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Challenge Everything

June 11, 2014 3 comments

Recently Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) wrote this post which sets out a rather bizarre chain of events that occurred after he wrote a review of Daisy Christodoulou’s (@daisychristo) “Seven Myths about education“.

I won’t recount the events here, if you are interested read Tom’s post, and I won’t discuss the book or the review as I am yet to read said book. It’s on my list, I’m very much looking forward to it and I’m sure I will write about it once I’ve read it.

The reason I mention it is a twitter conversation I saw about the events. Tom was discussing it with Chris Waugh (@edutronic_net). The gist of the discussion was that people shutting down debate and seemingly cynically setting out to silence one side had led to disengagement. Chris then tweeted this:

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And this really got me thinking on the whole subject of twitter, blogging and educational research.

Around 18 months ago I was having a conversation about Twitter as CPD with Mark Miller (@GoldfishBowlMM). During the conversation I mentioned I had unfollowed some people because I felt they held views that were diametrically opposed to mine. Mark responded by saying he had thought about doing the same, but had decided to keep following those people. His reasoning was that if you only followed “like minded people” than you were only hearing opinions that reinforce what you believe already and you never test or develop those ideas as they are never challenged. I re followed said people.

This idea of testing and challenging ideas is an important one. Tom Sherrington said at Northern Rocks that if there was no one in his new school challenging his policies and ideas he would appoint someone as a challenger to do just that. We all need to be challenging, where appropriate, things that are put in front of us, but we also all need to be challenging our own ideas.

When I’m researching assignments I find it very easy to find sources that agree with me and use them to pick holes in ones that don’t, but since that conversation with Mark I’ve made a marked effort not to do that. I’ve even ended up changing opinions on some things, and I think that’s healthy. We all need to be in a position where we can accept we’re wrong when we are presented with the evidence.

Debate is a good thing. It was testament to the organisers of both Northern Rocks and ResearchEd York that speakers from both ends of the spectrum were they. The organisers wanted to promote debate, not shut it down. They wanted to help people challenge what’s put in front of them and challenge what they think. We need to be constantly challenging everything. That’s how we grow, how we evolve our practice, refining it. Keeping what works and rejecting what doesn’t. It’s also how we grow as people, and is a mindset we should be instilling in our pupils and our own children.

I think this sums it up quite well:

“I don’t necessarily want you to think like me, I just want you to think” Tait Coles (@totallywired77), Northern Rocks, 7th June 2014.

Northern Rocks

June 7, 2014 4 comments

Today was the “Northern Rocks: Reclaiming Pedagogy” event at Leeds Met Headingley Campus, #Nrocks.

The event was organised by Emma Ann Hardy (@emmaannhardy) and Debra Kidd (@debrakidd), and like Nten-researched-york,  had a mass of fantastic speakers running workshops. So much so I had terrible trouble selecting some of the workshops, and I cannot wait to catch some of those I missed online! (I believe they were all taped and will be available).

The event started with a panel discussion, chaired by event host Debra Dimbleby. The panel was: Mick Waters, a professor and former Chief Education Officer; Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead (@IanMearnsMP); Dominic Cummings, former policy advisor for Gove; Kevin Courtney (@cyclingkev) of the NUT; Richard Gardner of the Independent and Dot Lepkowska another journalist. The discussion was at times really interesting and focused around Ofsted, Policy and Performance Related Pay.

Some of my favourite soundbites:

“We need to stop dancing to Ofsteds tune”- Mick Waters

“Hey ministers, leave them teachers alone”- Richard Garner

Then the surprising: “This WILL be the last national curriculum” – Dominic Cummings

Professor Robert Coe (@Profcoe)

For the first workshop I chose to see Prof Coe, the theme was research and he looked at various strands of research and it’s findings. He also loomed at the impact in schools, and the impact he’d like to see. He covered a lot in the time and I left the session with a long list of further reading I’m looking forward to getting into when I find some time.

Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher)

The second session I attended was by Tom Sherrington and was in the CPD strand of the programme. I am a regular reader of Tom’s blog, and I often finish reading them wondering if Chelmsford (now Highbury) are commutable! (they aren’t.)

This session was no different, and left me firm in the knowledge that Tom would be an amazing person to work for. He spoke of his distain at lesson grading and performance related pay, “PRP is a legal requirement, so we pretend to have it!” and his commitment to staff development and research informed CPD. If Tait Coles if the king of “Punk Learning” then Tom is the king of “Punk Headteaching”, with his attitude to PRP and the fact he has extra INSET days “because we felt they’d be beneficial, and no one has said we can’t.”

Tom’s presentation included some fantastic examples of the research based initiatives going on at KEGS and how they shared them. He’s written previously on the subject here.

He spoke of creating a professional culture in the school where staff are striving to develop and are thoroughly engaged in driving their own CPD.

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He also spoke of getting the basics right. Talking about the progressive vs traditionalist debate he quipped that there’s no point arguing about the benefits, or not, of thinking hats if the behaviour is stopping the class from learning.

On the traditional progressive debate, he referred to it as a symbiotic relationship, like a tree, believing parts from both to be important.

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You can see Tom’s presentation, complete with links to relevant blog posts, here.

Tait Coles (@totallywired77)

Next up was the Punk Learner himself, who welcomed us into the room with The Fall’s “Hit the north”.

When browsing the programme I saw that Tait’s session was around inequality in education, and as this is something extremely close to my heart I opted for this session over a few others in the timeslot I would also have liked to see.

Tait’s presentation was almost like a call to arms. Setting out his feelings around the inequality in the system and why he feels the system is broken. A lot of the things he mentioned are things I’m currently investigating for a masters assignment and I picked up some good references.

The session itself was enjoyable and thought provoking l, and I intend to write more on it later. It included my favourite quote of the day: “I don’t want you to think like me, I just want you to think!”

The questions section at the end was also brilliant and included a lively debate on cultural capital and the role of schools. I have plenty to say on that too, but that’s another post for another day.

John Tomsett (@johntomsett)

For the final workshop I chose John Tomsett. There were many others I would have loved to see in this slot, but John is another of my favourite bloggers, having seen him do the keynote at Nten-researched-york I was worried it might be the sane talk, but the title was such that it seemed different, and it was.

John’s session was, in many ways, similar to Tom Sherrington’s. They both left me feeling that they would be great to work for, that their schools would be great to work in, that CPD and PM should be highly personalised, non-judgemental and intrinsically linked. They both mentioned they had more than average INSET days, and that they cared about creating a growth culture for staff and students alike.

John then spoke about his own teaching. He expressed his strong view that the headteacher in a school should be the HEAD teacher in that school. He then showed some videos he’d used to identify and improve his own teaching. Showing that even experienced heads can grow.

He spoke deeply, openly and honestly about his own journey, gave me a ton of books I now need to read and got me excited about his own book!

He shared this quote from Saracens Rfc:

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Sharing the Saracens philosophy, which is to get the best players, develop them and keep them happy. He applies this philosophy to Huntingdon and sees similar rewards.

Hywel Roberts (@HYWEL_ROBERTS) and Mike Waters

The final session was led by Hywel Roberts and Mike Waters. They spoke about the 4 key themes of the day: Policy, Pedagogy, Professional Development and Research. Their session was funny, thought provoking and entertaining, and included opportunities to discuss the day with others.

Mick left us with a final, poignant, thought for the day: “The only thing consistent about Ofsted Inspections is their inconsistency. The judgement will depend in the assertiveness of the headteacher and the lead inspector.”

All in all, the day was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have gathered knew info and ideas which will help in the classroom, in my studies and in the future. This write up has been done without my notes, so apologies if I’ve confused anything. This is just my views as they stand. There are many strands of discussion from today I hope to discuss further in future blogs.

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