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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Do transcripts help teachers?

Do transcripts help teachers?

The good news is, yes! At least that’s what the evidence from our first feedback session tells us. 

For those of you who don’t know, Nesta recently started a pilot with Harris School in Battersea, to find out whether transcriptions can help support teachers to implement better collaborative problem-solving (CPS) in the classroom.

Despite finding it harder than expected to slot the 15-minute recordings into their working weeks, teachers found the transcripts and accompanying analysis really useful.


  • It gave them never-before-seen insight into how pupils behaved when they weren't around.
  • It allowed them to track individual progress and track whether or not students conformed to their expectations.
  • It allowed them to see which students worked well together and how the group interacted with one another.
  • It allowed them to see whether the problem-solving tasks they set supported good CPS.

What would they change?

We invited teachers to think about what they might change when setting up their next CPS activity.

  • Change the grouping?

One teacher found one of his pairings were not working particularly well together; for the next week he is going to trial placing another student into the group, who he feels may be able to offer more support.

  • Reduce the reliance of study aids?

One teacher felt that although the student feedback was that the task she set was challenging, she wanted to see how they would fare without relying on their study notes, which she’d allowed them to use.

  • Set longer problems?

One maths teacher felt that setting longer multi-content problems may help stimulate more collaborative discussion. 

Potential problems and concerns

  • Is it an efficient way to solve problems?

Some teachers were unsure how much progress students made with the problems during collaborative discussion, a potential pitfall considering the amount of lesson content teachers are expected to cover.

  • Will the more able students just give away the answer?

There was some concern when setting group problem-solving tasks that more able students may work out the answer really quickly, giving it away to other group members before they had a chance to work it through themselves. Therefore tasks had be carefully chosen to ensure they were not too easy and groups of students chosen carefully.

  • Are coded transcripts sometimes misleading?  

When coding the transcripts we looked for certain utterances from students, such as the number of questions asked, explanations offered and suggestions made. Though teachers found this useful, there was not a simple correlation between these numbers and the quality of the discussion. For example, if a student asks a lot of questions, it could mean they lack understanding or confidence. However, sometimes students used questions to deepen their understanding and elicit suggestions from other group members.

This has given us a lot of food for thought when it comes to some of the challenges and considerations around facilitating effective collaborative problem-solving in the classroom. We can’t wait for our next feedback session to find out how the teachers get on when setting their next CPS tasks, and to hear more of their reflections. 


Maeve Croghan

Maeve Croghan

Maeve Croghan

Education Intern, Innovation Lab

Maeve was an education intern at Nesta in the Innovation Lab.

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