That moment when you go to an education conference and get tempted to write a blogpost. AMIRITE? I went to the wonderful Teaching and Learning Takeover at the University of Southampton organised by the indefatigable Dave Fawcett and Jenn Ludgate.
Here’s a list of thoughts, noting which inspirational and lovely people I learnt it from.
1) Sharing best practice is a bad idea. John Tomsett showed a clip of Dylan Wiliam explaining that flitting from one shiny new thing to another stops us from evaluating the things we try, and embedding the good stuff as habits. Teachers: resist your magpie tendencies!
2) Teachers thinking aloud can help students think better. John Tomsett also gave the practical example of how effective it can be to do a piece of work with your students and say out loud what you’re thinking at every stage.
3) Find the kerbs and turn them into ramps. Nancy Gedge gave a session about the SENCO code of practice which made me (a complete novice in matters of SEN) think about how teachers can look to change the environment for students that have a special educational need in order to let them have access to the work. We shouldn’t aim to ‘fix the problem’ the students have – we’re not medical professionals and it can’t always be done! – but we should ask ourselves whether the social or physical environment of our SEN students might be limiting in the first place.
4) It’s ‘high-, mid-, low- starters, not ability‘. John Tomsett suggested that this change in language helps embed an automatic conversation about progress, not fixed ability. “If that’s her starting point, where do we want her to end up?…”
5) Cumulative linear exams, means UK teachers show more interest in psychology findings than our US counterparts. Yana Weinstein suggested to me in conversation that part of the reason why UK teachers seem to care more about scientific strategies for improving how well pupils memorise what they learn (tautological for some!) is that we in the UK have a secondary curriculum at GCSE and A-level which assesses knowledge accumulated over several years. Therefore it becomes more important for us to help our students memorise things so they retain them over time. In the USA, every piece of work counts towards an average grade, thereby creating a disincentive to memorise things for longer. Click on Learning Scientists for more stuff on this (- free resources, you magpies!).
6) Professional respect from your peers is a powerful thing. I overheard so many conversations where one teacher thanked another for their contribution to the day, for sharing something they could learn from, for passing on a useful link or contact, for giving up their time to share advice. People were there because they love learning about how to teach better, and that’s about it. I had no idea whether some of the people I spoke with were based at a school or at a university; whether they were headteachers, senior leaders, classroom teachers, edu-gurus, or newly-qualified teachers. A teachmeet like #TLT16 is a great leveller and I think more teachers should have the chance to attend something like it…