What we learnt from this year’s ResearchED conference

Sept. 18, 2019

This September, our Learning Design team travelled to Chobham Academy in Stratford to absorb all the content that the ResearchED conference had to offer.

They heard from some incredible speakers, took part in topical debates, and left with plenty of food for thought. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what they had to say…

Ed James, Learning Design Fellow

The ResearchED conference was an opportunity to take some time out and debate some of the hottest topics in the education sector today.

A key question that stuck in my mind was: if we applied what we know about deliberate practice to school leadership, what would that look like?

For Claire Stoneman, we can start by getting rid of all the content about developing charismatic personalities and instead focus on the practicalities.

For example, asking a series of questions such as: how do you do a lunch duty? Why do it like that? Why not get an experienced school leader to model, and practice emulating them: where do they stand, what do they look out for?

Then why not use line management for some elaborative interrogation, spacing the practice over time to build mental models: what's the power of standing there, when would you need to call for help and why?

Chloe Wardle, Learning Design Fellow

The ResearchED conference was a chance to reflect on some of the knotty issues we’ve been facing around curriculum. Having spent a considerable amount of time discussing how the disciplinary dimension might be taught, most especially to younger pupils, Clare Sealy’s insights were an eye-opener. 

Clare highlighted a prevalent misconception: getting the paints out does not make an art lesson, and mentioning Egypt doesn’t make it a geography lesson. Each subject has its own specialised way of thinking that needs to be introduced to children. 

It was also a chance to talk about a popular topic: powerful knowledge. There seems to be fair consensus that to disrupt social injustice, we need to equip young people with the cultural capital that the privileged take for granted.

Martin Robinson put this idea up for scrutiny and prompted me to reflect on the fact that we might not want to just give children cultural capital in the same way that we give them an understanding of percentages. Instead, our role might be to introduce pupils to a discourse so they can situate their own thoughts within it.

It’s a challenging area of debate but one that’s worthy of our time. It boils down to a choice between teaching children as passive recipients of culture, or active participants within it. For me, our purpose as educators is to pursue the latter.  

Randal Cremer_child portrait at computer3

Paula Delaney, Learning Design Manager

As someone who’s designing curriculum content to support early career teachers and has carried out user research in this area, I was keen to hear Joanna John-Baptiste's perspective on this topic.

As an NQT herself, Joanna spoke from her own experience and those of her early career colleagues, giving us clear and succinct guidance on how we should apply what we know about cognitive science and learning to training our teachers. 

Some of my key takeaways from the session came from discussions around how mentors can better support early career teacher development. This will help us to make our Early Career programmes even better.

This included remembering that the capacity of working memory is limited, and that some things an expert teacher does in the classroom automatically may require a lot more focus and thinking for a novice.

Joanna emphasised that because of this, mentors should consider how they can support early career teachers by considering their cognitive load.

I came away from the session motivated, and with the key takeaway that we should not only be applying our understanding of how learning works in our classroom practice with our pupils, but also with our early career colleagues, supporting them to learn and ultimately keep getting better.

Katie McHugh, Learning Design Fellow

The speakers that I listened to – Becky Allen, Paul Kirschner, and Craig Barton to name a few – all made me think really hard and pushed my understanding of teaching, learning and teacher development. 

There were two stand-out moments for me: Alex Quigley reminding us of the need for teachers to work collaboratively to ensure consistency between the intended and enacted curriculum, and just how hard that is to achieve; and Clare Sealy cramming her session with brilliant examples of different types of knowledge that pupils need, highlighting the breadth of the primary curriculum.   


Visit our Twitter account @Ambition_Inst and the hashtag #rED19 for more key takeaways, photos and videos from this year’s ResearchED conference.

For more information about ResearchED, visit their website: researched.org.uk.

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