Monday 4 May 2015

researchED New York - Some Initial Reflections

The longer I work at developing my skills as a edublogger, the more I realise that there's nothing more stimulating than listening to interesting speakers, who have something meaningful to say.  What people say at events continue to take me by surprise with their insights, sense of purpose and often humour.  Over the last weekend I had the huge privilege of taking part in researchED New York and listening to an incredible range of speakers, each with something worth saying their about specialist topics.  Speakers and topics included:
  • Daniel Willingham - The challenge of persuading believers
  • Catherine Glennon - A deep look into school-based research
  • Daisy Christodoulou - Seven myths about education
  • Keven Bartle & Helene Galdin-O'Shea - The emergent tole of research in a UK teaching school alliance
  • Lucy Crehan - What can 'top-performing' systems teach us
  • Mary Whitehouse - Research-informed curriculum design
  • Robert Janke - Datababble : Misinformation or scientifically based research
I also had the good fortune of being able to lead a session, where we explored the following issues: the limitations of existing definitions of evidence-informed practice;  a new school and teacher  centric definition of evidence-informed practice; and finally, looked at some practical ways of becoming a better evidence-informed practitioner (and, if anyone is interested, the slides used in the presentation can be found at the following link).

So what are my personal take-aways, apart from a battered credit-card, from researchED New York?
  • A theme that emerged from a number of presentations was the need for teachers to become research literate.  Yet do we know what we mean by research literacy (and numeracy)? What does it look like?  How will we know if research literacy been achieved?  If we don't know what we mean by research literacy, and I thank Mary Whitehouse for this idea, how do we know what questions to ask teachers to find out where they are in their understanding of research and its implications for practice.
  • A second theme emerged around trying to determining the correct balance between critiquing and using research to improve practice, and actively participating in research or seeking to produce research outcomes. This balance needs to be considered for both individual teachers and the school as whole.  There is a view, which I certainly hold, that it is best for teachers (and schools) to be become better evidence-informed practitioners before becoming active producers of research outcomes.  For me, I find to difficult to see how teachers and schools can become 'researchers' without the skills to critically appraise a whole range of evidence - including academic research and school data.  Robert Janke's presentation  on errors in evidence-based decision-making certainly raised a number of questions about the extent to which we accurately interpret school data and statistics.
  • Engaging in evidence-informed practice and research will inevitably involve engaging with colleagues who have a different perspective than yourself, and there is the whole issue of how do you go about getting others to change their values, beliefs and behaviour.  This was the topic of Professor Daniel Willingham's fantastic presentation, and which has real practical value for the School Research Lead.  Professor Willingham suggested a number of strategies and tactics which may help School Research Leads engage in more productive conversations with their peers, including
    • Be selective with your battles - sometimes peace is better than being right
    • Recognize that the person you are trying to persuade has another belief which they believe is well reasoned.
    • Your job of persuasion is not just about evidence
    • If the other person is talking, you are winning, as you are finding our more about their point of view
    • And above all, be patient 
To conclude; once again the researchED team of Tom Bennett and Helene Galdin-O'Shea have put on a terrific event.  Furthermore, thanks must be extended to Daniel Randolph and staff of Riverdale Country School for being such wonderful hosts, in a quite magnificent setting.  I look forward to the next event, but not the associated credit-card bill.


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