Very brief reflections on #rEDRugby 2019

Another truly brilliant #rEDRugby yesterday. Thought I’d jot down a few quick reflections before my brain gets wiped by something else…

Fantastic atmosphere as always. If you’ve never attended a researchED event then I cannot recommend them enough. Everyone is friendly, helpful, eager to share. Always a good mix of regular attenders and first timers. This is my 3rd time at #rEDRugby; it takes me at least 2.5 hours drive each way so the fact that I keep coming back speaks volumes!

Session 1: Adam Robbins

Adam (@MrARobbins) gave an excellent talk on “getting through to locked out learners”. Adam has constructed some really high quality knowledge organisers that can help with this (see here) that I’ve used a lot already this year. They’ve made a real difference. However, Adam’s session was about much more than that; it was a fascinating insight into what can motivate (and demotivate) pupils, the riskiness of learning, and ways we can try and break the negative cycles that pupils can find themselves in.

Adam discussed Jonathan Haidt’s Elephant and Rider analogy (note to EduTwitter: Adam doesn’t think pupils are elephants and doesn’t ride them). I thoroughly enjoyed Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” and it was very useful to see the analogy used in the context of demotivated learners. When working with pupils I regularly try to appeal to the rider. I probably need to give more thought as to how I engage with the elephant.

Session 2: Pritesh Raichura

I’ve seen Pritesh (@Mr_Raichura) a number of times now, and every time I do I get something new I can try out straight away. He really is the master when it comes to presenting information to pupils in a clear, well constructed way. There was no visualiser available for Pritesh, but (totally unflustered) he delivered a really useful, practical session on dual coding, using diagrams/images that provide structure for knowledge and aid retrieval.

Pritesh’s blog posts and presentations have had a massive influence on my teaching, and the visualiser (as opposed to the whiteboard or PowerPoint) has been my standard way of presenting information this year. I owe him a great debt.

A few points I found really useful:

  • Structured diagrams can act as retrieval cues. Pupils can recognise the gaps in incomplete diagrams and know they need filling
  • Give explicit instruction on how to do diagrams (provides consistency and avoids pupils faffing)
  • Some handy delivery tips (“tell it like it’s a secret!”, plus the visualiser head twitch!)

Session 3: Science Knowledge Networking

I think this has got real potential! Time and space to discuss education with others is an important part of researchED. A couple of suggested improvements though:

  • Session 3 was possibly too early. There had only been 2 Science sessions so far. The sessions are great at triggering discussions, so putting the networking nearer the end of the day would provide more stimulus for discussion/debate.
  • I’d go with one big networking session (rather than different sessions for different areas) if there’s a space big enough. There’s a lot of overlap between areas anyway (we discussed Leadership a lot in the Science session for example) and bringing more people together would lead to more discussion.

Session 4: Tom Millichamp

I’ve really enjoyed reading Tom Millichamp’s (@TChillimamp) stuff on equations in Science (and how to teach them) and have already adapted his ideas for using with my own classes. The level of thought that he puts into how to support pupils with calculations is impressive. His use of language in emphasising the importance of setting out calculations properly (“prove you’re not wrong”, the EVERY method) is clever.

I’m often wary of using the term “metacognition” as it’s often used in a fairly airy fairy meaningless way, but Tom provided some really practical and effective metacognitive strategies. For example, getting pupils to use Because, But, So to explain mistakes in incorrect calculation procedures, getting them to annotate their calculations to explain what they are doing.

I often find some of the best things I pick up from researchED are the simplest. Tom might win the prize for this one: adding Box The Question to SLOP worksheets. Pick a few key questions that pupils need to box off in their books when they’ve answered them. Boxing them off makes them more visible, so when you’re scanning the books during the lesson you can easily see what to read and provide feedback on. Simple and effective.

Session 6: Matthew Benyohai

Matthew (@BenyohaiPhysics) is possibly (along with Deep Ghatura) the most clued up Science teacher I know when it comes to assessment. He was absolutely brilliant.

Not only did he devastatingly dismantle a lot of common (poor) practice in schools, he provided useful strategies for how we CAN use assessment effectively.

There was too much in this for me to effectively summarise here. I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment, data and target grades over the last few months, so will have to do a longer blog post about this at some point.

Session 7: Ruth Walker

As a profession we are massively privileged to have people like Ruth Walker (@Rosalindphys) sharing what they know. She really is on another level. Every time I see Ruth she causes some kind of seismic shift in what, how and why I teach.

I’m hoping she’ll blog a transcript of her session at some point. For a curriculum novice like myself it was a fascinating insight into both the philosophy and practicalities around Michael Young’s Powerful Knowledge. She has a deep understanding of both the theory/knowledge around curriculum and the leadership required to deliver it effectively. As always, magnificent.

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