A Winning Start: A Teacher Choices Trial - School Information Sheet

Privacy notice

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2021 school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (academic year 2020-21). Therefore, we are running this trial again in 2021-22 academic year.

What is the Teacher Choices project?
The Teacher Choices project is exploring the feasibility of running robust evaluations of teachers’ everyday choices in the classroom. In every lesson, teachers choose how to approach teaching and learning such as how to start a lesson, how to engage pupils or how to manage behaviour. The Teacher Choices project aims to find out how everyday choices are implemented and how they affect outcomes in the classroom, exploring if a randomised controlled trial (RCT) methodology and teacher tests can be used to do this.

Who is conducting the study?
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded this study. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is conducting the evaluation.

What is ‘A Winning Start’?
‘A Winning Start’ is the first trial in the Teacher Choices project that was run in the last academic year. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the school closures, the trial was not completed fully. As a result, EEF and NFER have decided to rerun the trial this year. As before, the trial will evaluate two different approaches to starting lessons to examine how teacher choices impact pupils’ learning in science via an RCT. The study will compare two popular forms of lesson starters: quizzes and discussions. Quiz starters build on evidence about the impact of retrieval practice and aim to help students remember key facts and ideas. Discussion starters are a popular way to begin lessons that aim to engage students in the topic they are studying.

Year 8 teachers in science departments in schools in England will take part. The trial will recruit from November 2020, and the choices will be implemented in school in the Spring/Summer term (mid-February to end of May 2021). Year 8 teachers from the participating schools will be given a short teacher guide to enable them to implement both approaches. The teachers will experience both types of lesson starters - one in the second half of the Spring term and the other in the first half of the Summer term. The type of lesson starter for each topic will be randomly allocated to teachers by the NFER.

The end of topic test scores from schools will be collected to assess whether quiz or discussion approaches are more effective. Researchers will also use another commercial science test to help assess the robustness of the analysis. At the end of the trial, schools will receive a payment of £150 per participating teacher as a small ‘Thank You’ for the time taken in being involved in the trial.

Which schools and science departments can take part?
‘A Winning Start’ is being run in science departments in state-funded secondary schools in England. To join the trial, the headteacher will sign up with the head of science being the main contact, and individual Year 8 science teachers will then take part. See ‘Joining the trial’ for further details.

Which teachers can take part?
The trial will involve Year 8 teachers in science departments in state-funded secondary schools. Schools are welcome to nominate as many Year 8 science teachers and classes as they wish to participate (a minimum of two per school is needed). We will use the following selection criteria for teachers to participate in this trial. This enables schools to have the flexibility to select topics and teachers to take part in the trial as well as ensures that the participants and tests are selected and matched to the requirements of the trial.

  • Participation will be limited to one class per teacher. This is to ensure that the participating teachers are responsible in providing us with data for only one class.
  • Teachers will teach two chosen topics in their entirety to their associated class, over two half-terms (i.e. chosen topic cannot be taught by more than one teacher per class).
  • Classes will be selected based on the grouping practices- for example, two or more adjacent sets will be selected in case of science setting/streaming and in case of mixed ability groups, all classes will be selected.
  • Schools to nominate two Year 8 science topics of suitable length, i.e. teachers are able to deliver the quiz or discussion lesson starters in at least 6 lessons for each topic
  • All participating classes should have the same topic test. These are end of topic tests normally used by the school and administered by the teachers at the end of the topic and lesson starter delivery- once after Spring 2 and the other after Summer 1.
  • Each topic test should have at least 8 questions. In cases where the topic is part of a larger test, it should have at least 8 questions for the given topic.

What will the evaluation involve for teachers and schools?

Joining the trial: Each school headteacher will sign the online Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and nominate their head of science department as the point of contact for the trial.

Year 8 science proforma: The head of science will provide contact details of the nominated Year 8 science teachers, two science topics that the teachers will teach during Spring 2 and Summer 1 half-terms, the topic length in number of lessons, the student grouping practices of the nominated science classes (e.g. setting, mixed attainment, streaming) and information about the chosen topic tests. The NFER will provide a template on the secure school portal for the head of science to provide the required data for the trial. The NFER will take this data into account and select teachers and classes that can participate in the trial. At this time, the schools will also provide their preferred date for the administration of GL Assessment’s Progress Test in Science and whether they wish NFER to assist with the administration of the test.

Pupil data: The NFER will provide a template on the secure school portal for teachers to provide the pupil data required for the trial. This will include class lists for each teacher involved in the trial and UPN, name and date of birth for each pupil in the selected classes. The UPN provided will be used by NFER to collect the pupil’s free-school meal (FSM) eligibility and their Key Stage 2 (KS2) attainment data from the Department of Education’s (DfE) National Pupil Database (NPD).

Random allocation: Teachers will be randomly allocated by the NFER to the quiz or discussion approach to be used in teaching and learning with their classes during Spring 2. Each teacher will then switch to the other approach in the other topic in Summer 1. It is very important that teachers do not switch approaches with another teacher in their school. This is to ensure that we can properly understand the impact of each lesson starter.

Follow-up data: Teachers will be asked to use their usual end of topic tests with their classes. They will need to provide individual pupil’s overall topic score to the NFER. The NFER will provide MS Excel template for this data. It is important to have assessment data for every participating pupil in the trial. We will also ask schools to administer GL Assessment’s Progress Test in Science 13 (PTS 13) with participating pupils.

Evaluation materials: All teachers will be asked to complete a short survey to provide information on how the approach went in each half-term. Some teachers and heads of science departments will also be invited to take part in short telephone interviews to give further views on the approaches being piloted and their experience of being part of the trial.

When will my school need to get involved?




November – December 2020

Headteacher to sign-up to the trial via the MoU (The MoU will request the Head of science name and contact details).

Head of science to complete Year 8 science proforma template to share information on nominated teachers, classes, science grouping practices and topics with NFER. It will also ask whether the school requires NFER to assist with the GL PTS13 administration.

Schools to share letters to parents of pupils in the relevant class prior to sharing pupil data with NFER.

School to share Pupil names, date of birth and UPN for all participating pupils.

NFER to select and confirm eligible classes from the science proforma data provided by the schools and request pupil data for the selected classes.


NFER to provide schools with a letter for parents that explains the research and gives them the opportunity to withdraw their child from the data collection for the study.

Mid-January -Mid February 2021

Participating science teachers to prepare lesson plans for the second half of Spring term using the guidance document.

NFER to randomise lesson starter to each teacher and share the random allocation and provide the teachers’ guide (prepared by the EEF).


NFER to provide information on how to access the end of topic test templates on the secure data portal. These will need to be used by the end of each half-term.


EEF will approach schools via an email to find out whether they have any queries on the guidance document and lesson starters.

Mid-February – End of March 2021 (Second half of the Spring term)

Schools start delivering the allocated lesson starter (quiz or discussion) in given topics.

All participating teachers to complete end of topic tests with their pupils. (End of topic tests should be those normally used by the school.)


End of March 2021

Share the end of topic test results for each pupil with NFER.


Teachers to complete a short online survey on the lesson starter approach so far.

NFER will send a short online survey link directly to participating teachers.

April - End of May 2021 (First half of the Summer term)

Teachers and classes to swap discussion and quiz starters and deliver the allocated lesson starters in the second topic.


All participating teachers to complete end of topic tests with their pupils. (End of topic tests should be those normally used by the school).


End of May 2021

Share the end of topic test results for each pupil with NFER.

Teachers to complete a short online survey on the lesson starter approaches and their views on taking part in this study.

Selected schools to take part in telephone interviews with NFER.

The NFER will send a short online survey link directly to participating teachers.

If schools opted for NFER test administrator to administer the GL PTS13, NFER will confirm the test arrangements with schools.

June 2021

Administer GL PTS13 with participating Year 8 classes by the school or the NFER test administrators.

Payment of £150 per participating teacher made to all schools once the trial requirements are fulfilled.

NFER test administrators to visit schools if schools requested this support from NFER.

July 2021 - February 2022


Trial data analysis and report writing undertaken by NFER.

March 2022

Schools will receive the summary report from the trial.



How will my school and teachers benefit from taking part?
The trial aims to provide evidence that will be useful for teachers, departments and schools when making decisions about teacher choices in their classrooms. Your school’s participation will help to strengthen the evidence on the impact teacher choices can have on pupils’ attainment and how to robustly evaluate teacher choices.

By participating in the trial, we hope teachers will learn practical information that improves their teaching, benefit from the experiences and results of the trial and help generate new knowledge that can benefit all teachers’ everyday classroom decisions.

Schools that complete all the trial requirements will receive a payment of £150 per participating teacher.

How will the findings be used?
All teachers involved will receive a summary of the trial findings and this will also be freely available on the NFER and the EEF websites. The findings will also be used to provide a report to the EEF on the feasibility of running Teacher Choices trials in future.

Who needs to give agreement for participation in the trial?
Schools will join the trial once their headteacher has singed the MOU. We will provide you with an information sheet for your science teachers to be passed on to your Year 8 science teachers.

We will provide schools with a letter for parents to inform them about the study and their child’s participation. Schools should share the letter with parents/carers of the pupils in the participating Year 8 classes.

Note that in a randomised controlled trial all data is important. It would be really helpful if we could collect data about all relevant pupils taught by the teacher involved. The trial team really appreciate schools’ and participants’ support for the data collection.

What happens if a school, teacher or pupil wants to withdraw from the trial?
A school, teacher or pupil can withdraw from the trial and/or from their data being used in the trial at any time. Schools must notify the NFER of any pupils or teachers who withdraw from the study.

Parents can choose to withdraw their child from the data collection of the trial at any time. They can do this by returning the form on the bottom of the parent letter to their school. Schools must not provide data about children whose parents withdraw them from the data collection. If the withdrawal takes place after the study commences, schools must notify NFER of such pupils to be removed from datasets and subsequent analysis immediately.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?
All data gathered during the trial will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018, and GDPR and will be treated in the strictest confidence by the NFER.

Your school’s key contact details and teacher contact details for the study will be shared securely between the NFER and the EEF – so that the EEF can get in touch with schools and teachers to provide guidance and support. No pupil-level data will be shared with the EEF.

Pupil names, dates of birth and UPNs will be shared with DfE’s NPD team in order for NFER to access pupil FSM-eligibility and their KS2 attainment data. NFER will share the data via DfE’s secure email system with a password-protected file and the data will then be encrypted and saved to secure servers. DfE will match the data with information about the pupils from the NPD and transfer the matched de-identified dataset to the Secure Research Service (SRS) for analysis.

All teacher and pupil-level data shared by schools with the NFER will be done so via a secure school portal. For the purposes of the trial, all pupils will have an ID number.

No school, teacher or pupil will be named in any report arising from this work.

A Privacy Notice for the study is available here.

How to get involved?
Please express your interest in taking part in this trial by completing this form.

Who can I contact for more information?
If you want any further information, please contact Priscilla Antwi, the NFER Researcher on teacherchoices@nfer.ac.uk.