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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Holding onto the Future – The power of liberation, The power of education

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Holding onto the Future, Antony Gormley (1987).

One is looking at a mould of a man holding an in descript mould. The mould in the foreground has potential to become something and this possibility it holds is being clung onto. This represents how insecure we are of our futures, these insecurities derive from a man’s inability to determine their own future. Gormley, when critiquing this work, quotes Joseph Boyd, “The man doesn’t yet know who he is, we must invent him.” The decision to do so suggests that the observer has the power to change this man’s future. So, do we not have an autonomous, self-determined future?

When realising the true fragility our own futures we begin to turn to others to prepare a mould for us to cling onto. The drive, ambition and autonomy of making these decisions for ourselves is removed and success is only possible in the eyes of the observer. This renders an individual powerless unless given the opportunity to be successful, by a liberated individual. Why are we so dependent on a system where our futures are not ours, but decision and reflections of others?

The power of liberation, the power of education.

Freedom from prescribed thoughts and behaviours is a doctrine that many believe is already given to them. But, much of our society and educational system is already predetermined and reflective of the interests of the liberated few, not the masses. The power that education can bring to an individual is unrivalled:

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Paulo Freire, 1996)

So, what we appear to have is an educational system that reflects the interests of a conformist society where the young are integrated into society. We only have to refer to innovations, movements and liberations to understand the positive power free thought provides society with. This is not to suggest that every person is going to radical change the world we live in. Yet, it will provide a society where everyone knowingly contributes. To build an educational system where we strive to liberate and produce radical individuals who all have the power to determine their own future is a just system.

Changes to education

Disproportionate emphasis on the importance of academic attainment has generated unnecessary focus on one aspect of what it means to be a human. This focus implies that we no longer look to educate people, but to generate the most reliable data to support our ideals of “Education”. This doesn’t reflect the requirements of being a radical thinker:

“The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” (Paulo Freire, 1996).

Recent shifts in education are decoupling from a sole focus on academic performance and looking more at what we want our student to look and be like in the future. Movements towards character education are promising they already show evidence of developing individuals who care about themselves and their lives (EIF, 2015). These humanist approaches suggest we are moving in the right direction of developing well round educated individuals. We must be careful not to view the development of character in terms of reliable data, because you can not quantify a person. Is this enough to create liberated individuals who have the power to determine their own futures?

Unfortunately not… (I’ll be blogging about this next time).

References
Paulo Freire, 1996 – Pedagogy of the Oppressed
EIF, 2015 – http://www.eif.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Social-and-Emotional-Learning-Final-Report-1.pdf
Why is know one ever told this at school:
Baz Luhrmann – “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind; The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself”

Cultural Capital in Education – What can be done in the classroom

Theory is splendid but until put into practice, it is valueless.” (James Cash Penney). An educational example, “Yes, I understand what to do sir.”

The introduction of new theories, skills and attributes is difficult because students struggle to get to grips with practicing new theories. As an educator this is where the true value is added. So, how do we move from the theory of non-cognitive development to implementing it into practice?

From Policy to Practice

The continual debating by political panels, educational theorists or interjections from third parties leaves untested theories. The classroom teacher, unknown to them, has been involved in developing new policy. They are now expected to put this policy into practice. Like the students they will struggle, but in this case there is no one on hand to support them. The theory is forgotten as true mastery has not been attained. A reactive response develops to throw together evidence of practice. (For example, marking books in my PGCE and NQT year). So how do we support the implementation of non-cognitive development into the classroom?

Simple answer, bring teachers into policy development. Over the past month I have been involved in 4 different policy networking events, where the general theme has been on non-cognitive development in students. Buzz words were flying out left, right and center. Yet, every time I found myself able to relate to strategies used in the classroom, that exemplified the non-cognitive traits. Offering a critique to proposals based on evidence shifted the direction of conversation from the “policy buzzworder’s” to myself. This demonstrates the value of those in the classroom.

Implementing non-cognitive skills?

A Head teacher from a local school told me, “the schemes of work in their school center around the kind of people that would be successful in University or vocational qualifications” and backwards plans from this vision. When I am developing a scheme of work, I think about the non-cognitive skills and learning objectives I want the students to develop. For example, I have recently planned and finished a unit of work on Metals and their Reactivity. The non-cognitive focus is to develop independence, self-reflection and choice (I’ll be blogging about this next week). This was alongside the academic learning goals. By orientating yourself to focus on the kind of students you want, the activities begin to tailor themselves.But, failures, critiques, alterations and improvements have been important to support the reflective development of this teaching strategy.

This is where the problems lies, there is no accountability for non-cognitive development in the classroom. Therefore, the risk:benefit ratio is useless, because it not worth risking progress to develop new systems of non-cognitive learning. Consequently, teachers can not relate to the policy that is trying to be implemented and their opinions become less valued. It’s easy to see the paradox we are caught in. So where does this leave us?

College of teachers…