The knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) at Bedlington Community High School aims to improve learning for staff and students at Key Stage 3. Anna Reid describes the two-year project and how it aims to develop an assessment framework for enquiry using ICT

The knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) at Bedlingtonshire Community High School is a two-year project that runs from January 2008 to December 2009 in collaboration with the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University. It is one of the first of its kind in the UK and its primary aim is to improve learning for staff, students and the community.

More specifically, its objective is to devise, develop and implement an assessment framework for enquiry at Key Stage 3, using information and communications technology (ICT) to record individual students’ progress. I have no teaching commitment and am managed by an academic mentor and an ‘industrial mentor’ in school.

Explaining the role of knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs)

Knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs) were initially developed in order to encourage business/knowledge base collaborations. Through the development of such partnerships, businesses and organisations are helped to improve their competitiveness and/or productivity through the use of the knowledge, technology and skills that reside within academic institutions, for example higher education institutions, research organisations and further education colleges.

How does it work?
Knowledge transfer partnerships involve the forming of a partnership between a company (known as the company partner) and an academic institute (known as the knowledge base partner). The partnership also involves one or more recently qualified people (known as knowledge transfer partnerships associates) to facilitate this transfer of skills and expertise.

Partnerships with schools
In the case study example examined in this article, a unique partnership has been formed between the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University, and Bedlingtonshire High School. The key desire for the school has been to encourage students to engage in activity that will enable them to become more independent and resilient learners.
The university has a breadth of knowledge available to inform assessment innovation and the expertise to evaluate its potential. The partnership between the university and the school therefore, offers the opportunity for the school to develop its own internal capacity for change. It hopes to achieve this through involving a growing number of staff in the research and development of radical changes in teaching, assessment and curriculum design that meet pupil needs.

The role of the KTP associate
The associate is a lynchpin. With the best will in the world many curriculum and pedagogy projects slow down because everyone is busy, competing agendas get in the way, a new idea comes along or the budget takes a nose dive. The associate overcomes most of those problems by being devoted full time to R&D, arranging meetings and training, introducing new ideas, scoring successes which make people take notice, nagging and reminding – generally ensuring energy and momentum. Perhaps more schools should have one.

Building foundations
The first five months of the project were intended to build foundations: to get to know people, investigate existing practice and establish working methods. In short, we needed to:

  • study appropriate knowledge bases through literature searches
  • become familiar with digital ICT resources for recording the self- and peer- (and parental) assessment of any enquiry outcomes, through literature searches and the use of key informants
  • organise parental permission for student involvement and form a working protocol for teacher researchers
  • analyse existing enquiries and associated learning strategies within the Key Stage 3 curriculum, through classroom observation and document analysis
  • analyse existing peer- and self-assessment practice through classroom observation, video, reading schemes of work and  student interviews
  • test the technologies suitable for portfolio work (with help from students).

The fact that I am longer working as a teacher has meant that we have been able to maintain the internal capacity of the project. For example, the development of a community of enquiry is my main concern in school and I have had the time and resources to devise and deliver training and support as well as really getting to know the colleagues involved. We have had weekly briefings, as well as research and development group training once per half term in school, but we have also had lots of opportunities to share our practice with other groups and schools.

For me, some of the most influential moments so far have centred less on the research plan and more on intelligent decision-making concerning the building and development of relationships and the perception of how I, as an ‘outsider’, might contribute to the school’s progress in terms of learning and teaching.  For example, I am very aware that I do not fit into the normal school hierarchy, yet it is vital that the leadership and management of the teacher and student researchers is appropriate for the success of the project.

This has led to a need to provide teacher researchers with regular individual ‘training’ sessions to facilitate the preparation of enquiry-based lessons. For their part, student researchers were recruited by completing an application form in response to an advertisement in assemblies, and attending a panel interview with a member of the school’s senior leadership team, a member of staff from Newcastle University and me.  References were requested from staff members and parents and all applicants were successful. The final stage of the recruitment process took the form of a day’s training at Newcastle University.

Since then, the students have been given the opportunity to take part in after-school enquiry sessions and we are setting up a philosophy club for lunchtimes. Student researchers have also undergone a semi-structured interview in order to inform the assessment framework for enquiry. Their next task will be to interview their peers and disseminate their learning.

Our work for the months ahead involves an in-depth review of the skills, knowledge, dispositions and taxonomies which might make up the assessment framework, while also building confidence among staff and students to undertake enquiry-based tasks.  Teacher researchers are planning afternoons of enquiry for students in Year 7 and 8, and celebration events have been organised for both teams to feed back to each other on achievements to date.

Networking opportunities for students
Recently we have added another dimension to the role of our student researchers in the form of including them in a visit to another school to observe best practice. Networking opportunities from work being done as part of an enquiry-based curriculum co-development group led to a morning out of school for two student researchers chosen at random from our team of 28.

The visit itself involved being introduced to Kim Cowie, deputy headteacher at Park View Community School, Chester-le-Street and spending 45 minutes talking about our project and asking questions about how an enquiry-based curriculum is being developed in her school. We then observed a Key Stage 3 lesson called ‘Explore’ and were given the chance to talk to students from Park View about the advantages and disadvantages of encouraging enquiry based skills and competencies in school. On our return to Bedlington we agreed that we should not begin to discuss our observations from the visit until the next day in order to really consider our thoughts, feelings and what we had learned. When we did meet for a semi-structured learning conversation, the student researchers were able to express their ideas with such a degree of insight and consideration that we have agreed they must be included in further activities in the future.

Anna Reid is a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) associate and former advanced skills teacher

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