Prof. Helen Bilton’s (Professor of Outdoor Learning, University of Reading) has been working on a research project which sets out to evaluate the impact of a free on-line course, titled ‘Supporting Successful Learning in Primary School’ that she launched back in 2019 on the FutureLearn platform. The course is currently classed as the highest rated on-line course of all time from top Universities around the world according to Class Central.

This three-year research project, titled ‘Supporting Successful Learning in Primary Schools online course impact- schools case study’, is studying the impact of the primary course when taken by all the teaching assistants in a school and how this approach to CPD might impact the teaching in the school.

The research has involved teaching assistants in a school taking the course, measuring their confidence levels against a set of criteria, at three time points: before taking the course, after and three months later. The first two surveys are completed and we are now about to interview the headteachers about the whole school impact. The feedback so far has been positive with participants praising the flexibility of the course and appropriateness to their needs. 100% of the participants would recommend it to other support staff in schools. Comments from participants included the following:


“I had not expected to learn so much from the connections with other learners – this is my first exposure to a remote learning group. The unexpected outcome arising from this is that I am now attempting to replicate that network experience with my peers at school”.

“Almost all of my TA colleagues have also attended the course, so our exchanges so far have been more about the learning we have experienced and about the things I have learned about them from their posted comments. Perhaps we should get together as a group now to share and reflect on any changes we want to make as a collective!”

“I have shared a few details with a couple of the teachers I work most closely with, such as aspects of behaviour management; effective listening and questioning techniques; and ‘doing something hard’ where we thought about how much we are asking of a primary age child for them to listen, think and write simultaneously”.


Prof. Bilton is collaborating with Anastasia Rattigan (Senior Digital Leaning Producer) and Yen Tu (Digital Learning Producer) – both are members of the University of Reading’s Online Team – on this project.

You can find more about Prof. Bilton’s research interests here. She tweets at @DrHelenBilton.