ResearchEd Durrington - 28.4.18

Over the last few years it has been thoroughly refreshing, absorbing and enthusing to see teachers engaging with research. I have very much been an enthusiastic lurker, reading widely, and learning more and more about the profession. It has been a journey that has improved my teaching, improved student outcomes, and has ensured that I am continually learning. Yesterday, this learning journey took me to Durrington Research School, where I attended my first ResearchEd event alongside a FHES colleague Emma Hockey. The line up was like the Glastonbury of educational minds and inspiration. 

After an engaging keynote presentation by Professor Daniel Muijs, Director of Research at Ofsted, which focused on how to make sense of research evidence, it was off to listen to four presentations across the day, each 50 minutes in length. However, the difficult choice was selecting which session to go to, with six sessions on in each of the time slots. Decisions, decisions! 

I decided to go for:

Session 1: Mark Enser - Lean Lessons - focusing on how we can plan lessons that focus on learning rather than activity whilst at the same time slashing workload?

Session 2: Rebecca Foster and Claire Hill - Practical approaches to bring research-informed practice to the classroom, the department and the whole school. 

Session 3: David Fawcett - Tackling the engrained myths in teaching and what you should really focus on instead. 

Session 4: Sarah Donarski - Questioning how you question

I wanted to go to many others, specifically presentations by Tom Sherrington, Mary Myatt, Professor Becky Allen, Nick Rose, Oliver Caviglioli, David Weston, Michael Tidd, Harry Fletcher-Wood and Carl Hendrick/Robin Macpherson to name but a few. You can see the obvious dilemma when it comes to choosing from the speakers, but it also means that I will be a definite for the National Conference on 8 September 2018. 

Below is a very brief summary of the main points that I took from each of the sessions I attended.

Mark Enser - Lean Lessons

The session was on efficient and effective teaching with a focus on slashing workload at the same time and it really delivered. Mark focused on how using research-informed practice through trial and error has dramatically changed the way he teaches. 

Main points are below:

1. Teaching is fundamentally simple:

  • Recap
  • Input
  • Application
  • Test

However, doing these really well and implementing them is very complex, but this is the fun and interesting part of the job, exploring what does and doesn't work. 

2. We have over-complicated teaching and are doing things to:

  • please SLT
  • please Ofsted
  • please parents
3. We have also over-complicated teaching or made it harder by:
  • engaging with fads through poorly constructed research
  • using inconsistent and poorly thought through behaviour systems
  • using poorly thought through assessment and tracking systems
4. Using knowledge retrieval practice at the start of lessons is really effective practice, however the questions shouldn't be in isolation to the content being covered that lesson, allowing students to see the deeper links between content across the subject. 

5. Great explanation needs great planning. The teacher has to see themselves as the expert. However, it is absolutely fine for the teacher to have notes with them, why wouldn't this be accepted? Brilliant to be able to refer to, especially during the well planned explanation stage. 

6. Dual coding - use images alongside text to support instruction. Read Rosenshine's article on the Principles of Instruction if you haven't already. 

7. Good explanation:
  • Know your stuff
  • Prepare (allow teachers to have notes)
  • Question (teacher talk should include questioning and modelling)
  • Avoid distraction (stop the lesson if there are any distractions, students will not be learning)
  • Support working memory - tell stories, leave reminders and use dual coding
8. Application of knowledge - do not allow students to leave with misconceptions. Plan for misconceptions and challenge them early in the lesson. Why would you use a plenary at the end of the lesson? You cannot chase a student down the corridor if they get the answers wrong!

9. Modelling - model everything that you do, diagrams, graphs, writing. Show excellence and the expectation of the level of depth and detail to students. Remove the scaffolding over time when doing the same skills, but model in great detail to start with. Live modelling on the board and through using a visualiser. 

10. Teach up and support down - teach to the very top and support students to get there. 

11. Testing - How do we know what students know? How do we respond as teachers?
  • Important point here which came from Dylan William - don't improve the piece of work, improve the student. 
12. Teachers need to be 100% crystal clear on what students have to know and a consistency across the department here is key. 

13. With regards to student work - change the language from have you done/completed the work, to, have you learnt it yet - powerful change. Alongside a poster in the classroom that says 'Is it excellent yet?' - love this! Students then ask whether their work is excellent yet, focusing on teaching to the top. 

Mark's key point was 'teach like no-one else is watching' - forget parents, SLT, Ofsted and focus on student learning. Make sure that the learning is the focus and not the activity/task. 

Read more from Mark Enser

Rebecca Foster and Claire Hill - Practical approaches to bring research-informed practice to the classroom, the department and the whole school. 

The main focus of this session was clear: what does research-informed practice look like in the classroom, which attracted me to the session with the close links to one of my favourite educational books of recent times; 'What does this look like in the classroom?' by Hendrick and Macpherson.

Firstly, if I was an English teacher or HOD, this would have been a session to perhaps change the way the whole curriculum is taught, with the distinction between substantive and disciplinary knowledge made so clear and so well thought through. 

These are the key points that I took from their superb session:

1. Testing does not need to be seen as a negative. Change the culture around testing. 

2. Testing can be recapping/quizzing/checking/revising with the focus being the constant revisiting and repeating to ensure that understanding and knowledge links with long term memory.

3. Construct MCQs that are challenging, well planned and plan for misconceptions at the start of lessons, challenging them at the source.

4. Create a collaborative bank of MCQs across the department, drawing in expertise from across the department. 

5. Power of self-quizzing - model the methodology to students. Students love it as they are trying to learn knowledge, which is concrete. Key here is high impact on students, low impact on teacher workload. 

6. Self-quizzing on vocabulary was a key focus from y7 through to y13. Use of quizlet. 

7. Memory is the residue of thought - Willingham - Rebecca and Claire reminded us that we are the expert and we need to get students to remember the content and not the task. Rebecca shared a lesson that she blogged about in 2008, which students remembered for the activity of putting their hands in different boxes of different materials rather than the stimulus for sensory writing. 

There were other points made on curriculum design, however along with Mark, the key point that came through was about learning - plan for learning and not the task

Read more from Claire Hill
Read more from Rebecca Foster

David Fawcett - Tackling the engrained myths in teaching and what you should really focus on instead. 

David's session looked at misconceptions in teaching that perhaps some are still doing/using. This session was an interesting one, which focused on the source of the misconceptions. However, perhaps more importantly David finished the session with a focus on cognitive load theory and labelling the point that this is something that we all can focus on. 

1. The cone of learning was taken apart, mainly through the fact that the original model which it was based upon by Edgar Dale in 1959, looked nothing like the model, along with many other issues with the model. 

2. Learning styles were taken apart. 

3. Right and left side of the brain work was taken apart. 

4. Brain gym was taken apart. 

5. Cognitive load theory was then put forward by David as one of the main areas for all teachers to think about when teaching. David mentioned that it was key to find out prior knowledge on content/a topic first, to not overload students cognitively.

6. The key message was to not overload the working memory with our ability to remember 7 +/-2 things and how to do this. 

Read more from David Fawcett

Sarah Donarski - Questioning how you question

Sarah's session was really enlightening and made me think about how I question, going back to square 1 when planning questioning. 

Some of the main points that I took away from Sarah's session are below:

1. Do the questions that you currently ask focus on students with the strongest understanding?

2. Do the questions that you ask take into account of the different levels of prior understanding of the content?

3. Do the questions you ask actually challenge thinking?

4. Questions may be too differentiated, do your weaker ability students get to answer the same questions? If not, why not?

5. Learning is much more than participating.

6. Add in 'do you think' to question stems, which will allow students will less prior knowledge or lower levels of understanding to get involved in answering the questions. 

7. Use 50/50 questions to involve students that really struggle to answer questions. 

8. Look at the different questioning strategies that you use - if questioning about text - do students need prior knowledge of content prior to being able to answer the main question? - e.g. if there is a metaphor in the text, and students can't remember what a metaphor is, will they switch off?

9. Do we lock out students from the learning from the way we question?

10. Use names at the end of questions to keep all in the class engaged in questioning. A link back to TLAC 2.0 and Doug Lemov's great book.

11. We need to increase participation ratio as a basis for subsequent thinking - depending on prior knowledge - therefore allowing students to access questions. 

12. How do you question?

  • Slow- where required - let them think - link to Jamie Thom and 'Slow Teaching'
  • Structured - for knowledge recollection and gaps in schemas
  • Spontaneous - to show understanding
  • Self-critical - to encourage student evaluation and self-reflection
13. A massive fallacy is assuming that teaching students knowledge will equate to understanding how to apply this knowledge. Questioning should maximise confidence in understanding too. 

So a final reflection: 

I am still buzzing over 24 hours later, enthused and refreshed, with a reinvigorated passion to continue to improve learning for all students, make teaching more efficient, effective, student focused and to slash workload for teachers. The key is to get teachers to buy-in to research-informed practice, to see the benefits from a grass-roots level, and to see the impact that it can have on students and their own practice. 

It was my first ResearchEd event and I am hooked. Yes it was a Saturday, but it was the best CPD I have been involved with in 10 years, along with the networking opportunity and the ability to socialise with like minded professionals. We can re-professionalise teaching, we can continually learn and we are experts. 

Final thanks go to all at the Durrington Research School, specifically Shaun Allison, Andy Tharby, Fran Haynes, Chris Runeckles and Lisa Edwards. It was a superb event, and I am hoping there will be another one next year. Find out more about Durrington Research School


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