, the following will take place:


A Market Place- a special staff meeting where all Lesson Study teams present their research, with 1 member of the team presenting at a time.  Findings of the Lesson Study research will be presented here on Atwood’s website. 


Here is a flavour of current Lesson Study research foci:

Preview: Preview is a form of pre-teaching. Some studies have shown pre-teaching to be the number 1 way to ‘close the gap’. Preview can take a number of forms:

-          Rather than set homework, give children a week to complete pre-unit learning at home, then start the unit with a pre-unit assessment in order to build on their starting points – letting them and their parents know in advance what they will be learning the following week.

-          Let parents know: ‘If you talk to your child about… then this will give your child an advantage next week.’

-          Set up preview clubs for disadvantaged children, or those unlikely to complete their homework.

-          Pre-teaching vulnerable children the previous day, or earlier in the day


Breakthrough: Taking children out of their comfort zone – for example, giving them opportunities that you think someone 3 years older would struggle with.


SOLO taxonomy: ‘Structure of Observed Learning Outcome’ – increasing children’s focus on understanding and applying, rather than purely knowledge.

Embedding Open Differentiation:

-          Introduce children to challenges entitled ‘interesting’ rather than ‘difficult’.

-          Avoiding labelling challenges.

-          Ensuring children are given sufficient support in choosing appropriate challenges.

-          Ensuring children are able to move between challenges when appropriate.


Learning Muscles: Helping children to develop their learning skills – particularly in the areas of resilience, resourcefulness, reflectiveness and reciprocity.  There is a clear link to Growth Mindset here.


Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures (KCLS)

What Is Kagan Cooperative Structures?

KCLS are based on Dr. Spencer Kagan’s theory that learning is best when it is truly engaging and cooperative.  In practice this is based on certain principles.

The basic principles of good cooperative learning are that:

1) The learning task promotes teamwork and pupils experience themselves as being on the same side;

2) Each pupil is held accountable for their individual contribution;

3) Pupils participate about equally; and

4) Many pupils are engaged at once.


These simple principles ensure pupils will cooperate, that each will make an independent contribution, and that all pupils participate about equally and participate a great deal. They are important because if we leave them out, pupils can hide — they can take a free ride allowing others to do the work. In the traditional classroom, participation is voluntary. Many pupils, for whatever reasons, simply do not participate. When the principles are in place, all pupils become intensely engaged.

At Atwood, our journey into researching KCLS is relatively new and has involved an exciting collaboration with Woodcote Primary School and has been spearheaded by Atwood’s least experienced teachers – our Newly Qualified Teachers.  Already, their research and practice is having an impact on developing teaching and learning across both schools whilst developing the teaching skills of their more senior colleagues.

Here is a flavour of some of Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Structures, which are predicated on pupils working in groups of 4:

Numbered Heads Together- after writing their own answer to a question, teammates put their ‘heads together’ to ensure all members can answer.  The teacher then calls a number and pupils with that number share their answers.

Roundtable Consensus- Pupils must first check with their teammates for consensus before they take their turn to write or make a contribution to the team task.

One Stray- On each team, one teammate ‘strays’ from his or her team to another team to share information.

Pairs Compare- Pairs generate multiple responses to a question, then compare their answers with another pair.  Finally, they team up to create additional solutions.

Showdown- One teammate reads a question aloud.  Pupils work independently to solve the problem, then show their answers when a teammate calls ‘Showdown!’ They then celebrate or coach.

Simultaneous Roundtable-In teams, pupils each write a response on a piece of paper.  Pupils then pass their papers clockwise so each teammate can add to the prior responses.

Quiz- Quiz Trade- Using question cards, pupils quiz a partner, get quizzed by a partner, and then trade cards to repeat the process with a new partner.

Spend-a-Buck- When faced with a decision, pupils use imaginary coins to vote on their favourite option.  The option with the most coins is deemed to be the winner.

Stand-up, Hand-up, Pair-up!- Pupils stand up, put their hands up, and quickly find a partner closest to them who is not a teammate.  Pupils share information with their new partners.

Rally Coach- Partners take turns one solving a problem whilst the other coaches.

Rally Robin- In pairs, pupils alternate generating oral responses.

Talking Chips- During a discussion, teammates place their chip in the centre each time they talk.  They cannot talk again until all the members have placed a chip.  Great for encouraging those who are reluctant to contribute, whilst encouraging those who tend to dominate discussions to listen to others.