I was fortunate enough to get very late tickets for the Research Ed 2013 Conference held at Dulwich College. This event organised by Tom Bennett and Hélène Galdin-O'Shea was designed to stimulate conversation about the use of research in education (hence the clever title). During the closing speech by Tom, he said something along the lines of it being the most inspiring day in his professional career and, after working in the education sector for three years, I can safely say that besides time spent in the classroom, it was the most useful day I've had in terms of CPD. This post is going to give a quick review of the day trying to explain why. Delegates had a choice of speakers for each session; my aim was to see a range of speakers who would discuss issues that would directly help me implement research in the classroom.
After a brief introduction by the master of Dulwich, Ben turned up fairly late and flustered for the conference opening. However, after a prolonged period of ICT difficulties, Ben managed to bring the reasons why academics and teachers need a closer link. His Bad Science book is going to be my next read and Ben made numerous links to the medical industry and how Education could potentially follow a similar route. His opening was both humorous and inspiring for the profession as a whole.
I only had a brief look at the session descriptions before the conference started so had to make a very quick decision about who to see first. I was quite intrigued to hear about the evidence-based model at ARK schools so went to hear the education adviser for ARK schools. Unfortunately, the speech was a bit of a disappointment with Spielman mainly showing off about the ARK schools without saying anything that could potentially be used by other schools or teachers. This was demonstrated by me taking very few notes during the lecture.
I completed my main placement on my PGCE at the school where John is Headteacher. Prior to his lecture, I spoke to both John and Alex Quigley (my former Head of Department) who was also involved in the speech. I was persuaded to visit their lecture after finding out that a lot of their discussion would be directly related to what I wanted to achieve in my classroom despite me wanting to go see what Dr. Rebecca Allen and Joe Kirby had to say about Teach First. This proved to be a very good decision with John and Alex talking the delegates through their research in the classroom and what lessons they learnt from it. A very useful session for an individual teacher who wants to implement research in their own classroom in a useful way.
As Chief Executive of CUREE, Phillipa has vast experience of using and devilish evidence in education. The session was useful if only for the examples she gave of teachers who had implemented successful research in their classrooms to benefit their students' learning. One question which was posed was 'how do teachers get access to the studies and links that will benefit their classrooms?' and although Phillipa said that she'd come back to answering the question later, due to time constraints she was unable to answer it.
Tom's session focused on the CamSTAR model of school-based action research in his KEGS school where he is head. A lot of what Tom said would have been useful for most schools but unfortunately, a lot of what he said was already in place at my previous school (Cramlington). However, he did have some incredibly insightful comments about the culture school-based action research creates. One comment that seemed particularly apt was that we would go much further if more people in education invested in a research culture rather than worshipping 'teaching gods' who impose their views from afar.
Dr. Jonathan Sharples
I was set on going to Sam Freedman's discussion in this section, till I heard John Tomsett singing Dr. Jonathan Sharple's praises in his lecture. After sitting down at the front of the room, I had a quick discussion with Jonathan finding out where he was based at the University of York (where I completed my undergraduate and PGCE) as well as what he was doing at the moment. Jonathan's lecture was incredibly useful, providing links and tips for an individual teacher in the classroom to develop their own school-based action research. He provided ideas that could potentially link research to practice more effectively and I definitely plan to get in touch with him to see if I can implement something similar to what Alex and John did with Jonathan at Huntington using the EEF project guidelines.
Again, this was an incredibly difficult decision as to which session to go to as I felt Katie Ashford's lecture would be particularly apt for a still relatively new teacher like myself. However, after hearing from quite a few lecturers on how an individual teacher can implement research in their classroom, I decided on visiting David Weston's lecture on 'bridging the chasm between practitioners and researchers. David had some very interesting questions to ask particularly 'where is the evidence that research benefits education?'
David talked about some of the problems with Hattie's effect size measurement and his 'hinge point' as well as discussing some of the barriers to implementing research in the classroom. Although I would have liked to hear more about how David would suggest the profession would get around these barriers, time constraints again meant that he wasn't able to expand. I was particularly proud to hear him refer to how Cramlington was a really great example of a school.
Tom's closing speech was mainly thanks and praise for all the hard work done by the organisers. He did say that the aim of the conference was to change not everything, not nothing but 'something' and I'm pretty certain that it certainly has done that for me. As I said previously, I'd put this conference down as one of the most useful few hours I've spent outside the classroom in my professional careers, even just to hear the thoughts of great educational minds and feel the buzz of excitement from the teachers and fellow educationalists in the room. Bring on rEd2014.