Research news

Independent-State School Partnerships

Independent-State School Partnerships: an initial review of evidence and current practices, by Bill Lucas, Louise Stoll, Toby Greany, Anna Tsakalaki and Rebecca Nelson (2017). 

“The study had three elements – a review of literature and a survey of current practices from the perspective of independent schools, undertaken in parallel, followed by an expert review and synthesis of these two sources of data. In doing this, we have taken a broad conception of possible impact from ISSPs, ranging from academic outcomes and school improvement, to individual well-being and issues such as community cohesion... In section 2 we review the evidence base and draw together some learning about school partnerships that we believe to be relevant to ISSPs. We offer the headlines of a taxonomy for describing different kinds of ISSPs. In section 3 we describe current ISSP practices based on a survey of independent schools and make some observations about these. In section 4 we bring together the findings of this short study making suggestions for the next stage of the research.” (p.4)

Happiness at Eton College

In the 2016-17 academic year over 1,000 boys took part in a research project that CIRL conducted in collaboration with Research Schools International. This project looked at the relationships among boys’ wellbeing and their academic achievement across the whole school. The research did not find any correlation between wellbeing and academic success, but the data from the wellbeing surveys (answered by over 1,000 boys, with a fuller follow-up survey answered by just over 100 randomly-selected boys) showed some interesting results in wellbeing; namely, that boys’ life satisfaction and positive emotions increase during the time they are at Eton in terms of four trends:

1.                   social support, from friends and community

2.                   sense of autonomy, the freedom to make decisions about one’s life

3.                   gratitude, for diversity of opportunities at Eton

4.                   competence, the ability to do what one wants to achieve

Interestingly, autonomy, competence and relatedness (which includes social relatedness) are three key elements of intrinsic motivation.

These findings are particularly interesting because they run counter to trends nationally and internationally which generally show a decline in wellbeing in school years. The full report gives more details about the responses that boys gave.

Growth Mindset

During the 15-16 academic year, the Tony Little Centre worked with Research Schools International at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on cutting-edge research on growth mindset and prosocial attitudes. Following previous research by Dweck and others, we used a brief course on mindset theory to help students become more growth-minded in their thinking. We also took a step into new research territory by exploring the relationship between growth mindset and prosocial attitudes, which include a broad range of attitudes that support others, such as kindness and helpfulness.

First, researchers collected baseline data from 187 Etonians, who were divided into an experimental group and a control group. Eton teachers delivered the growth mindset course to students in the experimental group once a week over three weeks. Researchers collected follow-up data from the students in the experimental and control groups. When all the data was in, researchers analyzed the data using quantitative and qualitative methods. Results revealed that students who took the growth mindset course learned to be more growth-minded. On a series of questions measuring mindset, students who took the course gave more growth-minded responses after taking the course, on average, compared to students in the control group; this difference was statistically significant. This adds to the growing body of research suggesting that by just learning about the power of your own thinking and your brain’s ability to change, you can become a more growth-minded person. But the findings didn’t stop there.

We also found an intriguing connection between growth mindset and prosocial attitudes. Not only did we find a statistically significant relationship between students’ mindset scores and their prosocial attitude scores, but students who took the growth mindset course actually improved their prosocial attitudes. That is, the growth mindset course led to a statistically significant increase in students’ prosocial attitudes; we did not find a change in the control group. This shift toward prosocial attitudes was reflected in students’ short answer responses on the follow up survey as well. These findings are exploring uncharted territory, and more research is needed to better understand the relationship between students’ mindsets and prosocial attitudes. But this study provides insights into how we can support students to be both more successful and kinder, and we think that’s quite exciting!

Read the full Eton-RSI report


Saturday Satya

Saturday Satya is a co-curricular programme which brings together students of diverse backgrounds from five different schools as part of the Independent & State School Partnership (ISSP) initiative. It takes place on Saturday mornings over four weeks. Each Saturday Satya session lasts for two hours. This research was commissioned by the Wisdom Project at Eton, which was responsible for designing and creating the Saturday Satya. It aimed to understand students’ experiences during the four sessions and to explore the pedagogical strengths and potentials of the programme. The focus of the enquiry was located around three broad questions:
  What are students' experiences of the learning opportunities offered by Saturday Satya?
  What are the pedagogical features of Saturday Satya that have contributed to these learning experiences?
  How might the Saturday Satya sessions be improved?
For this investigation, we took a mixed-methods approach, including participant observation, questionnaire surveys, in-depth qualitative interviews with all participating students, focus group conversations, and critical reflection with the Saturday Satya team throughout the process.

The report ‘Exploring the Pedagogies and Learning Opportunities of a co-curricular programme at Eton College as part of the Eton-Slough-Hounslow Independent & State School Partnership Scheme’ is the fruit of a close collaboration between the research team and the Saturday Satya team.


'The Role of Research in Schools': Symposium held at Eton College, 4th July 2016

This invitation-only event was attended by some sixty delegates from research-engaged state and independent schools, Further Education colleges, and Higher Education colleges. There were seven speakers, including some of the UK's leading experts in the uses of research in schools, who spoke for 20 minutes each. Vimeos of the three sessions can be found below.

1. The role of research in schools
- Introductions: The Head Master and Jonnie Noakes, Director of the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning
- Working methods and overview of research in schools: Professor Bill Lucas (from 07:28)
- Discussion (from 34:20)

2. Engaging with research
- Evidence-based teaching: Mr Geoff Petty
- Using research to improve practice: Ms Philippa Cordingley (from 22:05)
- The role of professional learning communities in evidence-informed practice: Professor Louise Stoll (from 43:20)
- Discussion (from 01:04:50)

3. Engaging in research
- Improving education through measuring impact: Professor Rob Coe
- The embedded researcher model: Ms Laela Adamson (from 22:20)
- The complexities and potential pitfalls of school-based research: Dr Gary Jones (from 42:35)
- Discussion (from 1:00:00)


Forthcoming research projects:

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a form of instruction whereby the student learns in part face-to-face, and in part using digital and online technology. It gives students some control over the time, place and pace of their learning while retaining the benefits of a teacher’s assistance and knowledge. Teachers can structure and teach blended courses more flexibly than in a classroom setting. Eton is investigating how blended learning can enhance learning in schools that have the benefit of much classroom time. Blended learning pilots are being run during the 16-17 academic year in GCSE History and in Pre-U Russian, and in the use of various digital technologies.

The impact of these pilots in a number of specific areas is being measured: how can implementation of blended learning impact on the boys' time management and organisation skills? Can implementation of blended learning facilitate time management of the lesson? What are the main benefits and difficulties that boys might experience as users of the online platform when implementing blended learning? Do boys show changes in their motivation and self-regulated learning that differ significantly from their peers' when studying in a blended learning model? Do boys show changes in academic achievement that differ significantly from their peers' when studying in a blended learning model?


Cognitive and psychological characteristics of consumers of novel psychoactive drugs

New psychoactive substances (NPS), particularly legal highs and cognitive enhancing drugs, look set to become major challenge for the education sector in coming years, in particular at university level. 

This research will look at what motivates young people to use such substances and while Eton’s pupils will not be involved in the research in any way, the school is co-funding the project, alongside the Wallitt Foundation. The work will be conducted by a post-doctoral scientist within the MRC/Wellcome Trust Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge.