A few years ago it became very clear that there was an increasing pressure to demonstrate that educational products and services have an impact in the classroom. This desire for proof of impact – or efficacy, as it is sometimes known – has come from schools and ministries of education around the world looking to make the most of limited education budgets. Understandably, they want to ensure that the resources they purchase for their schools will make a real difference to educational outcomes.
Whilst our customers regularly told us of the positive impact that our products had on teaching and learning, we didn’t have a concrete way of providing evidence to justify these claims. Our answer was to embark on the Oxford Impact Project in 2014, with the aim to develop a rigorous approach to evaluate the impact of OUP’s educational products and services around the world. An exciting, yet daunting prospect!
Call in the experts!
In order to get the project up and running, Dr Penelope Woolf was appointed. With over 30 years’ experience in academic, educational and professional publishing she has a great understanding of what customers need. “With Oxford Impact our aim was to develop a research-centred approach enabling us to carry out studies on the impact that our products and services have on teaching and learning in a structured and credible way. We knew from the start that we needed some expertise in this field, so we worked with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and spoke to OUP employees, key stakeholders and customers across the globe to understand the outcomes that our products and services were aiming to deliver.”
Starting small with a ‘bottom-up’ approach
With the support from NFER, we undertook a number of trial, or ‘exemplar evaluations’, and impact studies on our products and services. Impact studies enable us to assess whether a product or service delivers the outcome(s) for the people that it was designed for. For example, does this reading scheme engage learners? Does this maths course lead to progress?
The problem with this type of in-depth research is that it really needs to be focused but, as we have discovered, it can easily wander off task. Working with NFER, we combined the learning from the exemplar evaluations and all the research we had done together, to feed into the creation of the Oxford Impact Framework (Framework), an internal digital platform that offers a consistent and rigorous process for planning and undertaking an impact study.
Throughout the process of building Oxford Impact, Penelope also consulted with Professor Pamela Sammons, Professor of Education at Oxford University Department of Education and a world expert on educational effectiveness and school improvement.
Lifting the lid on teaching and learning
Oxford Impact officially launched in 2016. Since then, we have carried out a wide range of impact studies across the world, often working with external research experts and universities, and have shared the evaluation findings with our customers. The results have been fascinating. However, the little gems of insight we get and the chance to see some significant changes in teaching and learning that happen during the studies, are of particular interest to us. For example, colleagues worked with an independent freelancer to undertake an impact study in a school in Bahrain where they introduced our Oxford International Primary Science products. Within a week the teachers were telling us that it “had opened up lots of new ideas for their teachers about teaching science and most importantly that their lessons had flipped from being 80% talk and 20% student interaction to 20% teacher talk and 80% student interaction.” Additionally, one lesson was observed during an unexpected school inspection and was graded ‘outstanding’ because of the highly student-centric approach in use due to our products. It doesn’t get much better than that!
What we discovered along the way
Whilst a key aim of Oxford Impact was to make it easier for customers to select the educational resources that will have the greatest impact and to be confident that OUP’s products and services meet the high quality standards that everyone expects, we have discovered additional benefits. We have found that these studies enable us to build stronger relationships with our customers and educators, as we work with them to develop and refine both our products and processes to ensure that they deliver the greatest positive impact on teaching and learning, both now and in the future.