My ResearchEd

Firstly, in this blog I moaned about all male panels at education conferences.  ResearchEd however had a great mix of male and female contributors and even provided a crèche. Top marks.

During the lunch break at ResearchEd, I took my kids to the Park and reflected on balance.

Balancing what I learn from research with practicalities of my job. Balancing work and life.  Balancing my experience and intuition with counter-intuitive evidence.  Then my daughter needed a wee and I found myself crouching behind a bush attempting not to get urine on my shoes.

Adventures in pseudoscience
Nick Rose’s talk dissected myths like he was on a mission- no mercy but it was energetic and amusing.  @prettyvacant has watched fads come and go in the staff room and this was his platform to let off steam. He can rest easy now can’t he?  Maybe not…

Nick reminds us that we need ‘a herd immunity to new ideas’ and we should be asking impertinent questions – I think this reflects ResearchED’s vision – to have a healthy dollop of cynicism.

How policy is made
I stayed in one room for the afternoon so ended up in @samfr’s session which I hadn’t planned. I’m glad though as this was one of my surprise favourites of the day. Getting an insider’s view of making policy was fabulously gossipy if not a little concerning.

The whimsical politician affecting education policy came across strongly – Charles Clarke wanting to make Chess compulsory because he liked Chess; Gove deciding every school needed a Bible: I wonder what we’d introduce if given the chance?

Politics has to be involved in education, says Sam Freedman, as governments are voted in.  But there should be no top down edicts to schools on an operational level – I was nodding my head furiously on this.

A Teacher’s Guide to the good, the bad and the irrelevant
If we could find a part of the brain which indicated dyslexia would we send our 30 reception kids for MRI scans? No, of course not, especially as we can pretty much anticipate reading difficulties from an early age via other behaviours.

@deevybee believes researching behaviour can tell us so much and that spending money on expensive technologies in neuroscience for similar results is therefore questionable. She showed us a quadrant to clearly explain the type of research teachers should be concerned with and others which are less relevant.

I was also pleased to hear Professor Bishop’s views on reading comprehension; that it has been neglected and the ability to decode words is not always sufficient. @deevybee cited Professor Margaret Snowling’s research on this.

Nature and Nurture – the genetics of Education
I really struggle to ‘get’ the genes stuff and come back to @deevybee’s premise of what is relevant to education? That genetics are 50% heritable, OK but to ignore the environmental factors?

Is IQ overrated for predicting achievement? Is it fixed? I don’t know: Tracey Alloway-Packham argues working memory is a better indicator…

@andrewsabisky is delightful however and if there was ever a scientist to persuade me about behavioural genetics it will be him.  He’s hunting for a PHD and funding – I think he’s worth it.

Links between out of school activities and attainment in classroom
More exciting for me was the NatSen Social Research which examines the education gap of disadvantaged students via out of school activities. This seems more worthwhile than behavioural genetics for educators. Rather than asking if IQ is predetermined through heritability, concentrating on environment and its impact seems more relevant.

The research asks whether out of school activities raise a child’s information capital and normalise learning. Is this where students really learn? Where they make connections? Where they learn to take risks? Where they learn to socialise?

How journalists get it wrong and right about education research
I finish with my first session and return to balance. TES journos Ann Mroz and Michael Shaw took us through a funny and irreverent journey on how they write about research. It’s got to be brief, interesting and the unusual findings get attention.

They also told us when reporting on research contradictory articles turn up – effectiveness of Teaching Assistants is a great example.  And I am mindful of this – how do we as teachers decide which research to listen to and act upon? How can we, when faced with three piles of books to mark discover which research to believe? This is why I quite like the idea of in-house ‘research champions’ in schools (although hate the name). They can assimilate the material and report findings in an unbiased way to the rest of us.

Dr Bronwyn Hemsley shared this poster on twitter and it is one for the ‘ champions’ to live by I think.

Thank you Tom and Helene (I can’t use accents on iPad sorry)

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