WHEN ANNE PRICE wanted to find out the effectiveness of a training course she ran, she did not ask the teachers on it, she asked their pupils.
Focus groups were set up among the 5-year-olds at Marsworth infant school in Buckinghamshire to evaluate what difference the course made to the way that their teacher, Jeni Davies, took lessons.
Four pupils were put in charge of the project and set about discussing her teaching of the topic of soil with the others in their mixed Years 1 and 2 class. The sessions were taped and the recordings passed to Mrs Price at Oxford Brookes University for analysis.
Happily for Mrs Davies, who had completed a course in teaching gifted and talented education, the findings were positive.
She said: "The children were trying to find out the impact of the course on themselves. In their eyes, that meant what they did and what they enjoyed in the classroom.
"They felt we did more problem solving and mentioned a video conference with another school."
The conference had been set up because the school had two children identified as gifted in communication skills and it was seen as a way of building on those skills.
Mrs Price was after feedback that was more subtle than just whether someone was a good teacher. "I am looking for specific differences in the teacher's behaviour and what is being offered to pupils as a consequence of the course," she said. "The video conference, for example, is something specific that relates back to the course."
The feedback will go to the Training and Development Agency for Schools, which subsidised the Certificate in Advanced Educational Practice course. As well as comments from the pupils, the success of the training was also measured through conventional techniques such as student questionnaires.
Mrs Davies said: "Certainly I think it was worth doing it. Having some feedback from pupils puts things into perspective. We hope to use focus groups in future.
"Next year, the Year 1s who ran it are going to train the new Year 1 pupils in running research projects."