Dŵr y Felin Comprehensive School is an English-medium 11-16 mixed comprehensive school in Neath Port Talbot. It has 1,131 pupils on roll. Pupils are drawn from an area that includes Neath and the surrounding area.
The school’s work through the National Professional Enquiry Project (NPEP) and use of the Spiral of Inquiry methodology (Kaser & Halbert, 2017) has driven the professional learning culture of the school. A key priority in moving the school forward is the embedding of action research across the school using evidence to inform planning and practice.
Since 2018, the school has been actively engaged in the National Professional Enquiry Project (NPEP) which has given the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and Enquiry Lead the confidence and skills to approach action research to inform teaching and learning across the school. From the Schools as Learning Organisations (SLO) Audit in 2018, action research development was identified as an area for development. Initially, the focus and interventions for the first iteration of the NPEP journey were small and linked to the school priority of the “lack of pupils confidence in oracy”. The positive findings from this initial enquiry led to a second iteration of the enquiry at a year group level. The success of this initial action research can be attributed to the creation of an action research lead role, the support from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) through the NPEP, professional learning through INSET and keeping the action research enquires small and focussed.
Since April 2020, enquiry and action research developed to a new level across the school. It has informed teaching learning and pedagogical practices as the school moved from face to face to remote learning (Asynchronous) in 2020 to Blended Learning (Synchronous and Asynchronous) in January 2021. See Dŵr y Felin’s Blended Learning & Professional Enquiry Website for more details.
Throughout the school 2020-21 self-evaluation process, it was identified that action research through enquiry was having a high impact on professional learning for staff and teaching and learning.
In June 2021, members of the SLT attended a Professional Learning session delivered by Simon Breakspear on “Agile Leadership and Self-improving Schools”. Following this, the strategic decision was made to develop an innovative approach which would cascade action research and enquiry across all departments and develop all staff’s professional understanding of action research and how it can inform planning and practice. This approach involved embedding the Dŵr y Felin Action Research Model into all department development plans for 2021-22.
In July 2021, the Dŵr y Felin Action Research Model, action research templates, OneNote Literature Research Bank and relevant development plan documentation were designed by the SLT and the Action Research Lead.
In September 2021, 2 days of INSET were provided for further professional learning for all staff on action research and time provided for departments to identify teaching and learning targets, identify relevant literature, undertake literature reviews, share and collaborate and develop innovative interventions informed by wider reading and research findings on a national and international scale. Towards the end of September 2021, a further day of INSET was provided for departments to develop their enquiry-based research linked to their department professional enquires. Also, throughout the day Professional Learning drop-in sessions were provided on “Planning an Enquiry, Ethics of Enquiry and Designing Data Capture”.
Throughout the Autumn term the Department Action Plans have been an agenda item on SLT link meetings and further professional learning drop-in sessions on data capture, literature reviews and coding have been provided by the Action Research Lead to support Heads and department staff. The first stage of the enquiry cycle will finish in February 2022 with an INSET provided for self-evaluation of the findings and enquiry process. This will inform the next cycle which will run from February to July 2022. Throughout the implementation of the department action research enquiries process a wider whole enquiry has also been undertaken by SLT and the Action Research Lead, to evaluate the impact of professional learning throughout the year. “To what extent has a whole school approach to professional enquiry influenced teaching and learning innovation” – this whole school enquiry will be reported to Welsh Government through the 2021-22 NPEP Cycle.
55 staff have been involved in a whole school enquiry as either a participant or in a leadership role as a result of professional learning. As of September 2021, 80% of staff were aware they had taken part in an enquiry at some level and 32% of staff considered that they had led an enquiry. Prior to the professional learning programme on enquiry 72% of staff considered that they had a sound or basic understanding of the process of enquiry. After the initial INSET programme 39% of staff had seen an increase in their level of understanding of enquiry due to professional learning and staff rated the professional learning as 4.75 out of 5 across all INSET.