The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (CIRL) exists to place rigorous enquiry into learning and teaching at the heart of the school. It supports the pursuit of excellence by fostering among boys the best habits of independent thought and learning, with a specific view to preparing them better for university and beyond, and by promoting among Masters an awareness of outstanding practice.

The aim is to put Eton College at the forefront of global teaching and learning developments as an internationally regarded school-based centre of research.

CIRL also builds links with universities and other external organisations to engage in research and dialogue around pedagogy and other educational initiatives. The aim is to put Eton College at the forefront of global teaching and learning developments as an internationally regarded school-based centre of research.

Highlights of work undertaken thanks to your support

Currently we are conducting three projects on ‘character education’. For all three we are using an Aristotelian model of character which encompasses intellectual, moral, civic and performance character virtues.

Collaboration with Research Schools International (RSI) at Harvard University

Our first two collaborations with RSI focused on Growth Mindset and Wellbeing. This half we surveyed boys and Masters (including some support staff) on these questions: which character skills/dispositions are important to the Eton community? To what extent is Eton currently supporting the development of these character skills/dispositions?

The list of character skills/dispositions was created with the help of Masters and boys who have volunteered as research ‘Fellows’ and are learning how to conduct this type of research alongside the Harvard team. We had 519 responses from boys to the survey, and 127 from Masters and staff. The five character skills/dispositions that were identified by respondents as the most important were gratitude, happiness, respect, motivation, and perseverance.

There was high consistency between the skills respondents valued and what they reported Eton supports well. Interestingly, participants ranked competitiveness as the least important skill, but also as ‘very well supported’. Together, these results suggest that skills that are highly valued are also perceived as well-supported.

For the next phase of the project, we will ask Masters and boys how Eton is currently promoting these skills/dispositions, and how they can be further supported at Eton. The research Fellows are conducting literature reviews on the existing research in these five skills/dispositions and will feed research findings into their discussions.

Collaboration with the Character Project at Oxford University

Fifteen C Block boys and fifteen students from the London Academy of Excellence are taking part in an Oxford-led project which is focusing on virtuous leadership, specifically on the character dispositions of empathy, vocation, service, gratitude, and humility. The programme is being taught through workshops, visits, speakers, in-depth discussions, and mentoring by people who are distinguished in their field.

Collaboration with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at Birmingham University

This project is looking at the impact of Eton’s social action and community engagement programme on 120 C Block boys, measuring through validated scales and in-depth interviews the impact of the programme on five areas: respect, openness to experience, teamwork, gratitude and empathy. We expect to have the findings later this academic year.