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Investigating Pupil Progression: iPGCE Action Research in COBIS Schools
  • Teacher Training

Written by Joanne Coles, Programme Director, Tes Institute iPGCSE

Recently, the iPGCE programme team at Tes Institute have been examining the ‘why’ of what we do (Sinek, 2009). As a teacher training provider run by teachers, we’ve always operated with teacher growth and the development of practical teaching skills at the heart of our programmes. Yet, we wanted to dissect this purpose further. 

Yes, iPGCE does build robust teachers, but within the programme there is also an emphasis placed on education theory and how this can be applied to further enhance teaching. The iPGCE is a chance to cultivate this approach, to apply this lens of theory to practice (Brookfield, 2017). 

Consider again the why of what we do on iPGCE: we aim to produce capable, impactful and research-informed teachers. Our graduates should have a knowledge of theory pertinent to their phase and subject, with an ability to use this to shape and develop highly effective learning opportunities for their pupils.

Since 2018, teachers from COBIS schools across the globe have undertaken their iPGCE with Tes Institute. The course enables practical development via regular study sessions, coupled with in-school observations and mentor meetings, and two Master’s level assignments. These assignments ask learners to undertake meaningful classroom-based research that will have an impact on the progression of their pupils. Central to this is professional reflection, including a consideration of education theory, as we believe this is essential for building critically reflective, thoughtful and impactful teachers.

For the final assignment of their iPGCE, the Active Inquiry, learners choose an aspect of their practice to work on. They decide this by examining their experiences to date, as well as the wider concerns of their department or school. The central idea is that they create an intervention, drawn from reading and research, to implement in their chosen class. The intervention is designed to ensure pupil progression. Each learner sets their own research question and each cohort chooses a variety of topics to work on. This project really is rooted in each learner’s own professional interest, expertise and, at the centre of this, the unique class of pupils who they are working with.

Daniela Martinez undertook the iPGCE as a trainee primary teacher at Edron, a bilingual COBIS school in Mexico. She had identified high performance learning as a whole school development target and chose to look at how Assessment for Learning (AfL) interventions would facilitate this within her teaching. Focusing on the use of learning intentions and success criteria, Daniela weighed up the metacognitive benefits of utilising these strategies as well as how she could motivate her pupils to engage with them. In conclusion, she drilled down into the choice of verbs used by teachers and how these should be implemented across subjects in order to support children to better understand their own progression and make vital connections in their learning. 

Emma Wakelin mentored Daniela during her iPGCE and now works as a Pathway Tutor for Tes Institute as well as continuing her role in school. She summarises the importance of this research: “The iPGCE for me is invaluable as a qualification, as it builds on the teacher’s theoretical knowledge and understanding, whilst working hand in hand with real life experience. The power of the course lies in the research projects, which encourage the learners to dive into research-led practice in the classroom and critically evaluate their impact on teaching and learning. Teachers therefore teach more relevant and up-to-date material. They gain enthusiasm for their subject from being research-active and can be central to cascading new approaches within a school.”

In another piece of outstanding research from a COBIS school, Julia Kneebone, a trainee Geography teacher at The British School of Paris, noticed that even though some Year 8 pupils were able to answer questions in class, they struggled to recall pertinent information at a later date. She decided to make retrieval practice the focus of her research. After consideration of the capability of her pupils, she chose to employ tasks that would draw upon interpretative skills, concluding from her literature review that the ability to interpret and explain information would push pupils to operate more challenging processes of cognition. Although she faced limitations in delivering her intervention due to the pandemic, Julia was still able to examine in depth, via the lens of theory, her own professional practice and further develop her understanding of how to adapt retrieval practice to meet the diverse needs of her pupils.

Ultimately, the pupils are the core of our why: research-informed, impactful teachers can provide highly effective learning opportunities and ensure progression for all pupils within their care. 

Education is our why: the education of teachers, for the education of pupils, for the progression of all.