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nasen and whole school send logos [green text that reads 'nasen' above grey text that reads 'helping everyone achieve' on the left is black text that reads 'Whole School' and green text that reads 'SEND']

Action Research and Lesson Study for ISEND

At the halfway point of the Action Research and Lesson Study for ISEND project, delivered as part of the Universal SEND Services programme for the University of Derby, Dr Geraldene Codina takes a step back to reflect on what has been achieved so far.

What is Action Research and Lesson Study?

Action Research and Lesson Study for ISEND, is a way for those leading learning in schools/colleges to reflect and develop practice that focuses on removing barriers for children and young people on a school/college SEND register. 

A range of professionals have joined the project so far from Headteachers and SENCOs to classroom teachers and teaching assistants. All have all engaged with 6 online twilight collaborative sessions, where they’ve received support from academics to setup and run their own small-scale research project. 

Unique research projects underpinned by a common commitment to student voice and improved practice

The very first cohort of close to practice school/college researchers who started the project in October 2022 have now completed their projects. We saw a huge variety of themes and topics covered by professionals working in settings ranging from mainstream to specialist, enhanced resource and further education. Despite the breadth of phases and setting types represented in this cohort, what shone through clearly from the research findings was a common commitment to amplifying the voices of children and young people, and enhancing their own practice (be that curriculum planning or through communities of practice). For example:

It works best to review Pupil Profiles (sometimes referred to as Pupil Passports) once per term using person-centred approaches which support the process of dialogue between the child/young person and the adult conducting the review. To facilitate person-centred dialogue, the availability of the children/young person’s workbooks and current Pupil Profile is essential.

Person-centred Structured Conversations are a useful way to increase parental confidence and engagement in the assess, plan, do, review process. To facilitate the person-centred dialogue, the child/young person joined the first part of the Structured Conversation meeting, this set the tone for a celebratory forward focussed assess, plan, do, review meeting.

Together we are stronger

In addition to working with individual schools and colleges, we have found it very effective to work with a group of schools in a multi-academy trust (MAT). We’ve seen this collaborative approach generate the momentum and energy that a MAT requires to address target(s) on their Inclusion/SEND Action Plan. Working groups are usually brought together by one person in a MAT’s central team who galvanises interest from schools within the MAT to setup their own research projects. For the Nexus MAT, the focus for Nexus MAT was about developing professional learning communities, engagement with the Action Research for ISEND project forming one part of their learning communities’ strategy:

The aim was to develop practice that would lead to improvement in pupil outcomes whilst simultaneously developing the knowledge and skills of teachers across our trust.

From the outset, the project was supervised impeccably by the University of Derby and the organisation and delivery of the planned professional development sessions was excellent. These sessions proved invaluable to colleagues in terms of developing their understanding of how to conduct high quality Lesson Study, but more importantly, they were pivotal in removing barriers to attainment for the children and young people across our trust.

The work we have done around Lesson Study has been transformational. Many of our schools have now adopted the Lesson Study approach as part of their practice and the enthusiasm to continue working with the University of Derby and nasen has led us now to begin exploring a bigger piece of work around Action Research. 

Darren Dickinson | Executive Assurance Partner | Nexus Multi Academy Trust

Investing time in reflection for the enhancement of our practice

Working in small group communities of practice and making time for reading, reflective conversations and practice, is also a feature of other professionals’ evaluations. 

I’m actually reading material beyond my emails and medium-term plans etc., which hasn’t happened for a while. The most amazing conversations have taken place between my two teachers and I.

Assistant Headteacher 

The project has been a great opportunity to be reflective and guided by evidence-informed practice. Through Action Research, I've been able to look deeper into what really makes a difference for our pupils and their families.

Enhanced Resource Lead

I feel the research project has given me opportunity to actually get excited about something in my job role. The project has inspired me to continue research and has been a great platform for me to hear what others are doing.

College Teacher

As professionals in education, we are all too aware that time to dedicate to new activities is in short supply, so what school/college staff do commit to needs to be impactful, worthwhile, and professionally rewarding. Collectively coming together to think through challenges and develop new ways of working that make a difference to the lives of children on the SEND register makes the process an entirely worthwhile endeavour. 

If you want to know more about the project or join the next cohort of researchers making a difference, have a look at the Action Research/Lesson Study website, and/or email Dr Geraldene Codina (University of Derby) at