Thoughts from researchED Surrey 2021

Research ED Surrey returned with a bang this year as it was full steam ahead with a packed day of talks and an excellent lunch. Also there were these large cookies that I adored. I ate 5 of them, honestly. Apart from the food there were talks. Here is a summary of a few I attended.

Jon Hutchinson

John talked about the 7 beat bets used at Reach Feltham. There were lots to take from his talk, especially the insights into how one of the highest performing schools approach teaching and learning.

One of my main takeaways was how much they embrace and accept the tradeoffs and tensions that exist in all school decisions. I got the feeling Reach really embrace an aspect of nuance in decisions at the expense of consistency. He was keen to point out that any evidence-informed approach was not value free, that there were no universal solutions and evidence was often incomplete and complex

He described their best bets for teaching as “what is the easiest thing to not screw up” recognising that some strategies can actually be negative if poorly implemented. He talked about their CPD model which encourages staff to translate the evidence to their own subjects context and spend time implementing and adapting. This variation actually increases performance because it creates ownership and a more innovative solution.

He talked about a number of issues but the other thing that really struck me was the use of ratio as a way of making teachers think about scaffolding. I’m definitely going to steal that!

I also really liked this quote: “think about what your staff are not going to do as much as what they are going to do”. Really enjoyed the talk.

Steve Rollett

Steve told us about how legitimation code theory can be used to analyse knowledge and the curriculum.

A key idea was knowledge is not without its own biases. Each aspect of knowledge also contains an implicit ideology that is associated with it. As such, achievement is context specific and looks different in each subject and at each key stage.

He talked a lot at how schools intent statements (which Ofsted do not want) often mistake the type on knowledge being imparted and ignore the disciplinary knowledge and structure of that subject. Intent statements that talk of changing the students perspective in a subject like science do themselves a disservice as science is less about developing the students perspective than it is about developing their knowledge.

It’s probably too much to get into in a blog but I’m going to dig deeper. Cliff notes version is we often see knowledge co-opted and claimed to represent a certain ideological slant. For example if you like explicit instruction you must be a Tory scum bag.

Mike Hobbis

Old habits die hard.

So many in education seem to misunderstand that improving a trianee is easy compared changing the habits of an experienced colleague. Mike explored how habits form, why CPD is often ineffective and how you can try to overcome the habits you have formed. These habits form due to the repetition, pressure and stress a teacher faces. Essentially they are survival habits we develop in the early years of our career.

The most illuminating thing to me was that habits are goal independent. This means you do them even if you know they aren’t good for you. As someone that was on a 5 giant cookie sugar crash, I could really relate!

He talked about how instructional coaching is well placed to help people overcome their bad habits but that this would take time as new habits need to be repeated many times until they overwrite the old ones. This made me reflect on what Jon mentioned about the tensions in school decisions; if we go for instructional coaching will we have the patience required to make it work?

This was my favourite talk and really added a layer of evidence to my own experience. Nothing like a nice slice of confirmation bias to finish off.

Thanks to the 80 odd people that attended my talks. I hope you found it interesting. I’m planning of doing it again at another researchED so any feedback would be appreciated.

The day ended with a lovely drink in the local pub with Peps and Jack and a good old chin wag about the fun and games that is edutwitter.

Thanks to jack the the team who put together a great day!

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