A team at the University of Reading, led by Prof. Helen Bilton (Professor of Outdoor Learning, University of Reading), looks at the impact of a popular on-line course on professional practice in primary schools.

The course, titled ‘Supporting Successful Learning in Primary School’ and hosted on the Future Learn platform, is primarily designed for Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Support Staff but could also be of interest to teachers returning to work, newly qualified teachers, as well as providing a refresher for current teachers.

Prof. Bilton commented that:

We were interested to see what the impact would be if all the staff from a single school rather than individual support staff took the course together and with the full support of the headteacher. Our results found that course style and delivery ensured staff were motivated to fully complete the course. All staff felt more confident in their role as a result of the course and all staff demonstrated that change through the impact on the children. The headteacher commented that support staff were more “confident, committed and enthusiastic”. We think there is an appetite for this type of learning for this audience, especially one which is free and can be completed at the learners’ own pace.”

This particular case study involved ten participants completing a 20-minute survey at four stages (i.e., before, during, right after and three months after taking the aforementioned on-line course). Altogether, the data collection spanned over a five-month period. The survey contained both Likert-scale questions and open-ended questions, and it was set out to measure the participants’ levels of confidence and ability in implementing the content and approach of the course. The headteacher was interviewed to ascertain their view on the impact of the staff taking the course and together as a group. Data collection involved collating the survey results and written and verbal feedback.

Prof. Bilton conducted the research with Anastasia Rattigan (Senior Digital Learning Producer) and Yen Tu (Digital Learning Producer) – both at the University of Reading. The team suggests that for on-line courses to have an impact on learning and the development of best practice:

  • there needs to be someone in a senior position taking interest and monitoring progress
  • training should be organised for groups of staff, creating a community of learners
  • it should be over a period of time
  • it needs to be created and led by experts in the field of education and digital learning
  • and most importantly it needs a method by which the impact of the CPD is measured through the children.


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