Boy, have we needed a ResearchEd! Eva and I were reflecting at the end of the day how missed ResearchEd has been in terms of providing the brain-food and thinking that really enables us to develop our practice.
I loved Saturday at ResearchEd Deutschland for so many reasons. But first I will share my main takeaways from each session.
Session 1: Tom Bennett
I loved Tom’s opening session in which he argued that ‘fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters’ (Goya 1797) with the view that continuing to be evidence-informed is the most useful thing we can do to identify the best bets in education, the highly likelys and the probables with the important caveat that we use research to interrogate our own practice. We need to ask key questions of ourselves and of each other all the time: Where’s the evidence for this? What is your reasoning behind this? How do we know it is working? And clearly stating ‘You haven’t shown me why it should be right’ when there is doubt and uncertainty. Ultimately when we draw upon evidence, we increase our power as practitioners but we also improve the opportunities of our pupils.
- I am stepping away from a few things at my school to give me the time to start reading and researching again because I love it and it motivates me. I can’t wait to buy some new books for my edu pile.
- I am also going to continue to ask ‘Where’s the evidence for this?’ when decisions are made.
Session 2: Emily Chandler – Embedding the Teaching of Tier 2 Vocabulary
I decided I was going to attend all of the English related sessions so next up was Emily who gave a brilliant presentation on the Embedding of Tier 2 vocabulary. She argued that working with Tier 2 vocabulary was central to what we do, for so many reasons: access to examinations, understanding key concepts, understanding complex texts etc. Emily argued that we need to select words for their importance and utility – which words would be most beneficial to pupils? How might these words help pupils’ conceptual understanding? And how do these words support the instructional potential? As in, what does the word contribute in the situation or the text? Emily also provided a range of strategies to support the teaching of Tier 2 words: 1. Pull the words out directly from the text – this provides context and helps to establish the relationship between words. 2. Ensure pupils have multiple exposures to the words and multiple opportunities to practise these words and personalise the meaning of them, including developing independence to find their own definitions of words 3. Increase the generative strategies for learning: e.g. words in context, the morphological structures and definition tools. Identifying prefixes and suffixes leads to a wider understanding of a range of words. 4. Use supportive icons for activities and tools. 5. Test or quiz key words – gives it weight and importance. This was a really great session with lots of useful tips to implement straight away.
- I currently identify the tier two words in the texts I teach but I am less good at spending time on these words and then reinforcing them through at least three exposures so this is something that I need to really think about next year.
- I am going to use the Averil Coxhead site to help me whittle my tier 2 words down.
- I am also going to use wordsift.org to filter through my articles.
Session 3: Sarah Johnson – Mental Health
I wanted to attend this session because I think this is a prevalent issue and wanted to listen to something of a slightly different ilk. Sarah presented her incredibly interesting results from her study in which she interviewed 800 young people on their own mental health and the supporting provision in schools. There were a number of interesting things that I started thinking about as I was listening: 1. Ensuring pupils have the emotional literacy to communicate and talk about their feelings. Reference was made to how often teachers ask pupils how they are and how important this is just to check in with pupils. 2. Sarah also made me think about the quality of mentoring for all in schools. Often the mentoring we do is squeezed into a short space of time with no real opportunity for deep reflection or talk and so I was considering how I could improve what I do with my tutor group next year. Finally, I was thinking a lot about the pressure pupils feel under. Our pupils put so much pressure on themselves when we approach a test – an insane, unhealthy amount of pressure, especially our 11 year olds who will study 4 hours on a weekend for a test. I would, personally, like to look into this further to see how we can better support our pupils. This session was a really good opportunity to think and reflect upon the support I give from a pastoral perspective – something I know I am definitely weaker at.
Session 4: Alex Fairlamb – The Golden 5: Literacy
Another brilliant session focused on literacy. Alex, again, made some really important points including that pupils need to learn to read before they read to learn and that we shouldn’t assume comprehension of a text just because pupils can answer questions easily. This pertinent point was made through an incredibly insightful activity and really made me think about how I can continue to support my pupils be active in their reading and ensure that they have fully comprehended what has been read – especially given that English is a second language for many of my learners. She also drew attention to the importance of command words – something I have looked at before in my previous school – but have digressed away from so I want to pay more attention to these: my communication of them, pupils’ understanding of them and their quick utility of them. I absolutely LOVED Alex’s strategic thinking with regard to the five literacy areas she was promoting at her school with one identified strategy to embed for each: frayer model, kernel sentences; reading aloud; single paragraph outline and but, because, so. I have so many little ideas buzzing around about little things I can start to systematically implement to aid my pupils literacy skills. I loved this session.
I’ve missed ResearchEd. I need ResearchEd in my life. It excites me to come together with like-minded professionals and talk all things Teaching and Learning. It feeds my brain. It makes me think. It improves me as a teacher. I am going to make it my business 1. To get to as many ResearchEd events as I can and 2. to pick up the reading again.
I also loved meeting so many incredible people. All of the speakers were amazing. I joked with Eva and Kevin – that I was the Lidl in amongst the Waitrose but seriously, people like the incredible speakers just motivate me to try and become as brilliant as they are. They motivate me to do better and to be better and I am all here for that.
I particularly loved meeting Kate Jones. Kate is such an inspiration. Kind, hard-working, passionate, gorgeous – she is just a wonderful human-being and role-model for educators.
I loved being in a new country and travelling once again – although I think it is fair to say we all struggled with the planes and trains.
And finally, the man who made it all happen. I have had the privilege to be line-managed directly by Dan Rosen – he, without doubt, is one of my most favourite people that I have ever worked with. In fact, it makes me quite teary thinking about it. I look back on the time I spent with him and a few other members of staff and really do think they were the golden years. To be led by someone who is so authentic, so humble, who supports you without hesitation, who challenges you so passionately – I can’t even. He is an outstanding leader and I am envious of all those who get to work under him today – when you find exceptional leadership, it really is something. I hope many more people get to see his brilliance. I can’t wait for our now annual reunion in Germany or in Italy.
Thank you to everyone for the most incredible day. Thank God for ResearchEd.