ResearchEd review of presentations

Praxis – a new platform to promote professional development through research inquiry.
Chris Brown A teacher of Science as well as an academic research at Cambridge University
 
Speaker discusses a possible mechanism for enhancing teacher led researcher into the classroom. The website Praxis has been developed to act as a forum for teacher research to be shared across a wider field as well as facilitating access and engagement in the praxis reflective cycle.
 
My Thoughts – What is being suggested is anecdotal and highly subjective due to large discrepancy on how individual research is conduct and reviewed. Therefore, work is valueless as no institutions will accredit or validate findings. Teachers do not feel valued when completing this kind of research. We need close, working, academic relationships with educational researchers. 
 
Chain effects? Impacts of academy chains on performance of disadvantaged students. 
Becky Francis, educational and statistical researcher at kings college.
 
A systematic review of academy chains from 2012 to 2015, measuring impact on disadvantaged pupils relative to peers in  mainstream schools. Conclusion, in general more academy chains are having a negative effect on the progress of their students in comparison to mainstream (LEA led schools). How did this situation arise? Many academy chains were allowed to expand far too quickly on unjustified evidence. Why was this permitted? London chains, improved returns for pupils, therefore policy makers assumed that this would also be reflect for the rest of the UK. What happened? Policy makers did not anticipate the huge variation of context across the country.
 
My Thoughts – Concerning trend of acting too early due to the short time frames between the electoral period. The damage of these reforms is likely to exacerbate the educational inequality within communities as resources and students can no longer be evenly distributed. We need a context driven approach where teachers and schools let other know what they need.
 
Flip the system 
Rene Kneyber, teacher, policy consultant, academic researcher and author (He says, all teachers should have these options)
 
A theoretical and philosophical discussion about how our educational system should be structure. Speaker opens by showing a the EduPolitical system where all information, how to teach, learn and manage schools is all disseminated from the top. This results in the de-professionalisation of the teachers as they have no freedom or mobility to explore their role. Therefore, in general returns for students are poor. Rene suggests that ,like Holland, the UK needs an educational system that is informed by those people stood at the chalk board who understand the context. When they ask or identify weakness, leaders then respond and government does what it can to support them. Subsequently, bring professionalism back to profession and empowering all teachers to take ownership of their own profession because what they do has real value.
 
My Thoughts – An inspiring speaker who made the point very clear. If education is so subjective and context specific, what we need is information directly from the chalk board. So, why are there no teachers currently in the whitehall to inform policy? I feel a bit tired of listening to the continual changes to the educational system which come from political ideologies as opposed to what is need in the class.
 
Using behavioural insights to improve education 
Raj Chande, researcher at PhD students for the behaviour team.
 
Research identifies how small changes in the patterns of behaviour can result in huge returns. The behaviour teacher have recently focused on sending a text home to parents when there child has an assessment coming up a week later. They found that simply sending a text home to parents saw performance increase by 10-20%. So, simply texting parents to let them know there son or daughter has an assessment costing £2 saw progress accelerate by 2 months, with greater returns for low ability students. 
 
My Thoughts – Very inspirational speaker who showed the power of changing the small things. The investment required per pupil to receive the level of gains that were being made was very impressive. I am dubious as to who is going to take the administrative role of the whole process. 
 
The five big policy changes for the new government 
Sam Freedman, Senior advisor to Michael Gove and Executive director at Teach First.
 
  • Resources: £3 Billion cuts to schools funding over 5 years. LEAs will disappear, early years and 16-19 interventions squeezed the hardest and will most likely disappear.
  • Infrastructure: More regional school commissioners – targets more academies and chains, lift coasting schools, not sure on other roles yet. Results so far suggest that they have had a poor impact.
  • Teacher supply: Teacher shortage, falling grad numbers, weak wages in education push potential teachers elsewhere. Crude incentives system which does’t support recruitment or retention. Student loans for PGCE is wasted money, all training should be free.
  • Leadership: 50% of heads will retire in the next 10 years. No good training provided to train people to become outstanding heads.
  • Expertise: Lack of quality professional development, teaching has suffered massive de-professionalisation. Lack of management training means people squeeze rather than effective manage makes working conditions worse. 
My Thoughts – High expectations, no resources; a dwindling recruitment field which lacks the ability to produce future leaders. Not great, expect to be squeezed as 25% of the education budget is being wiped away! Every school will feel this. 
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How does the sole focus on outcome measures affect our students?

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Who we are, what we do and how we behave is exclusively determined by the way which we are nurtured into world. Most of us have, at one point, studied Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. With most being involved in the debate, “nature vs nurture.” For all, including myself, this was one of the first concepts of the reason I am who I am because of the way I was raised. So who decides who I am and how I think? Do my parents have free and conscious choice over the decision they make when raising me? Or is that already predetermined?

So where do we begin when deciding? The best place is to start is by defining what education is and the outcomes we want from it? As a teacher I’m not even aware of what we want, as a society, for young individual. When I think of a good education for students educational performance springs to mind. For example 5 A*-Cs, number of A-levels, degree above a 2.1. No educational establishment is monitored for the type of students it is developing. Why not? Mainly due to difficulty (Labb & Loeb: 2010).

Some definitions of philosophical outcomes of education:

  • “An adequate education may be conceived of as one that is sufficient for someone to participate fully in both the economic and political life of a country” (Ladd & Lobe: 2010)
  • “Humans have an ability to praxis, [a process of conscious engagement and reflection on the application of knowledge to problems.]” (Freire, 2013).
  • Students have a desire for life long learning.
  • Possibly, students achieve at least 5 A*-C’s GCSE’s including maths and english.

In reality most people would like to hear that our students are receiving a diverse, culturally enriching education that prepares every individual for future success, but I think that most know this isn’t the case. I say this last one light heartedly, because this is an outcome measure not an ideology – I don’t think anyone sees having 5 A*-C inc M&E grades defining them as a person. However, the gravitas this measure has over the education of our students means that it might as well be an ideology.

This measure was originally introduced into the classroom to summarise what a pupil new academically and then translate this into a future job position (also known as a proxy). This provided useful economic data, indicative school quality information, but provides absolutely no information on the non-academic value that students are being provided with. As a result, classrooms have shifted from providing a “whole, enriching, culturally diverse etc” education to one where, inadvertently, is solely focused on pushing out results for one proxy.

If who we are is determined by how we are raised and educated, how will the inadvertent over emphasis on examinations in our lives affect us? If asked to define your education, would you discuss how culturally enriching it was or your grades and the institutions you went to?

References

Labb & Loeb: 2010 – https://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/The%20Challenges%20of%20Measuring%20School%20Quality.pdf

Review of STEM CPL by Future Learn

School CPL can be a difficult to deliver. How do you run an event that encompasses the interests of up to 100 people, who have different views on how to improve. Well, you can’t! CPL should be a point where teachers are aware of how they need to improve and should go about independently doing so. So, this is exactly what I did.

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been engaging with a new form of teacher CPL. Assessment for Learning in STEM, via Future learn. The course was brought to my attention when reading a BBC news article on the Future learning achieving 1 million subscribers. So, I had a browse through and came across this online course. With an open mind and a want to improve in the classroom. I thought I would subscribe and participate in the program to see what I could take away and the answer is, a lot!

I am currently in my first qualified year of teaching and have spent the previous two years getting to grips with administration, responsibility, teaching as a concept, the list could go on, but I still feel as if there is loads still to learn. Yet, a shift from NQT to QT means that training and funding to support CPD drops off a cliff. Therefore when opportunities for free, easy to access CPL come along we should never let them pass us by. Yet, if I felt after 2 years that the opportunities to improve where few and far between, I wonder how someone who has been in the profession for 20 years feels? Funding, training and CPL must be a distant and disillusioned concept. So, why will this course support those who feel as if improvement is no longer accessible?

The course is free and encourages to teachers to analyse text, videos, make their own resources, critique the work of other teachers and generally become part of a discussion where your perspectives and opinions are valued. The module provides access to a CPL event that would have cost hundreds of pounds to send one person and also provide access to tutors who where in a geographically different part of the country. Has this module of education supported my development?

The six week duration provide ample amounts of time to think, reflect and improve on AFL in the class, something a 1 day training event does not. I developed my in depth questioning, practiced hinge questions (which I had never heard of) and began to understand what underpins a good hinge question. Seeing the opinions of others teachers reinforce the challenges and difficulties I had encountered reassured the direction I was taking. My practice in the classroom has changed noticeably, I am critically aware of how to use information provided by the students as well as how to remove any misconceptions or confusion they have quickly and efficiently. It is now easy to see who knows what and to what degree.

My request, make more of these and target teachers who feel disillusioned with CPL. These types of course have a lot to offer and definitely offer a new and much better platform continued improvements in the classroom. I have 1 week to go to finish the course and will definitely be signing up if there are more to follow.