Posts Tagged ‘ResearchEd’

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:


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.

Engaging with research

May 20, 2014 3 comments

I’ve had a number of conversations today that have got me thinking about educational research, Ofsted guidance, and how they are, or worryingly often aren’t, linked to what’s actually going on in schools.

During one conversation with a PGCE student I was informed about certain practices which were heavily integrated into the CPD offer at her previous placement school which have now been totally debunked. This led the conversation down a windy path. We discussed lots of things but the crux of it was centered around how this could have happened.

The reasoning isn’t necessarily fully correct, but we hypothesised that this could happen when people leave their own learning behind once they qualify. The possibility is that people can be trained in whatever is deemed good practice at the time, but without continued learning and engagement with research and policy they don’t necessarily know when the world moves on.

In another conversation a colleague of mine seemed shocked that I was writing an essay, and when I told him that a few of the books were great and would be worth his investment he suggested that that takes one hell of a commitment to education. I took this as a compliment, and thinking about it later it struck me that it does take one hell of a commitment to education, and only a handful of staff at the school would have such a commitment.

Is it any wonder, then, that despite Ofsted changing tack in line with the most up to date research some schools are still working from an old playbook? Many schools are still grading lessons, I even know of some where grading and judgement are attached to a constant programme of learning walks. This is despite of the fact that all evidence points towards a developmental process of lesson observations being far more productive and beneficial to the teachers.

I feel lucky to be in a school that has stopped grading observations, and where learning walks are fed back to the entire school as a “we saw this good practice” style report. It would seem that this is not commonplace elsewhere.

In some schools, it would seem that management have little interest in the research and as such are working from massively outdated ideas. We need to work on ensuring the profession is moving forward, that we are developing new staff as best we can, that we are learning from our mistakes and learning from the research. This means engaging with it, and questioning it where appropriate, as David Weston (@informed_edu) and Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) suggested in York. When we have engaged and questioned, then we can apply it to our own context and each improve our own practice.

How can we do this?

At ResearchEd York John Tomsett (@johntomsett) mentioned that at his school he has appointed Alex Quigley (@huntingenglish) “Director of Research”, this sounds like a fantastic role, and shows how seriously this is taken at Huntingdon. Perhaps more schools would benefit from such a role.

Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) tells us in this post that he sees the development of a research based CPD programme as a major priority as he starts a new headship, which shows how committed he is to this vision.

Shaun Allinson (@shaun_allinson) runs a “blog of the week” for his school, to engage staff with the Blogosphere, this is a way into the research and could be beneficial for all.

These are a few excellent examples, but I fear they are in the minority. I think, though, that above all, the burning issue is time. 3 hours isn’t enough time to “Plan, Prepare and Assess” for up to 27 lessons. The majority of teachers work 55-60 hour weeks as it is and would baulk at any additional “work”. It’s not impossible to engage with it on a full timetable, I do it and I know others who do and benefit from it, but to get buy in from everyone on top of such vast workloads is unlikely.

The future of CPD

May 6, 2014 1 comment

At the NTEN-ResearchEd-YORK conference on Saturday a lot was said about CPD and pedagogy. David Weston (@informed_edu) spoke about CPD and it’s delivery. He spoke eloquently about the way CPD is run in most schools and how he believes that it should. One of the key points he made was that of purpose. CPD should start with a need and then should be developed to address that need and evaluated against it.

This is an idea that seems so simple, but is often lost in schools. The reason why us evident. It would be a mammoth task to coordinate an individual CPD programme based on each staff members individual needs, but does this mean we shouldn’t try?

Miss Cox (@MissDCox) wrote this piece recently on the death of whole school CPD and I think she makes many great points about how and why we should move forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what an ideal programme would look like and I think it would definitely incorporate these elements:

Lesson Study

John Tomsett (@johntomsett) spoke of the ethos of observations at his school. A gradeless system with no fear, with development based objectives. This is something of think can be extremely useful. Both from a management perspective (ie SLT helping to develop staff) and a peer basis. Staff could link with people who have strengths where they need to develop and vice versa.

Subject Specific Pedagogy

Mark Miller (@GoldfishBowlMM) mentioned on Saturday that he had enjoyed one of my recent maths based posts and that he saw a future where there was less general pedagogical CPD, and more subject specific pedagogy and CPD. I think that this is important moving forward. I feel that teachers need to have an excellent knowledge of their subject and an excellent knowledge of how to teach it. There is no ideal, one size fits all pedagogy that covers all subjects and although there remains good ideas that may work across subject we need to start tailoring development programmes around subjects as well.


I know that during my NQT year I had a mentor and a coach who was an SLT member, and both of them helped me immensely. This could and should be an ongoing thing to help people continue their development.

Master’s Level Profession

I’m currently studying towards a master’s in education and I feel that the stuff I’m learning is of major benefit. Not only am I learning things that have an instant impact in the classroom, but I’m engaging with the research in a way that I wasn’t and I’m learning to critically question the ideas that are laid before me. These are skills that I feel would benefit all of us, and I would certainly recommend further study to anyone. Becoming a master’s level profession may also raise the profile of the profession and help recruitment.

Personalised Programmes

As mentioned above, and in the posts I have linked to, every teacher has different needs, and the CPD offer we receive should meet those needs. Tom Bennett (@Tombennett71) mentioned on Saturday that the ResearchEd conferences were “teachers doing it for themselves.” H used the word revolution, and I’ve written before on this here. This is indicative of what is going on with these conferences, twitter, blogging, teachmeets etc, but this is still only the minority of teacher taking control of our CPD. More of us need to do so, and perhaps this should be part of the teachers ongoing CPD programme for the 21st century.

These are all ideas that I have been thinking about, and that make sense. We need to make sure we are developing in the way we want to, in the way we need to, to ensure the best outcomes for our students. John spoke about a “Growth Culture” within his school. One where students and staff alike were growing and realising their own potential. Surely this has to be the aim for all of us, to continue improving and to be the best that we can be?

A sunny Saturday in York

May 5, 2014 2 comments

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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