Research Ed National Conference 2017

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Research Ed annual conference, and as I work at the host school, I received a free ticket. The below is a brief summary of my chicken scratch notes – mainly for me to refer back to at a later date. Due to other commitments, I only stayed for the first 4 sessions. In the next few weeks, I hope to catch up with some of the other sessions that were videoed/blogged about.

The image below was shared by David Weston at the start of his session, the third I attended, and this is an important reminder about both ResearchEd and all professional development opportunities.

Session One – The Lean Department – Amir Arezoo

This session focused on the way that department leaders can work in a ‘lean manner’ focussing on the what is likely to have the biggest impact. Amir drew from his experience in engineering and explained that we should view education more systematically rather than simply intuitively.

The session began by setting the current education situation, constant change with uncertain staffing and funding. This desire for change leads to searches for panaceas; over time there have been a number of these APP, VAK, ICTAC, SEAL, all of which later fail or fail to deliver the desired impact. This is in part as they are not structural changes but instead ‘bolt-ons’.

This is in part due to the problem of waste, a cycle occurs:

  1. A new idea appears
  2. A plethora of resources are produced.
  3. Poorly realised, executed, or understood.
  4. Shoved to the back of the cupboard.
  5. People go back to what they know and understand.

Raising standards is notoriously hard; however, it is much easier to improve 10 things by 1%, rather than improve one thing by 10%. Success comes from accumulative advantage. It is important that ground rules are deinfed, establish core processes, and share cognitive boundaries.

All improvement strategies should feature a feedback loop – ensuring there is a mechanism to evaluate the strategy and look at its impact.

Amir then went on to talk about Lean Thinking talking about reducing waste (through time, money, and materials) and improving quality (through planning, creation and execution) to have optimal action.

This can be done though in part considering process and flow:

  • How actions are carried out
  • How problems are identified
  • How decisions are delegated
  • How information is shared
  • How data is obtained
  • How learning takes place

This should also allow a reflection on what takes the most time and intellectual challenge; this may include buying in resources to ensure teachers then are able to spend time in planning how to use them. Furthermore, questioning is the most important so time sould be spent on planning good quesitons.

Amir then went on to discuss the logarythmic nature of time, and considred the importance of hitting the difficult topics early so they can be revisited.

The next part of the talk discussed data driven approach and the importance of validating the data. This is important as if we base our actions on data developed on too much of a micro scale in a lesson situation it may not be representative of what would happen in an exam situation.

The talk concluded by reminding the audience to consider, teachers don’t perform ideas in isolation, and the best results come from, fixing the route for critical action, and ensuring effective communication.

Session Two – School Census – What you need to know – Jen Persson

Jen Persson campaigns for safe, fair and transparent use of data, particularly with relation to the national pupil database, which contains records of 23 million pupils and dates back to 1996. This data is collected through the national school census. This personal data is collected by schools and lots of data is not thought that much about, schools also have conflicting duties under their statutory obligations to submit data to the Department for Education and the data protection act. Schools need to be clearer about what happens to the data collected

Jen talked about examples of how personally identifiable information has been provided to Telegraph journalists, and even private tutoring companies from the Department of Education. The information that is shared in these cases is published in their data access log. However, they don’t list information about access from the Home Office and Police. This information is used by the home office who request data on up to 1,500 pupils a month to insist with their investigations.

This use of data is not safe, nor is it fair within the definition of fair as defined in the data protection act. There are four fields in the national student census that parents can refuse to provide:

  • Ethnicity
  • First Language
  • Country of Birth
  • Nationality

Jen discussed ways that schools can allow parents to refuse this data and the importance of people refusing this data; if the data becomes poor quality it will be less likely to be used this way.

Session Three – Toxic Schools and how to avoid running them – David Weston

David began by introducing his list of  features of Toxic Schools:

  • Low trust
  • Lack of improvement
  • Low clarity
  • Low morale
  • Poor communication
  • High monitoring
  • High Beaurocracy

David then went on to discuss research that identified key features of non-toxic or high performing schools.

  • School Culture
  • Peer Collaboration
  • High Order and Discipline

Also important (but less important)

  • Professional development
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Principal Leadership

A thriving school will need all, particularly a clear culture. Further more staff should be involved in setting the goals rather than just knowing what they are. Leaders should engage in CPD and participate in CPD. It is important to avoid sunk cost bias – because something has been worked hard on does not necessarily believe that it is effective.

Weston then went on to talk about the importance of curriculum and shared language. However too often the focus is on lesson plans rather than the learning arc or scheme of learning.

The final point made about toxic schools is how damaging Appraisals can be, and the way that schools appraisals are typically carried out go against the recommendations of the chartered institutute of professioanl development, some key ideas are below:

  • Separate developmental and evaluative appraisal.
  • Most of your data is much less valid than you hope.
  • To make appraisal effective people need to be involved with their own targets.
  • Forward facing feedback – give people ways to improve their strengths
  • Target/goals that are outside teachers controls are damaging.

More information can be found here on the Teacher Development Trust website.

Session Four – What can we do about the growing Educational Divide in Politics? – Sam Freedman

Education has become the biggest predictor on how people vote. Sam went through some examples stating how in the Brexit vote education and age were important and linked, but education was most important. This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was referenced. He discussed that in the 2017 General Election class was not a major factor, people were more likely to vote Labour if they had a degree, and much more likely to vote conservative if they only have GCSE. The same was seen in the 2016 US election, with 67% of white voters without a degree voting for Trump, but only 47% of white voters with a degree voting for trump.

This is an area with a huge potential impact and should be viewed in the context of the increasing numbers of graduates in the United Kingdom.

1990 – 77,00

2000 – 243,246

2011 – 350,800

This is in part due to the increasing number of universities, 73 since 1990, and courses awarding degrees that may not have previously, but is also just due to the number of graduates increasing.

Freedman went on to share research that explained it was the status of employment that mattered rather than the income. For example, a tube driver earns more than a teacher, however teaching is considered a higher status profession.

Why does going to university make people more liberal – three potential theories:

  • Psychodynamic Model – university increases knowledge, creators self-esteem and psychological security meaning higher tolerance of difference.
  • Cognitive Model – improved reasoning means better able to think through new ideas and accept non-conformation.
  • Socialisation Model – meeting a wider range of people and socialise with more people makes you more likely to be liberal.

Sam also discussed some really interesting research about once an issue links with your values it is very difficult to use reasoning to change your mind, and he quoted a particular paper, Kahan et. al. here. I found this so fascinating that I don’t want to discuss what he said about the paper now as I want to read the entire thing and may blog about it separately. However, he said that although it is difficult to change people’s values through reasoning smarter people are better at cherry picking data to support their pre-existing view points.

The talk then quoted Runciman in the Guardian in 2016 – an article well worth reading here.

Implications for Education

  • Education drives polorisation.
  • Formal education becomes considered a negative by a large part of society.
  • Increasing polarisation at school level between parents and teachers – pupils caught between.
  • Social mobility creates tension between individuals and community success.

What can educators do about it?

  • Switch the vocational argument – its not about parity of esteem of qualification but what jobs are available to non-graduates.
  • Managing value clashes at the school levle – how do we help pupils understand underlying values rather than clashes over symbols of cutlural identity?
  • How do we build a sense of community into the concept of social mobility?