Supported Experiments

Supported Experiments or Action Research are excellent ways to improve your teaching, and that of your team. Indeed experimenting with something new to you is arguably the only way your teaching can improve student achievement. You can’t improve without changing! Supported Experiments involve experimenting with a new teaching approach using it more than once, and gradually adapting it until it works. These experiments are done for the team and they are supported by the team. Once you have found a way of making a strategy work you tell your team about it and they adopt it on their Active Scheme of Work, or in the Best Methods Manual. You may also coach them in the use of this new method. On this page you will find a number of Proposals for Supported Experiments and some completed by teachers. Each explains an approach to teaching that might be new to you, and has been shown by research to be most effective. For example assessment profromas and positive reinforcement can both, if well implemented, add up to two grades to each student’s performance.

There are two major reviews of all high quality research on how to improve teaching.  Helen Timperley’s BES is the the most up to date.  In effect she says teachers must identify the problems their students are having with learning, and the problems they themselves have with their teaching. Then they must research best evidence ways to solve these problems, then they must repeatedly trial these solutions adapting as they go.  This is Supported Experiments.

Each Proposal has a bit of theory, and then some very practical ways of implementing the approach. Alternatively you could experiment with teaching methods on the active learning page. (See Active Learning page)

Don’t just copy the ideas in these Proposals. You will need to use these materials and approaches as models, and fiddle with them until they work for you and for your students. Happy Experimenting! Let me know how you got on!

Are you are a manager trying to improve learning and teaching? See “Action Research: what and why”, and ‘Supported Experiments’ downloads below.

Many colleges are using Supported Experiments, here is a link to Woodhouse college in London who have done some brilliant experiments, perhaps some in your subject. Woodhouse’s experiments

Hundreds of colleges in the UK make use of Supported Experiments. Joanne Miles now works independently but used to work for LSN to help colleges implement Supported Experiments effectively. She has achieved this herself in a large college, read an article by her here and her blog here. Contact her by <>

Zoya Galzie an ICT teacher at West Thames College wrote this account of an experiment on the ‘One Minute Paper’. Other experiments have shown that this method raises students performance by about two grades. Galzie

Here are some proposals for Supported Experiments. In the last two the ideas are given in outline, but the experiment is left to you:

There is a chapter on this topic in my ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ chapter 25.