What I learned from ResearchED 2014

“Memory is the residue of thought.” – D. Willingham, Why don’t students like school? p.54

I didn’t take any notes, so this is an experiment in what I was thinking about, I guess. Let’s see if I can explain a few things that I learned about at ResearchED 2014.

John Blake

Let’s apply Occam’s Razor to the concept of ‘cultural capital’. Does the metaphor even work? Capital is something you accrue, like culture, so in that sense it works. But you can’t spend culture. Once you’re well educated, you remain well educated. You can’t get rid of an education like you can get rid of cash. On the other hand, given the well documented Matthew Effect in reading and exponential knowledge acquisition (i.e. once you have some, you learn more, faster), maybe the metaphor could be tenuously extended to ISAs and savings accounts with compound interest……I’ll stop there.

Working class is a nebulous and loaded phrase. We’d be better off focusing on how much someone actually reads as a child, and then furthering our analysis by using usefully measurable categories like poverty, gender and race.

Andrew Old interviewing Ofsted

Ofsted should be a lot clearer about the fact that they see themselves as ‘on a journey’. Not grading lessons seems a really positive step, but also it should be made more clear that inspectors are happy to discuss individual lessons with teachers as part of a more developmental conversation (as Sean Harford explained). It was generally agreed that it was a good thing that Michael Cladingbowl and Sean Harford were willing to field questions, and that Ofsted leadership are engaging in a far more open dialogue with the profession. However, given that their judgement can make or break a career they need a better answer to “who watches the watchers?” than “please follow our complaints procedure.” One positive starting point could be explaining how they monitor the validity of Good/Satisfactory grades, and standardise them across their observations. As Andrew pointed out, it may seem harder to define the middle grades than a 1 or 4.


Andrew Old on having rational debates within education

Learn what the fallacies are, and then avoid them. Also, don’t be afraid of being convinced in a well-researched, rational case, that has considered the evidence and, as relevant, your values.

Andrew seems to get some peoples’ backs up on Twitter. In person it is clear how thoughtful and thorough his reasoning is. The key principle I took away from this talk is to discuss the actual ideas, the evidence base, the methods, and the conclusions. Try to avoid ad hominems, equivocating, appeals to authority and relativism about the definition of “truth”.

“There is no such thing as absolute truth.”

“Is that statement true?”


Michael Shaw and Ann Mroz

This gruesome twosome discussed journalism and how it does and doesn’t misrepresent research. The main thing I took from this was a sense of perspective on how furious people get about how stuff is reported. I was also impressed by how clear they both were about (a) their complete and utter openness to being corrected if wrong about a story, and (b) their commitment to sharing both sides of a story.

Also, news is there because it’s new. So stuff that hasn’t gotten rigorously proven yet may be written about! Get over it!

Also, “turkey slapping”.

A brilliant day – very happy to talk about http://www.thebrilliantclub.org and http://www.researchersinschools.org with lots of people and plenty of food for thought as we attack a new school year!


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