By Dr Iro Konstantinou
The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (‘CIRL’) opened five years ago. The original aims were deliberately broad because much of our work in the early stages was exploratory. They ranged from practices within the community and the interactions within the school while also encompassing collaborations and networks outside Eton. More specifically, these were:
- Reflection: to reflect upon what we already do well at Eton so as to refine our understanding of why these approaches work, and how we can build upon them.
- Evaluation: to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches to teaching and learning.
- Research: to appoint a Researcher-in-Residence to support masters in action research, and to appoint outside educational researchers for specific larger-scale research projects.
- Collaboration: to build relationships with universities and with external organisations so as to engage with and in new research and to take part in dialogue about educational initiatives.
- Innovation: to sharpen Eton’s awareness of international developments in teaching and learning, and to support innovative approaches in the schoolroom.
- Professional development: with the PD committee, to promote good teaching and learning practice throughout the school, and to measure its impact.
- Supporting personalised learning: to reinforce the importance of learning support in the school.
- Outreach: to collaborate with Eton’s partner schools in the state sector and with other independent schools to share research findings and good practice.
We do not claim that the process of fulfilling these aims has been completed or can ever be completed, as it is a cyclical process. But we nevertheless believe it is important to map the process so far and assess the impact of the various activities we have undertaken.
This is an important exercise albeit a difficult one. We recognise the challenges of retrospectively assessing interventions and asking people to reflect on past experiences. We also recognise that this is a qualitative study and as such the data cannot reveal correlations. For example, we cannot make claims of impact between input from CIRL and one’s development of professional identity. However, we are certain that the benefits of this assessment outweigh the methodological limitations.
First of all, it is important to see what has worked in terms of our interventions and the areas in which we allocated time and effort. The fact that many practitioners are engaging with evidence-informed practices shows that there is interest in the area. However, through our impact assessment we aim to find why this is the case; how a centre dedicated to this purpose can impact on teachers; and what helpful approaches they identify. This will allow us to plan for the future and reconstruct our aims in ways in which will make a meaningful contribution to the professional practice of teachers inside and outside Eton.
Secondly, mapping and assessing what we have been doing so far will help us strengthen our networks and expand our output through our partnerships and collaborations. CIRL is an integral part of the ways in which Eton is contributing to the public good and wider educational commonwealth. By assessing the impact of our output we can understand what influence we have had so far and how we can harness some of that into maximising our impact.
Lastly, as a centre which encourages reflective practice we aim to showcase this endeavour. We want to reflect on what we are doing and ensure we are streamlining our processes; do more of what works well and has an impact; and learn from areas which did not work.
We are now in the process of collecting data for this. We are surveying masters at Eton; collecting qualitative data from boys and masters; and talking to people outside the community. We welcome the input from those who are actively engaged with CIRL but also from those who have had minimal contact with CIRL. Please email Dr Iro Konstantinou if you would like to offer input.
This is a process which will not be limited to this impact assessment but will inform our thinking moving forward and will be common practice within the years to come.