Sunday, 8 September 2013

ResearchEd2013 7th Sept 2013

After a get up an an ungodly hour on the first Saturday of the half term, @danielharvey9 picked me up to make the quest down to Tom Bennett's inaugural Research Ed event at Dulwich College, in what can only be descibed as the poshest bit of London I think I've been in to date.  At this point, I'm at risk of getting @JamesTheo's vitriol rising so I'll just crack on with it.

Keynote: Ben Goldacre

Mr. Goldacre was a great choice to open up this event.  Perhaps he was fuelled by a few too many espressos as he was bright, lively and engaging in the delivery of his keynote, even though  technology worked against him. 

The crux of his talk was to empower teachers to undertake research based on their own needs and curiosities.  He cited examples from Japan (incdidentally Mr. Gove, the teachers have a by far lesser teaching load on their timetables than British teachers do), where teachers produce 'Research Journals' - selecting an area of interest, undertaking research and then reporting findings back to each other, which then provokes a set of new question that can be researched and shared.  It is notable that it is a 'bottom-up' approach to research of teaching and learning.  Decisions are made BY the teachers not TO them.

Something I did disagree with was: teachers needing summaries of educational research. Isn't that what is often mediated to us via SLT on an INSET day when someone has found 'the next big thing' - thinking hats! BLP! I can feel Tom Bennett shuddering. Furthermore, increasing numbers if the profession have MAs and Doctorates, are we not capable of more than reading summaries.  Time is what we need here, more time.

Session 1:
Carol Davenport
Action Research: A Reflective Space for Change
Carol really did have a task on her hands here: to condense down what is normally 5 days worth of training into 40 minutes and she pulled it off.  Her sessions will be available to view so won't re-narrate the entire thing, but in a nutshell, Action Research is:
2. The teacher's starting point being a good research question - which means: using precise language, it must be manageable for you, you must consider how it outcomes can be measured, focus on specific issues of your own practice, and consider the types of evidence required to prove or disprove your own Q.
3. It is worth getting your head around Hattie's 'effect sizes' so that you can measure effectiveness of whatever strategy or intervention you were experimenting with.

Carol Davenport gave us time to chat to people next to us and discuss key elements as stated above, it was good to be involved in this process.  I thought the process that she talked us through was logical, fairly easy to implement and could potentially have a profound affect on a teacher and their practice. One of the most useful bits of CPD I've had in recent months.  As a new 'Leader of Teaching and Learning' in my school, it is something I will bring up at our meeting this week.

Session 2:
John Tomsett and Alex Quigley
'Leading Edge: My ar*e!'

I've met John on two previous occasions, the first time at Pedagoo London, March last year, the second on interview at Huntinton School (the less said about that the better!) so this was my third time. If you have read his blog, 'This much I know about...' you'll know that this Head Teacher is open, forthright and wise. 

John introduced the session by discussing the *cliche klaxon* 'journey' of Huntington's GCSE results, and how a sudden realisation that a myriad interventions and R.A.Ps were in fact, a load of b*ll*cks and did NOTHING to motivate pupils or teachers of Yr 11 changed that was he managed his school in quite a profound way.  

Ever since, a hefty dose of common sense has come into play at Huntinton and a great deal of time is invested in his teachers' CPD, I think totalling something like 64 hours across their school year. A memorable phrase was, 'You can't just wish teachers to be better.'  Indeed.

Alex Quigley then took over to take us through his own first stab at Action Research in his English faculty, asking the question, 'Could 1:1 oral feedback improve the writing levels of Year 9?'  Two classes were selected, the content was the same and the only variation was that one class received 1:1 oral feedback on a draft of their work while the other group did not (although still received feedback).

Here, the oral feedback improved a very specific element of the pupil's writing, the stylistic element and making sure the pupil's work was appropriate to its audience.  The oral feedback was less effective for improving paragraph, sentences structures, and SPAG.

Now, as Alex was sharing this with us, some questions popped up which I put to him later in the day:

Did the fact that oral feedback was most effective for improving the style of the writing mean that a further CPD need was highlighted, re. oral feedback delivery for paragraph, sentence structures and SPAG?

Chris Waugh was with me when I posed the question and both agreed that of course we English teachers are better at giving this kind of feedback and not within the other areas whilst SPAG, sentence and paragraph structure is taught. 

However, this discussion provoked another question:

WHY are English teachers BETTER at commenting on style, audience and purpose?

By our very nature we are fairly prolific readers. Many of our routes into our subject knowledge our literary and not linguisitc, furthermore, being 'of a certain age' many of us did not receive good or even competent grammar teaching while we were at school.  This left me thinking that there MUST be a more effective way to give pupils oral feedback that is focussed on the grammatical element of their writing. How, erm, I don't know...yet.

The comments by Christopher Waugh below made me think further on this, that the above paragraph is more indicative of my own insecutities regarding grammar and the teaching of it.  However, I also think the data produced by such forms of Action Research needs interrogating by more than one person, thus allowing for the next research question to be formed or the adjustment to pedagogy to be refined.

The Twitter come-back from Chris Waugh:
"I would say in many cases a skill needs to be demonstrated and practiced, whereas style can be observed, thought about...Also a lot of people have experience of style so simply need to understand when to employ it. It's not that you can't instruct people in grammar - I think it's the RESPONDING to students grammar in short conversation...grammar would have to be taught.  There 's not too much point saying, "You should use the passive voice more" unless they know what that it...whereas it's easy to encourage rhetorical questions or repetitions etc.
   A coach can say, "Visualise yourself like a seal" but they can't break down every minutae in quick verbal feedback.  I think we shouldn't be teaching grammar when giving feedback.  There are other mechanisms for that."

Also, via Twitter, Alex Quigley supported Chris and clarified things for me with the following:
"I usually go explicit instruction with grammar teaching: explanation, modelling, questionning, practice and feedback, but the feedback is sharp - usually whole class; addressing misconceptions of groups rather than ind. feedback."

Both of these Twitter big cheeses have really helped my clarifying my thinking about teaching grammar, and will hopefully put paid the insecurities I have about teaching it following their examples.  Not a bad outcome from the conference, this post and some Tweets!

Here I broke for lunch. Lunch at a CPD had historically been my 'measuring stick' in terms of its quality, for often, it sure as hell wasn't the content.  Tom and Helene, the lunch was lovely and well done with the puddings too. I had cheese cake. Bostin' 

Thanks to @tombennett71 @beetlebug1 and @A_Weatherall (finger's crossed I have the right 'Alex' here') for company at lunch!

Session 5:

I really, really, really, wanted to go to Christopher Waugh's session. I arrived that little bit too late and they were packed like sardines into his room.  I nearly pressed myself against the glass like one of those Garfield's that used to be suckered to car windows, back in the 80s. I wisely decided against it. 

I bumped into @beetlebug1 in the corridor, so still smarting from missing Chris's talk (I have respect for this fella oozing out of my pores), we went to Daisy Christodolou's session:
'How can we discover the root cases of good teaching and learning?'

I confess I am a little intrigued by Daisy Christodolou as for me, she seems to have popped up like a Jack in the box, published an e-book 'The 7 Myths of Education' and her notoriety has sky-rocketed.  I am still not sure why.  I best confess here that I am yet to read her book, so that may squash some of my curiosity here.

Christodolou's talk focused really on the big 'K' knowledge, and via 3 anecdotes from her own teaching, discussed that what really put pupils at a disadvantage in an exam was gaps in knowledge.  A notable example was that pupils who sat a mock GCSE English paper did not know the meaning of the word 'glacier' and were also unable to use context clues to make an educated guess.  Therefore, pupil responses were by and large, in-correct as this mis-understanding affected how these pupils interpreted the whole text.

I remain baffled as to how this might be as glaciation IS taught by geographers I am sure. So what happens from this knowledge from another curriculum area in an exam situation? It seems to disappear into the ether.

So, this left some questions to be posed:
1. How do we get pupils to remember what we need them to know?
2. How can we make cross-curricular knowledge and skills more explicit to pupils?
3. How do we plug those kinds of gaps in 'knowledge' or 'cultural capital'?
4. How can cognitive psychology aid us in this, or indeed, can it?

I remain intrigued by Daisy Christodolou so will add her book to the 'to read' pile.

I did skip and afternoon session for a much needed catch up with @kevbartle, and @rlj1981 and I got to meet @kitandrew1 plus I needed a VERY strong coffee.

My final session of the day - after a great chat with Christopher Waugh (not forgetting the lovely hug), was:

Kevan Collins
Who I think was from the Educational Development Trust (do correct me if I'm wrong).

Now, it doesn't helped that I arrived with Chris a little late, so missed the opening gambit of this talk. Regrettably, neither of us enjoyed this as much as the rest, for, unlike the rest of the talks I saw, the tone of this was, 'Teachers ought to be doing this, this and this using my method'. Much of a 'done to' not 'with' kind of talk.  It doesn't help either that I was awash with tiredness so I'll leave my summary of that one there. Somebody who was less tired and grumpy with give a better one I'm sure.

And finally....

Tom Bennett rounded up the day with some enthusiastic and well deserved thank yous, specifially for @hgaldonoshea who looked like really needed a genrous quantity of gin and tonic by the end of a busy day.  I also had time for some brief mingling with @debsgf, @LGolton, @bio_joe and I met @dawson_serena for the first time.

Apres ResearchEd2013 involved a glass of white wine outside The Crown & Greyhound pub in Dulwich Village with @rlj1981, @kitandrew1 and @danielharvey9, who was in AWE of the artisan bread shop he saw on the way to the pub. Whilst taking in our rather posh surroundings, we quickly agreed that 'artisan' meant more expensive. A place where most of your £10 notes is swallowed up purchasing two drinks is not for the likes of me. I know my place. :-)

Not to self for future journeys with @danielharvey9 - one bag of wine gums is NOT enough. Buy in triplicate next time.

N.B. Despite futiley playing 'Where's @oldandrewuk' no Batman sockes were spotted, although I did glance at a worring number of gentleman's ankles.