Arvon, the Open University, and the University of Exeter worked together on this two year research project funded by the Arts Council, exploring how the opportunity for teachers to work with professional writers might change their understanding of being a writer, how they teach writing, and improve outcomes in writing for the children they teach.
Teachers as Writers works with 16 teachers of students aged 8—14 years old living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage in rural and coastal areas of south-west England, who are often found to be significantly under-achieving at school. The teachers came to Totleigh Barton, Arvon’s Devon centre, for a residential writing week led by professional authors, Once back in school, the teachers developed co-mentoring relationships with other professional writers. The teachers’ and their students’ writing development were evaluated over this period. The project evaluated whether by creating sustained opportunities for teachers to write and learn from writers, there are beneficial impacts on classroom practice and on learner outcomes in writing.
What does the project look like?
We worked with 16 primary school teachers and 16 secondary school teachers, and their KS2-3 classes. Half of the schools were ‘intervention’ schools, and the other half ‘comparison’ schools. Teachers in the intervention schools attended an Arvon writing residential at Totleigh Barton from 4-9 April 2016 during the Easter school holidays, led by professional writers. Following this, when back in schools, teachers worked with professional writers to co-plan a unit of work, which the teachers then taught and evaluated. The research team collected data throughout both the residential, and the subsequent teaching.
What are ‘intervention’ and ‘comparison’ schools?
Research that is trying to test out whether a particular approach works needs to ensure there is no bias in the sample. One way to do this is to randomise: this means that all schools who commit to this study were randomly allocated, using a random number generator, to either an intervention group or comparison group. The comparison group was much less involved in the project as they were there to act as a comparator. However, all comparison schools were be offered the opportunity to attend an Arvon Teachers as Writers residential the following year at the same reduced rate that intervention schools paid in 2016.
What commitment have the intervention schools given?
Each ‘intervention’ school agreed to allowing the project teacher to:
- provide student attainment data and pre and post-test writing samples to determine improvement;
- attend the Arvon residential
- attend two CPD days in May and September 2016
- allow the research team access to collect data
- co-plan a teaching unit with a professional writer
- teach and evaluate the co-planned unit of work in June and July 2016
- attend an after-school co-mentoring meeting bringing together teachers and writer
- disseminating the research at a Dissemination Conference in Spring 2017
Meet the team
The Teachers as Writers project involves a collaboration between Arvon, The Open University and the University of Exeter. The project team includes the following researchers and staff:
Professor Teresa Cremin – Professor of Education (Literacy),The Open University
Professor Debra Myhill – the Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean
Dr Anthony Wilson – Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, The University of Exeter
Dr Ian Eyres – Senior Lecturer, Education, The Open University
Tricia Nash – Research Consultant, Open University and Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Exeter
Dr Lucy Oliver – Research Fellow, The University of Exeter
Matt Bryden, Narinder Dhami, Alan Durant, Tanya Landman, Wyl Menmuir, Louisa Adjoa Parker, Nick Stimson, Alicia Stubbersfield, Steve Voake, Cliff Yates
Becky Swain – Head of Learning and Participation, Arvon
Joe Bibby – Learning and Participation Coordinator
Centre Staff at Totleigh Barton Arvon Centre
GRANTS FOR TEACHERS
Arvon supports the professional development of practising teachers, who may apply for a special fixed grant of £200 towards a course fee.