Heathfield’s innovative Science Project improves learning in Primary Schools

29th January

Bringing periodic tables alive in school

Heathfield Community College has led an innovative research project throughout 2018-19 with eight local primary schools, which has now been recognised to have significantly improved knowledge and outcomes. This project will form part of a national body of research on what works in education.

In summer 2018, Heathfield Community College successfully applied for an Innovation grant by The Institute of Effective Education (IEE). As a result of this it was possible to run the project, which was based on an existing close partnership with Primary schools and the Science department over a number of years. Historically Y6 pupils had visited the college for workshops or the college would visit Primary schools taking along a range of resources that Primary schools may not have themselves. Staff were always impressed by what Year 6 students could do and it was natural to think about how Heathfield could support this further.

A lot of research has already been carried out about ‘Metacognition’ – helping students reflect on their own learning – and we wanted to see if using the idea of learning journals in Year 6 could help students reflect and so progress in Science at Primary school. The learning journal was a simple idea; a sheet of A4 paper on which students could think about what they already knew about a topic or idea in Science and how they could become experts in this topic or idea.

Once the grant had been awarded, the process began. Eight local Primary schools were keen to take part. These schools were Mayfield Church of England Primary School; Broad Oak Community Primary School; Cross in Hand Church of England Primary School; Five Ashes Church of England Primary School; Parkside Community Primary School; Dallington Church of England Primary School; Burwash CE Primary School; Maynards Green Community Primary School.

As with all research, in order to see if the learning journals actually helped the students, we needed a control group so four schools were randomly selected as control schools and the others were our four innovation schools. Students were all tested at the start of the project in September 2019. This was the starting point for all of the students involved. Then the fun part started!

HCC went out to the innovation schools and launched the learning journals with the classroom teachers.

“The best part of the whole evaluation is getting to work with Primary school teachers and their students and the teachers worked really hard with the learning journals throughout the year. ” commented Head Teacher, Caroline Barlow.

The schools were visited again at the end of the year in summer 2019. Interviews and observations were carried out at all four innovation schools. The feedback from the students about the learning journals was positive and their use had become part of the routine of their Science lessons.

But the key question was had it worked?

HCC tested again and carried out statistical analysis of the results and the results were very promising. The schools that used the learning journals made more progress on the tests than the control schools. The amount of progress was significant enough to say that the use of learning journals had a very high impact on the progress of these students.

So what next? Headteacher, Caroline Barlow explained: “We’ve already met with some of the Primary Head Teachers to share the findings and we’re really keen now to share the learning journal idea with all the schools who took part. We will still continue work alongside our Primary Colleagues to help students succeed in their Science learning. It is thrilling to see such positive results.”

To read the full research article, visit: https://the-iee.org.uk/what-we-do/innovation-evaluation-grants/science-learning-journals/