Last Updated: Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Developing Collaborative Action Research to improve impact in Dundee

What is this?

Collaborative Action Research (CAR) which supports practitioners to influence or change an aspect of what they are researching, ie their own practice, is an approach that is now widely used in education. As part of the approach to addressing the attainment gap in Dundee, the Educational Psychology Service is supporting schools and early years settings to use CAR. This approach was identified as a means of supporting practitioners to assess, plan and implement approaches that will improve outcomes.

This template explores how the Psychological Service have developed and introduced a guide to implementing CAR and outlines the example of one early years setting who have used this approach to involve children and families in the planning and review of learning.

Who is this for?

This is most relevant for headteachers, teachers and pupil support staff.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

These approaches and strategies are designed to support educators to consider how they can measure the impact of their interventions and provide data to inform continuous improvement.

It also allows educators to form collaborative networks to take forward changes they want to make and measure impact as they go.  Practical examples of how to do this are contained in the guide as well as in the Balgay Hill Nursery School Assess Plan Do Review Recording Sheet.

Improvement questions

  • How might you use collaborative action research models to identify what works and what aspects need to change ?
  • How do you currently measure the impact of interventions to support children in your school/setting?
  • How reliable is your evidence in demonstrating that the approaches taken in your context are improving outcomes for learners?
  • What capacity do you have to support Collaborative Action Research and how would you access support to take it forward?


Word file: A Guide to Collaborative Action Research - Dundee EPS

PowerPoint file: Action Research - Jill Nixon, DEPS

Word file: Balgay Hill Nursery School - APDR recording sheet

What was done?

The Educational Psychology Service in Dundee produced guidance for schools in the use of CAR to support the attainment challenge. This was supported by a series of CLPL twilight sessions to provide further support for school staff. Individual Educational Psychologists then followed this up with support for their allocated schools with a particular focus of areas they wanted to change.

Balgay Hill Nursery School used the Assess Plan Do Review Recording Sheet contained within this guide to support them in developing a shared vision and values, improve staff skills, knowledge and awareness of the principles of listening and increase the involvement of children and families in planning and reviewing learning.


Research tells us that CAR is a successful approach to improving outcomes for learners and has been highlighted by Education Scotland as a methodology to help practitioners measure impact as they go. It supports practitioners to plan and review their work in a systematic way in order that they can make informed, evidence based decisions about what to do more of and what to change. Dundee have therefore embraced this as a valuable approach to addressing the attainment gap.

​What was the impact?

CAR which can include the cycle of Assess, Plan, Do, Review (APDR) or Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) has been used to gather evidence of the impact of Dundee’s approaches to supporting literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing including nurture. Some early improvements can be identified. Staff are beginning to report improved engagement with learning and children being better able to self-regulate.

In Balgay Hill Nursery School, they have used the Assess Plan Do Review Recording Sheet to support them in developing children’s planning conversations and have found that it has helped them to document learning and experiences in different ways, as well as increasing staff understanding of children and how they can be more involved in the planning process.