Reflections on ResearchEd 2015: Moving beyond the RE bubble!

I’ve finally had time to reflect on excellent ResearchEd 2015 (5th Sept) and get my thoughts down on paper.

This was the first time I’d been to this event, and I went with a number of ‘hats’….but primarily I went for me! Sometimes in my world, which is primarily the RE world, we can be quite insular. The most effective forms of professional learning this year for me, have been opportunities to think beyond RE. I am particularly interested, as an adviser, in what constitutes effective professional development and how  I can ensure that my practice with a variety of organisations reflects this. The session by Philippa Cordingley (CUREE) stood out  for me as likely to have the most impact on my work.

More Thinking and Questioning

I need to spend more time thinking about what I do and why I do it. One thing that stood out to me at ResearchEd was the number of myths that were dispelled. Some of these I knew about mainly via Twitter, but some were new to me and it concerned me that some of my own practice has been based on theories that are not proven, or at worst made up! Having listened to Pedro De Bruyckere I want to read the book (Urban Myths about Learning and Education)! So I need to think more before I plan training, I need to question more, dig deeper and yes, I think I need to say sometimes I ‘got it wrong’!

But…. I also need to think more about the impact of the work I do. I need to question how effective the CPD I offer actually is. Does it make a difference to pupils? This can be hard to quantify in my work, but actually it is essential or potentially my work is a complete waste of time. I regularly undertake evaluation with teachers. The usual sorts of questions…. But I don’t usually ask teachers to share with me the evidence for impact on pupil learning. In the last year I began to do this through the use of lesson study with teachers, but I’ve decided I need to be bolder! I’m going to focus the lesson study on much more specific research orientated questions and in the feedback meetings I’m going to ask for specific evidence of impact. Lesson study approaches are effective in providing impact evaluation, as long was we ensure we engage pupils in the evaluation. Sometimes though, this has got lost in the work I’ve done. I aim now to rectify this!

More Collaboration

The characteristic of all the sessions I listened to was about collaboration, teamwork, teachers working together. Philippa Cordingley talked about the effectiveness of CPD both in terms of the teacher, but also in terms of the school. How effective is this CPD for me? How effective is it for my school? Teachers need to be working within and across departments in secondary schools, teachers need to work on whole school areas of improvement e.g growth mindset, specific groups of pupils… It struck me again that we can end up in an ‘RE bubble’, unless we engage more with other subjects and research beyond the RE community. I think on reflection that schools often do this better than advisers… I need to get out more and read more widely!

More subject specific

The best forms of CPD are subject specific. CPD should focus on subject knowledge and the most effective forms of pedagogy for that subject. This may seem to counter the point above, but I don’t think it does.

My eldest son actually helped me with this when he told me yesterday evening that one of his teachers this year was better than last year because ‘they didn’t just know about XXX they knew how to teach it as well’. He said (he is 12) that ‘the teacher knew his stuff mum, but he didn’t really know how to teach us about it’. The teacher in question was teaching a subject that was not his specialism. My son had observed and evaluated that knowing about the subject was not enough, understanding it and how to apply this knowledge to effective pedagogic practice was also needed.

Teachers need to know what to teach – this is an issue for RE, and I’ve blogged about this before. However, they also need to know how to teach this effectively. Professional development that is subject specific is therefore essential. This is a relief, I can justify my existence!

Happy learning for 2015-16 everyone!

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