Last term we focused on the fast-paced phenomenon of Teachmeets. This time we explore the deep-down professional improvement tool that is Interventions.
In this article we will look firstly at the landscape and development of interventions and then look at the work undertaken at Osiris Educational in this field.
Interventions are intensive, training-focused work delivered at client schools. They should have a clear starting and finishing point and last between a term and a year depending on circumstance. Some will have repeat cycles to build impact across the whole school.
They are relatively new and combine both professional development and school improvement. Schools choose which intervention is right for them based on needs and the best evidence of effectiveness.
They differ from internal training around strategic planning (which can be equally successful in impact) in that key resources for delivery and implementation of interventions come from outside the school. For schools, where internal capacity is already stretched or internal initiatives have struggled to have a proper impact, they are a great option.
They differ from consultancy and advisors in that the school’s teachers work through a proven process to an agreed outcome. They are not just given a report on what needs to be done and left to implement it themselves.
Interventions, towards a science of school improvement
To make interventions work, it is crucial that both qualitative and quantitative analysis is carried out. Focus must be on the outcomes but must also cover the processes involved and the quality of the inputs.
The model opposite gives an overview of how this works in practice. Each intervention will have its own model to follow.
The key difference between an intervention, in the sense discussed here, and standard school improvement is how the approach can be replicated in a variety of contexts and settings.
Proving out a model of intervention is where University input can be a real advantage. They bring an independent viewpoint that can challenge the structure, progression and assumptions of any intervention model.
When you reach 100 successful interventions with a model using a variety of trainers/consultants, each with predictable effects, you know you have a solid intervention. In the past the pilot school approach was used. The problem was that whilst the pilot schools were endowed with handsome resources and the architects of the process as trainers, the follow-on schools usually had to make do with an inferior roll-out model. Interventions offer a more replicable roll-out in terms of both quality and impact.
Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF)
Set up in 2011, the EEF funds Randomly-Controlled Trials (RCTs) on a number of intervention models. It plans over the next 10 years to establish a comparative research base for what works with UK schools.
Whilst this process is still in its relatively early days, RCTs are already being acclaimed as the new gold standard for educational research. However, whilst RCTs are great at measuring impact, they need accompanying qualitative research to unpick the processes within an intervention that caused them to work.
The Language of Interventions:
This is the way the behaviours of the senior leadership team at the school have impacted on an intervention whilst in progress. Trust can break down and without intention, the impact of intervention is undermined. For this reason, the best interventions run barometers to monitor negative impacts.
Measurements need to be in place so all parties involved can recognise what is happening and when it is happening. Interventions are expensive on staff time and all schools want to know they are getting bang for buck.
Impact Professionals (Impact Pros)
To help the process along and overcome unfamiliarities, trainers act as impact professionals as well as trainers.
The journey during an intervention is A to B. You are following a proven path to a better way of doing things. Consequently, all training is accompanied by directive coaching. Non-directive coaching may have its place, but most often not in interventions.
A well-executed intervention, when complete, should leave sustainable processes in place, which are integral to the process. Proven repeatable processes.
These are the levers that underpin the success of interventions. It is combinations of each of these that allow interventions to be differentiated for each member of staff according to their responsiveness and feedback.
Underpinning measurement tools that monitor outcomes and processes to ensure impact and identify clearly what is working. The matrix should allow ongoing data feedback.
An intervention seeks to be repeatable. Too frequently, training appears effective because of the reaction it creates. This should be based upon the processes that underpin the intervention and not on the personality or experience of the trainer.
Every teacher is a unique individual. An intervention needs to work teacher by teacher and not as a top down, one-size-fits-all model.
Pros and cons — Interventions versus other types of training
- Has deep impact
- Teachers trust the process and felt it was ‘for them’ as opposed to ‘done to them’
- Validity and influence across the school
- Adoption of the language of both improvement and intervention
- Focus that achieved results.
- Other priorities may have to be sacrificed in order to find time/resources
- Disruption to other initiatives
- If you apply as a school to take part in a RCT, as part of the EEF work, you have a 50% chance of finding yourself in the control group. You will need to find out if this qualified you for later work or whether you will just be left to your own devices.
Are Interventions right for my school?
Interventions should never be entered into lightly.
A few questions to start with include:
Where is my school now? (Point A)
Where do I want my school to be? (Point B)
Will the intervention being considered get us from Point A to Point B?
This sounds very simple but schools are complex organisations and interventions come in all shapes and sizes. Before investing, you need to know the intervention you are about to agree to is the right one for you.
Ask for evidence, interview head teachers who have undertaken the intervention and visit schools to check how the staff reacted.
Lillington Nursery and Primary School, in Warwickshire, is a smaller-than-average primary school with 42% of its pupils receiving free school meals. In October last year, the school was judged as ‘overall good’ by Ofsted. Its Head Teacher, Derek Fance, believes that classroom learning has to support high expectations for achievement: learning that is child-initiated and rooted in clear outcomes of progression. To help achieve this, the school invested in an Osiris Educational OTI training for five teachers.
He said: “For us the OTI process has been an incredibly successful one. Teachers are more confident in their ability to move learning forward in an innovative way. The modules ‘Engagement’ and ‘Questioning and Challenge’ were just what we needed to move our teaching standard to the next level.
“A feature of the input from our excellent Osiris Educational trainer has resulted in a common language across the school and this has resulted in some very healthy debate in the staff room at break times. “With all of this in mind, I am very keen to undertake the process again.” SR