Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (re-grant)
Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) is a professional development programme designed to improve Year 5 science outcomes by making science lessons more effective. Teachers are trained to develop and teach challenging lessons that incorporate more practical activities, deeper thinking and discussion, and enquiry-based learning.
Testing the impact of a programme that aims to make primary science more practical, creative and conceptually challenging
American Institutes for Research
Developing effective learners
Staff deployment & development
In 2012, the EEF funded a trial of TDTS in 40 schools. Year 5 pupils whose teachers received five days of TDTS training over the course of a year were compared with Year 5 pupils whose teachers did not.
The TDTS pupils made three additional months’ progress, on average, in science, with a particularly positive effect for girls and pupils with low prior attainment. The programme appeared to have a positive impact on attitudes to science and there were also some indications that the approach was particularly beneficial for pupils eligible for free school meals.
Following these results, the EEF funded a larger evaluation of a new scalable version of TDTS. This second trial took place in 205 schools, with Year 5 teachers receiving the TDTS training over four days rather than five. It found no evidence of an impact on pupils’ science attainment, on average. However, among children eligible for free school meals, those in the TDTS schools made a small amount of additional progress in science. The trial also found evidence that pupil interest in, and self-efficacy towards, science increased.
There were some important differences between the two models of TDTS - introduced to ensure the programme could be scalable - which might explain the different results. The second, larger trial used a different delivery model for the teacher training. Rather than doing the training directly, the programme developer recruited new trainers, who were trained to deliver the TDTS programme to teachers. The team delivering the teacher training were therefore doing so for the first time, unlike in the original, smaller trial. Teachers in the second trial also received four days of training rather than five, and funding for two additional days of preparation per teacher (in the form of cover costs) was cut.
Given the positive attainment results from the first trial, and the promising outcomes for pupils eligible for free school meals in the second trial, alongside the positive impacts on attitudes, TDTS will remain on the EEF promising project list. The EEF will explore options for a scalable model that maintains the impact seen in the first trial.
There is no evidence that TDTS had an impact on pupils’ science knowledge attainment, on average. This result has a high security rating.
Among children receiving free school meals, those in TDTS schools made a small amount of additional progress compared to those in other schools. However, this finding is not statistically significant”. This means that the statistical evidence supporting the impact finding does not meet the threshold set by the evaluator to be convincing.
The programme led to small increases in pupil interest in science and self-efficacy for science, as measured by pupil surveys.
Teachers who received TDTS training reported confidence in their understanding of, and ability to apply, the strategies they had learned. They felt that those strategies required minimal extra time to implement.
Full project description
Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) is a teacher training intervention aimed at improving Year 5 science outcomes by making science lessons more effective. Teachers are trained to develop and teach challenging, enquiry-based science lessons that incorporate more practical activities, deeper thinking and discussion, and sharply focused recording.
Following promising results from an efficacy trial of TDTS (Hanley et al., 2015), this effectiveness trial was commissioned to test its impact when implemented at scale. In this trial, science teachers received the training on four days spread across the school year, and the impact on the pupils in their science classes was measured at the end of the year.
The model of TDTS tested here differs from the previous model in three key ways:
- the number of teacher training days was reduced from five to four;
- funding for two additional days of preparation per teacher (in the form of cover costs) was cut; and
- the programme also used a ‘train the trainer’ model in which CPD was led by pairs of experts who were trained in the TDTS model by the programme authors, rather than the authors training teachers directly (trainers were delivering the training to schools for the first time during the trial).
The study used a two-arm cluster randomised controlled design; 205 schools were randomised to either receive TDTS or to be part of a ‘business as usual’ waitlist control group; 233 Year 5 teachers at 102 intervention schools received the training. The evaluation focused on the impact of TDTS on the educational attainment of pupils, as measured through a standardised science assessment.
The study also used a survey to measure pupil interest in, and self-efficacy toward, science. The process evaluation assessed whether the train-the-trainer model was successful and explored the perceived value of the programme for teachers.
The trial took place in schools between September 2016 and June 2017.