Open invitation to University Learning in Schools: A research project for London

Two recent trends within secondary education in England have led us at The Brilliant Club to join in collaboration with Achievement for All and the GLA to run a research project exploring ways to enhance KS3 teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogical skills. These two trends are:

  1. GCSE reform which aims to assess pupils across more challenging content.
  2. Efforts to engage further with research across the profession, as epitomised by initiatives such as ResearchED.

We asked ourselves a question: would a partnership between researchers (who possess exceptional subject knowledge) and teachers (who possess the pedagogical experience), help improve student outcomes?

Over the last term, five teacher-researcher pairs have created academic units of work to enhance teacher knowledge and teach aspects of their research to KS3 pupils. The units of work have been taught, and will be disseminated at a free CPD event for KS3 teachers on Friday 4th July. The day will have three parts – a keynote presentation from Sam Freedman, Director of Impact and Research at Teach First, an academic lecture by the researcher which will teach the subject-knowledge to the delegates, and an afternoon workshop by the teachers that taught the module to disseminate the resources.  Teacher delegates will be able to attend an English/Humanities/Science stream for the day.

We are finding that the teachers involved saw the benefit of this approach in preparing KS3 pupils for the new GCSE qualifications, and their reflections will form part of the workshop that they will give in the afternoon when presenting the free materials. The researchers are from King’s College London, UCL, CERN and Warwick University. A (brief) summary of each module can be found in the table below:

English Language

How we use talk and writing to develop understanding 

Explores the importance of talk and the ways in which we talk as we learn, considering the use of technology in providing a means for a form of ‘talk’ through text-based communication.
English Literature

Travel Writing

Introduces pupils to travel writing extracts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From Byron to Patrick Leigh Fermor, via Mary Kingsley, this module will further pupils’ knowledge and understanding of life-writing, descriptions of place, and recounting exploration, adventure and discovery.

Global Childhoods

Explores concepts of children in society and introduces learners to a global perspective of what it is like for children living around the world. This module will introduce the theoretical underpinnings of ‘childhood’ from a biological and sociological perspective, and apply them to children in the home, at work, in school, and at war.

Antibodies:Weapons of Microbe Destruction

Focuses on antibodies starting with their function in tackling pathogens, in the immune system to application in medicine and in the research laboratory.

LASERs: Cutting Edge Science

Explores the diverse applications of laser technology and the crossover with physics, using Quantum Theory, Electromagnetic Waves, Optics and Thermodynamics.


From attending educational research conferences over the last couple of years, it has become clear that, provided it is structured in a manageable way, many teachers are keen to be part of an educational research project. Should it still be of interest, we are offering further opportunities for delegate who attend to get involved in the research project:

  • Teach the resources that you receive in your school and let us know what impact this unit of work has on your pupils.


  • Register your interest in being partnered with a PhD Researcher next academic year to design a KS3 unit of work of your own.

More information and free signup is here: I hope this is of interest to:

  • School leaders/teachers responsible for curriculum design, teaching & learning, and preparation for GCSE reform
  • KS3 subject teachers looking to improve their subject knowledge
  • Non-specialist teachers in English, Humanities (Geography) and Science (Biology/Physics).

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