This blog is inspired by my recent trip to researchED, a teaching conference in Birmingham. It is particularly applicable to newly qualified teachers but I hope to give any reader an insight into the brilliant work that researchED are doing. The events are held nationally and internationally. Their aim is to provide affordable and useful lectures for anyone who works in education. The talks are run by everybody; from head teachers to teaching assistants to NQTs to researchers and everybody in between.
The theme for the day was ‘Curriculum, Culture, and Community’, but the theme of this blog is ‘more of what we don’t know.’ I found it invaluable to be a part of a research event, and spend some time as a student rather than a teacher.
Claire Stoneman is a deputy head and English teacher. Claire opened the conference with a passionate speech about the crucial need for consistently expecting the best, from ourselves and from our students. She spoke to the heart of every teacher in the room, about her ‘quiet fury’ against the idea of a child’s future being left to whim or chance. Her speech booted the day into action, and urgently grabbed each person by the collar. ‘Every child has the right to a great deal, we can’t wish or pray or pine for it. We have to make it happen. We don’t have time to waste.’
Tom Bennett spoke to a packed hall about perfecting behaviour management. His messages were clear and useful particularly for new teachers. Tom’s key messages were:
“Just behave!”- The need for absolute clarity when you ask students to behave. Their idea of ‘good behaviour’ and your idea of ‘good behaviour’ is likely to be very different. Be totally explicit about what you expect from the moment they enter the room to the moment they leave. Clearly outlining and revisiting your expectations for behaviour should work as a preventative measure rather than a reactive one.
“Changing habits not behaviour”- Tom told the audience that he could change all of our behaviour by getting a gun out and telling us all to sing the national anthem. That would change our behaviour but not our habits. Habits come through consistency and routine.
“Don’t do something until you get it right, do it until you can’t get it wrong”
Daniel Muijs is Head of Research for Ofsted.
“We must escape the tyranny of the algorithm that only ever gives us more of what we already know or desire, opening minds is the role of education.”
“Aesthetic Curriculum”- Ensuring that student’s aren’t pushed too heavily down one path, and that humanities and sciences work together to create a community.
Panel: Heather Fearn, Naureen Khalid, Stuart Lock, Sonia Thompson
The question put forward to the panel was ‘what is good culture?’
A high level of shared values, functionality, and challenge.
Valuing and celebrating your students.
Time and space is key, meaningful change to culture may not happen overnight or in a half-term.
Clive Wright is the Principal at Saint Martin’s Catholic Academy, a school with a focus on a knowledge rich curriculum.
“5 year curriculum”- Saint Martin’s do not use key stages. Instead, they thought ‘what do we want a year 11 student to know on their last day of school? What do we need to do on the first day of year seven in order to achieve that?’
“Learning means remembering for a long time”- This is supported by plenty of low stakes quizzing, repetition, and revisiting.
“Knowledge is sticky”- Saint Martin’s find it useful to teach similar topics at a similar time. If a year group are studying Romeo and Juliet in English, it is helpful to teach them Elizabethan England in History and the Renaissance Era in Art.
Clare Sealy is a Primary School Head teacher, and spoke about how to create a curriculum which students can remember.
“Curriculum as a boxset”: Units should be more like Game of Thrones and less like The Simpsons. Make sure that your unit has an ongoing question or conflict which students can grapple with, as stories have a psychological advantage over standalone lessons.
“Schema”: Flowing ‘stories’ will aid a child’s schema, as they make links and build relationships between their lessons.
“Accommodation and assimilation”: Learning requires accommodating knowledge, and assimilating knowledge. Accommodating knowledge is when we teach something that fits nicely with a student’s current understanding. For example, ‘I know that birds have wings and beaks, they fly, and live in nests.’ When you teach this child that an owl is a bird, they are accommodating knowledge. Assimilating knowledge is where a student’s current understanding is challenged and changed. To illustrate this Claire asked everybody to name a desert, to which everybody replied “Sahara.” She then told us that Antarctica is a desert, and the only criteria for being a desert is that it is dry. In order to understand this I had to assimilate the knowledge, as it did not fit with my current understanding. Since this session I have found it useful to consider where my students will be accommodating or assimilating knowledge.
Lastly a big thank you to the real stars of the day, the 50 student helpers from Erdington Academy. They were helpful, confident, and friendly, and had given up their Saturday (!) to make sure that the event ran smoothly. You were all a credit to your school.
ResearchED has a many events coming up which can be found here https://researched.org.uk/events/list/ or followed under the hashtag #researchED.