Home > Pedagogy, Teaching > A sunny Saturday in York

A sunny Saturday in York

This Saturday Mark Miller (@GoldfishBowlMM) and I made the fairly short trip up the A64 from Leeds to York to attend the NTEN ResearchEd York conference. It was a conference we were both looking forward too which had many interesting speakers. One look at the line up had sold me on attending!

The conference was held at Huntingdon School, which is the home of one of my favourite headteacher bloggers John Tomsett (@johntomsett). The vibe of the school is exactly what you’d expect if, like me, you are a regular reader of John’s blog and the School’s Vision 2018 posters that are emblazoned about the hall and corridors make it easy to see what a fantastic place it must be for staff and students alike.

A quick coffee, and an intro from David Weston (@informed_edu) led us to the first session. A keynote from our host, John Tomsett. John spoke from the heart about research, education and his vision for marrying the two. His passion and drive, always present in his blog posts, were even more evident in person. He used humour and anecdotes to get his points across and told us that his school have a Research Director (Alex Quigley, @huntingenglish) who is responsible for ensuring that the best and most up to date research is available to staff. He also told us about fantastic teachers who have never read any research, and how he feels that research and experience need to be more closely aligned to enable a growth culture where staff and students alike are always growing.

The next session was rather tricky to choose for me. There was Joe Kirby (@joe_kirby), who’s blog I very much enjoy, and he was talking about memory and curriculum which I’m sure was brilliant. But I opted instead for Kenny Pieper (@kennypieper), I also very much enjoy Kenny’s blog, and he was talking about the new “curriculum for excellence” that has been slowly introduced north of the border over the last 13 years. It was extremely interesting to hear what’s been going on up there, what’s gone well and what hasn’t. Kenny spoke brilliantly and included a ton of substance with a tin of humour, the stand out line for me being “but that doesn’t mean it’s all recreating the final scene from Of Mice and Men with sausages.”

Session three provided another selection issue, with three of the four being sessions I was keen to see. In the end I opted for David Weston (@informed_edu) and his session on effective CPD. This session for me hit a lot of nails square on the head, and has got me thinking alot about this issue. I will write more of my thoughts later. The session itself was fun and engaging and it was refreshing to discover that I’m not the only teacher to have heard the line “Is this another of your twitter ideas?” David’s vision for CPD, in a nutshell, is one where all CPD has a point, an aim, a goal. And then a programme is created to address that goal over a significant amount of time to allow it to be evaluated and refined. This is a vision we could all learn from.

Session for provided for me what was probably the hardest decision in terms of which session to pick. Keven Bartle (@kevbartle) was on at the same time as Martin Robinson (@surrealanarchy), two of my favourite educational commentators pitted against each other. I opted for Martin Robinson and did not regret it. He started by quoting Douglas Adams and set out a manifesto for education which spoke out to me immensely. I only hope the three major parties take note ahead of next year’s manifestos!

After lunch the selection headaches continued. For the next session I opted for Jill Berry (@jillberry102), who gave us a great insight into the transition to headship and into her own professional research. I felt that some of her research methods will come in very useful for my current MEd assignment.

The next session was, for me, the highlight. Again, I faced a massive selection headache with 4 educationalists I respect immensely, and one I’m not familiar with, but who was speaking on a subject I hold a major interest in. In the end I opted for the founder of Researched, and TES’s own Behaviour Guru, Tom Bennett (@Tombennett71).

The session was entitled “Idiocracy: why does so much bad research get into the classroom?” and was a veritably feast of interesting opinions, anecdotes and ideas. Tom gave us an overview of his route into teaching and then his route into research. Like most of us, he had been given a lot of advices whilst training and as a new teacher that was qualified with the comments “The research shows…” but had never questioned it at the time, but later came to realise that there is a need to question it. He spoke about the bad research that had got into the classroom (Brain Buttons and Learning Styles to name two examples) and mentioned how some good research doesn’t. I intend to write further on the ideas that Tom was discussing, but the crux of his point was this: Question the research that is put in front of you, and question the agenda of the one who puts it there. (I’ve written before about the need to do this here and here).

The final session was yet another hard choice, I really wanted to see Alex Quigley, but I also really wanted to see Old Andrew (@oldandrewuk) (or Andrew Old, or Andrew Smith). I opted fore Andrew as I’ve seen Alex speak before, and I knew I would be able to catch his talk later online.

After the initial disappointment that he didn’t look at all like the mental picture I have of him in my head (A hybrid of Alan Rickman’s Professor Snape and William Hartnell’s Doctor) Andrew’s talk was interesting and funny. He was discussing what we can really know, and was setting out the ludicrous claims some people make about cause and correlation with very little to back it up. He outlined how to argue and discuss in a manner that used evidence to back up your claims and provided a nice fitting end to a superb day.

I lefty with plenty to think about and a large amount of ideas to explore in further blogs. I also left with some great ideas to help improve my practice as a teacher and to improve my research as a masters student. The next event like this I’m going to is Northern Rocks, and I can’t wait.

There are plenty of other reviews of the day available, Tom Bennett’s is here, and he has also posted a list of others here.

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