Tag Archives: research

Introduction to Mendeley Advisors Webinar⤴

from @ @cullaloe | Tech, tales and imagery

This webinar was run for the benefit of Mendeley advisors. I thought I might run a session on citation and referencing for students and so went to this webinar for a refresher on the advisor programme.

The webinar was presented by Dr Rob Moore, an AP at Old Dominion University, USA, and Rachel Brennesholtz, Head of Mendeley advisors programme at Elsevier in Amsterdam, who gave an introduction.

Why Mendeley, and how to introduce it

Rob cited the principal advantage of Mendeley over Zotero as the ability to annotated the pdfs within the app. He talked about some of the “gotchas” in Mendeley, specifically, getting the title right on import of a citation, and the inconsistency with author names.

He then discussed his demonstration approach when showing Mendeley to new users, which starts with input of several citations, showing the immediate build of the bibliography files. He then moved to demonstration of annotation of pdfs on an iPad.

The advisor community

Rachel told us about the world-wide community of advisors and users, and shared some statistics on its reach - 22,000 students were introduced to it in about 300 events in 2019. She shared a links to the advisor community1 and advised us to email community-@-mendeley.com2 if the advisor badge doesn’t show on your profile.

Benefits of the programme include expanded network storage (7.5 GB) and exclusive product updates and webinars. There’s merchandise, too (t-shirts, pens and stickers, etc). You have to register an event to get these, which can be online or in person. The Mendeley event can be part of other events (such as sessions on citation and referencing for example). Allow 4 weeks to get your stuff from Amsterdam.

Resources

Rachel winged it a bit as her slides froze, but then got on to showing the PowerPoint slides and other materials available to support training sessions put on by advisors.

Next steps

I’ve been prompted by a colleague today to make a video on note-taking using Cornell and sketch noting, both of which I use and teach as part of my work at Moray House. My colleague also shared this YouTube video of someone doing this, without actually understanding how the Cornell system works: like a lot of YouTube channel stars, that presenter knows about the product without understanding the process, which is the important part. I think I might also make a separate video or session on citing with Mendeley for academic writing.

Notes and references

  1. The advisors portal is here

  2. Remove the hyphens for the correct address. 

Let’s talk about race: a provocation for teachers⤴

from @ robin_macp

Let’s be brave. Let’s talk about race.

I’ll begin by showing my hand. I am white, male, middle-aged, protestant, heterosexual and read history at Oxford University. I have the exact same profile as many of the people who led us to this moment in time. It is now past the time for a paradigm shift in race relations, and education is how we will do this.

I am also married to an Asian muslim (who spent her early childood in a war zone and her teenage years as a refugee). We will let our daughters decide which, if any, religion to follow. I’m a board member of the charity Remembering Srebrenica Scotland and our aim is to tackle prejudice and intolerance in society. I’ve been a teacher for close to two decades and am currently a school leader. I hope, if you are profiling me now, it looks a little different.

The fires of protest are burning brightly just now; there is no doubt that millions of people are angry. I hope this cycle will be broken; that action will follow this tragedy which will change direction and give hope. If schools are going to be in the vanguard of this change, we need to take positive steps. Here are some thoughts on how to do this.

Step 1: Reinvent Protest

I subscribe to the view that teaching is a subversive activity. I am idealistic, but not ideological, and it is vital to teach pupils how to think for themselves without teaching them what to think. This is a fine line and I know I get it wrong when I teach topics like slavery – I don’t want pupil to think it is ok. I am happy with the dissonance in my head on this. I do want pupils to be active, or even activists, in shaping their world. I have adapted Edmund Burke’s maxim that all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing (I dropped the gender specific part of that quotation). I totally support the right to protest, but in the midst of a pandemic I am concerned that the people who will pay a price are the NHS frontline staff, and the BAME community who suffer disproportionately from COVID. Can we reinvent ways to protest? The picture at the head of this blog is one I designed myself (hence the totally amateur nature of it), and it speaks to the idea of all colours in one heart. My call is for people to use their homes as a protest tool until they can safely get back on the streets. Put this heart up next to your rainbow, and add #blacklivesmatter or any other slogan you think expresses your feelings. Let’s keep them up until we have broken the cycle. Our pupils can start this today if we encourage them.

Step 2: Recruitment

I heard Prof Rowena Arshad speak several times this year on race, at researchED, at the Into Headship conference, and at EduMod. Her work on research in race in Scottish education is groundbreaking. There is definitely a perception gap around appointment and promotion in education between white and non-white. Why is this? Having an equal opportunities policy does not mean ‘job done’. What are your stats about numbers of non-white applications, appointments and promotions? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most employers don’t track this. At the Into Headship conference I was in a room with about 300 fellow trainee headteachers, and it was a very white room. The most important thing for career progression is to have someone who is a mentor/sponsor. Hashi Mohammed has written brilliantly about this, so what can we do to put this kind of support in place? 

Step 3: Tackle Micro-Aggression

The overt, blatant aggression that exists on the far right is a huge problem, but the micro-aggressions that exist everywhere are just as challenging and we can do something about them. An example is not calling on a child in the class because you don’t know how to pronounce their name. Learn their name: it is vital to showing them respect. Again Rowena Arshad is very good on this. Talk about race with colleagues and pupils to find out what micro-aggressions they face on a daily basis. Most of them come from subconscious behaviour. What can be done to eradicate them? 

Step 4: Professional Learning

Most teachers are scared to talk about race because they are not confident enough to do so. They fear saying something wrong, something that will get them in trouble. All teachers need to be able to talk about race. What professional learning have you done to enhance your confidence and understanding on this? There is no shortage of organisations willing to help and support. Connect Futures is a good starting place, and I’ve already mentioned Remembering Srebrenica which has organisations in all UK countries. At EduMod at the Fringe (an event that I run with Louise Hunter of Summerhouse Media) we had a session with members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, one of whom challenged her headteacher on the school’s LGBTQ+ track record. The solution? She gave a talk at INSET to her teachers on how to speak to gay pupils like herself. Impressive.

Step 5: Decolonizing the Curriculum

Last summer Pran Patel gave a TED talk on this subject, and he spoke at EduMod. We need, at both a national level and school level, to ask searching questions about the curriculum. In each area of the curriculum, what proportion of key individuals being taught about are non-white? Are the examples of artists, authors, leaders, scientists and musicians representative of the whole world? Is the southern hemisphere just as prominent as the northern?  

On the back of this, what are you going to do about it? Something? Nothing? Why? How can you create the conditions for curriculum reform that will challenge the structural racism that exists in society? The curriculum is perhaps the most powerful weapon that we have to change society. Recalibrate it for this purpose.

Step 6: Be A Voice

This blog by Daniel Stone makes a brilliant point to white people:

“Be our voice when we’re not there: Structural inequalities and underrepresentation mean that often minorities are not in the room when discriminatory decisions have been taken. We need individuals and allies who are able to stand for justice in whatever sphere of life they find themselves in. People who are able to use their platforms and positions of influence to ensure justice for those who can’t be seen, who can’t speak and who can’t breathe.”

Please put that into practice.

Step 7: Read, Think, Act

My thanks to Connect Futures for this reading list. Order these titles and more and get them up in a display in your school library. Have conversations around them. It’s ok to disagree. The only thing that’s not ok is staying silent.

  1. Black and British: A Forgotten History. David Olusoga
  2. Back to black: Black radicalism for the 21st century. Kehinde Andrews
  3. People like Us. Hashi Mohamed
  4. Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World. Layla F Saad
  5. Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging. Afua Hirsch
  6. The Good Immigrant. Nikesh Shukla
  7. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Reni Eddo-Lodge
  8. I am not your baby mother. Candice Braithwaite
  9. So You Want to Talk About Race. Ijeoma Oluo
  10. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Peggy McIntosh
  11. Natives, Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire, Akala
  12. A tale of three cities: Public officials and senior representation in the NHS, University, Police and Local Authority. Zubeda Limbada
  13. Decolonise the curriculum. The Teacherist
  14. Wellness for All: Anti-racism in the early years
  15. Hostile Environment. Maya Goodfellow

And finally… 

I titled this blog a provocation, because I want to provoke thought, discussion and action. What you do matters. This is the slogan of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and I use it frequently in talks and lessons. I absolutely believe it is true. What you do to make things better matters. What you fail to do is critical. There are no more excuses.

Teaching in the Time of COVID⤴

from @ robin_macp

It’s not so much a case of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ but ‘Teaching in the Time of COVID’. Schools around the world have been moving to online learning and this has been a massive culture shock. Faced with the likelihood of having to teach entirely online, I put out a tweet asking for teachers who have already started this process for their advice, and the response from the edutwitter cavalry was impressive. Rather than write a piece giving advice when I haven’t yet moved to online learning (I start next week), I thought it would be best to share a collection of very useful blogs and resources that can help, wherever you are.

A good place to start is always something by @teacherhead Tom Sherrington, and his blog ‘Setting Work for a Long-Haul Shutdown’ is based on his experience of two previous shutdowns. It contains a lot of excellent advice on what is achievable, and what to be wary of. I also thought that this article by Sam Phillips (teaching in China) via @GovernorHub on primary teaching was particularly useful because that poses a very different set of challenges compared to secondary or tertiary teaching. Indeed, the problems faced and the need for low-tech approaches are emphasised in this blog by Solomon Kingsnorth (@solomon_teach).

When my school started discussions about a continuity policy, this document proved incredibly helpful. It was written by Head of Dubai College Mike Lambert, @DCol_head, and was based on a similar policy by Kellett School in Hong Kong. The Principal at Kellett is @independenthead Mark Steed, and he contributed to this really useful page by the ISC working group for digital strategy during the shutdown. I also really liked this blog ‘Planning for the Gathering Storm’ by @Southgloshead for its clear approach to developing a whole-school strategy.

A lot of teachers are rapidly up-skilling in ed tech right now, so my go-to person on this is @ICTEvangelist Mark Anderson. He wrote an excellent two-part blog for the website Independent Thinking on effective T&L:

https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/blog/posts/2020/march/learning-in-quarantine/

https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/blog/posts/2020/march/learning-in-quarantine-part-two/ 

One of the most useful things I received was a great image which was created by Alison Yang of KIS International School in Bangkok. It sets things out very clearly so all teachers, pupils and parents can understand the school’s policy.

KIS

I was also sent a large number of useful videos, websites, links to apps and other suggested material that look good, but too many to condense down here. If you go through the full thread and subsequent RTs on my timeline you will find them all. The good news is that many apps are currently being offered for free (a selection can be found here), so this is a good opportunity to take them for a test drive. My thanks to everyone who shared their ideas and resources – I really appreciate this, and so will teachers all around the world.

And finally, if you’re wondering why I used a picture of the iconic ZX Spectrum for this blog, it’s because it’s useful to remember that ed tech is not a new thing. There is no such thing as a digital native. If you suddenly need to teach using it when you have never really engaged, shed your fear. It’s not as tough, or as bad, as you might think. 

So keep going, keep sharing, and keep your head up. School might be closed, but learning never stops. 

Teaching in the Time of COVID⤴

from @ robin_macp

It’s not so much a case of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ but ‘Teaching in the Time of COVID’. Schools around the world have been moving to online learning and this has been a massive culture shock. Faced with the likelihood of having to teach entirely online, I put out a tweet asking for teachers who have already started this process for their advice, and the response from the edutwitter cavalry was impressive. Rather than write a piece giving advice when I haven’t yet moved to online learning (I start next week), I thought it would be best to share a collection of very useful blogs and resources that can help, wherever you are.

A good place to start is always something by @teacherhead Tom Sherrington, and his blog ‘Setting Work for a Long-Haul Shutdown’ is based on his experience of two previous shutdowns. It contains a lot of excellent advice on what is achievable, and what to be wary of. I also thought that this article by Sam Phillips (teaching in China) via @GovernorHub on primary teaching was particularly useful because that poses a very different set of challenges compared to secondary or tertiary teaching. Indeed, the problems faced and the need for low-tech approaches are emphasised in this blog by Solomon Kingsnorth (@solomon_teach).

When my school started discussions about a continuity policy, this document proved incredibly helpful. It was written by Head of Dubai College Mike Lambert, @DCol_head, and was based on a similar policy by Kellett School in Hong Kong. The Principal at Kellett is @independenthead Mark Steed, and he contributed to this really useful page by the ISC working group for digital strategy during the shutdown. I also really liked this blog ‘Planning for the Gathering Storm’ by @Southgloshead for it’s clear approach to developing a whole-school strategy.

A lot of teachers are rapidly up-skilling in ed tech right now, so my go-to person on this is @ICTEvangelist Mark Anderson. He wrote an excellent two-part blog for the website Independent Thinking on effective T&L:

https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/blog/posts/2020/march/learning-in-quarantine/

https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/blog/posts/2020/march/learning-in-quarantine-part-two/ 

One of the most useful things I received was a great image which was created by Alison Yang of KIS International School in Bangkok. It sets things out very clearly so all teachers, pupils and parents can understand the school’s policy.

KIS

I was also sent a large number of useful videos, websites, links to apps and other suggested material that look good, but too many to condense down here. If you go through the full thread and subsequent RTs on my timeline you will find them all. The good news is that many apps are currently being offered for free (a selection can be found here), so this is a good opportunity to take them for a test drive. My thanks to everyone who shared their ideas and resources – I really appreciate this, and so will teachers all around the world.

And finally, if you’re wondering why I used a picture of the iconic ZX Spectrum for this blog, it’s because it’s useful to remember that ed tech is not a new thing. There is no such thing as a digital native. If you suddenly need to teach using it when you have never really engaged, shed your fear. It’s not as tough, or as bad, as you might think. 

So keep going, keep sharing, and keep your head up. School might be closed, but learning never stops. 

Brains, Computers and CogSci: the Quiet Revolution in Learning⤴

from @ robin_macp

This blog was written for the Voices in Education Series and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Odgers Berndtson.

This Spring Term the Schools Practice at Odgers Berndtson is pleased to present the second series of articles for its Voices in Education initiative. These articles are written by a number of leading voices across the schools sector. They have been written to start conversations about important challenges, opportunities and ideas within the schools sector today. In this article, Robin Macpherson, Assistant Rector at Dollar Academy, writes about the importance of understanding memory as teachers.

“Memory is the residue of thought”

Daniel T. Willingham

“The aim of all instruction is to alter long-term memory. If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.”

Sweller, Clark and Kirschner

I’m a teacher, not a psychologist. If you work in a school it’s unlikely that you know much about psychology either. It’s doubtful that you did any cognitive psychology in your training to be a teacher, as this is largely left off the curriculum. So why then should we all be spending a lot more time looking at cognitive psychology if we want to be better teachers?

The first thing to make clear is that this isn’t a new thing. It may be a recent addition to pedagogy in school classrooms but as a discipline it’s well over a hundred years old. Ebbinghaus produced seminal work on the ‘forgetting curve’ in the 1880s and 1890s, which showed that memory traces have a half-life, and in order to be strengthened we need to retrieve the memory to refresh and strengthen it. In 1967, Ulric Neisser wrote one of the most important books in education history, simply called ‘Cognitive Psychology’. In academic circles it pushed the science of learning more towards internal mental processes and away from behaviourism, which sought to explain learning through responses to external stimuli. Essentially, it means people in universities knew – more than half a century ago – that it was possible to measure brain processes in order to advance our knowledge of how we learn.

What accelerated this was the development of computer technology. It’s often said that our brains are like computers, but in fact it is more accurate to state that computers are like our brain. Cognitive psychology is about the architecture of memory: we process information through our working memory (which is very limited) and store it in our long term memory (which is potentially limitless). We can bring back information from storage into the working memory in order to use it. Computers process things (measured in RAM) but store things on a hard drive which is much bigger in scope. The analogy seems to work, even if it breaks down when you explore the mechanics, but there is no doubt that as we started to build artificial brains (computers) we developed a better understanding of our own minds.

Incredibly, it has only been in the past decade that scientific findings in the field of cognitive psychology have begun to shape classroom practice on a wider scale. This has much to do with the disconnect between the research that is produced in academia and the professional knowledge and practice of teachers. Thankfully, we’re getting much better at this.

The breakthrough can be attributed to a number of books but I think a key text is ‘Make it Stick’ by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel. In 2002, Henry Roediger was appointed to head up a team of eleven psychologists (including Mark McDaniel) by the James S McDonnell Foundation in St Louis, Missouri. Their task was to lead a study in applying cognitive psychology to educational practice. A decade later, their work was ready. However, unlike previous studies, this one made its way into mainstream education in schools. Roediger and McDaniel teamed up with journalist Peter Brown and wrote ‘Make It Stick’, and finally there was a volume that took high end, rigorous scientific research and made it accessible to teachers. It was a watershed moment.

There are many other books that we could point to here: Daniel Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ (2010) is arguably the true pioneer, and Benedict Carey’s ‘How We Learn’ (2014) is also wonderfully accessible. However, the overall point is clear: in the past decade the science of learning has infiltrated the classroom and this quiet revolution is to be embraced. If you are a teacher reading this and are thinking “I know nothing about cognitive psychology” then the good news is that you can get up to speed very quickly. You don’t need to be a scientist, you just need to open your mind and read one of these books. Another, more recent, classic is ‘Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide’ by Weinstein, Sumeracki and Caviglioli, who are members of the excellent Learning Scientists collaborative. Get on their website as soon as you have finished this blog.

So what does this actually mean for classroom practice? Crucially, it means structuring learning around the architecture of memory. Awareness of the limitations of working memory is vital. Current thinking is that we can hold at best 4 pieces of information in our working memory at a time, and to try to cram more into this will overload your pupils’ capacities – no matter how bright they are. When I started teaching less able pupils were described as those who had problems with working memory. Newsflash – we all do. None of us has a great working memory. This is why Dylan Wiliam described Sweller’s cognitive load theory as being the most important thing any teacher can know. I think about 95% of the PowerPoints I see teachers produce – and the way they deliver them – violate this key principle. There’s a brilliant blog entitled ‘Clean up your mess’ by Robert Macmillan (@robfmac on Twitter) based on his talks at researchED Scotland if you want to see how to do presentations properly.

RobfMac

Further evidence is provided in a key paper by Dunlosky et al in Scientific American Mind called ‘What works, what doesn’t’ (2013). This explores the methods used by students to revise for assessments and how effective they are. How often have you had a pupil bemoan a poor test score, pleading that they worked really hard? No doubt they did, but they used ineffective techniques. Using highlighters and rereading notes – beloved of many – are an almost total waste of time. Retrieval practice – known as the testing effect – is extremely effective. Teachers who make use of this in everyday lessons build highly effective long term memory and can achieve outstanding results with pupils of all ability ranges. This is important – it can be an absolute game-changer. If you want to know more, read Kate Jones’ excellent recent book ‘Retrieval Practice: Resources and Research for Every Classroom’ (2020).

So, what we’re faced with now are the massive opportunities afforded by over a century of scientific research, all of which is very actionable in the classroom. As I mentioned before, most universities completely ignore it in their teacher training programmes. I am hugely in favour of connecting research about education to the practice of teachers, and things are moving in this direction. However, it is a slow burn process and if you’re a school leader you will need to think carefully about how to embed this in the culture of learning in your unique context. A whole school approach works much better than individuals ploughing lonely furrows. My advice is to get reading, share with colleagues, and see the benefits for yourself. Teaching, in truth, is not a fully research-informed profession. Cognitive psychology shows us what might be possible if we can connect schools and universities in a genuine partnership about the science of learning.

Robin Macpherson is currently Assistant Rector at Dollar Academy, and from August 2020 will be Head of College at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen. He is the co-author of ‘What does this look like in the classroom? Bridging the gap between research and practice’ (2017) with Carl Hendrick and speaks and blogs about educational issues. His Twitter handle is @robin_macp

Are you research informed?⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

Theres been a groundswell in the past decade of teachers becoming more research informed. This has been evident in the creation of organisations such as pedagoo and researchEd. Pedagoo is a large community of teachers which aims to support and encourage teachers working collaboratively to improve teaching and learning. They have organised grassroots events called TeachMeets where teachers can go along in their own time and share best practice in the form of learner conversations where they discuss pedagogical approaches and what works for them in their context. It has grown from a simple idea to connect Teachers to what it is today. If you are on twitter I would highly recommend reading through and perhaps sharing your own #pedagoofriday, which was created for teachers to share their highlights. It is a great read on a Friday evening.

ResearchEd is another growing grassroots organisation. It was created by chance in 2013 by Tom Bennett and is now growing to have events worldwide. Their mission to explore work works and raise research literacy through bringing people together has been a key to the event growing. I have just purchased my ticket for their event held in Glasgow in February 2020, I can’t wait to hear some excellent people speak about their research and how this will then translate into my own classroom.

For a while now I have been wondering how much of what I do in my teaching practice is because someone somewhere said it would be good to try and how much of what I do is backed by meaningful research so I have engaged with organisations like Pedagoo & ResearchEd to help get some answers to my question. Is what I do day to day what actually works for improving the outcomes for young people? So I have sought to become research informed but what does this mean to be a research informed practitioner?

As Mark Enser wrote in 2017, teachers should engage with research to tackle through all the misinformation that we are given, but what is the misinformation and how do we know? An example of this is that of Learning Styles, this was used for a number of years to help differentiate in classrooms for Audio, Visual & Kinaesthetic learners but this has since been debunked by research. Do you still use learning styles? it is maybe worth looking at the research to see for yourself, after all in a profession like Teaching shouldn’t we be at the cutting edge of research if we really want to be efficient, effective and high performing in our classrooms.

How do we become research informed practitioners? our time is precious and also limited with workload being a key feature of almost every discussion in education. Earlier this year the OECD published ‘Education at a Glance’ and they highlighted that teachers in Scotland have the biggest teacher contact time with young people in the developed world. So time really is an issue for most and with so many priorities (marking, meetings, SQA deadlines, coursework, reporting) it is difficult to find the right amount of time to sift through research, so are there easy ways to engage with research that are quick, easily digestible and can translate into making an effective change in my practice.

A quick and easy way to engage with research is by joining twitter. The online community of teachers sharing their practice, offering up research, practitioner enquiry and simply asking challenging questions of one another is growing daily. If you join twitter I can offer up some useful tips that can get you started.

  • Use your own name or a professional name depending on whether you want to make your profile private or not
  • Choose education as a topic to follow
  • Follow as much people as you’d like (you can always unfollow them). I would recommend the following to start with: @teachertoolkit, @teacherhead, @researched, @UKedreschat, @AceThatTest, @DavidDidau & @ImpactWales
  • You can follow hashtags (#) to join in or just follow along with a conversation: I would recommend the following to get started with: #pedagoofriday, #LrnSciChat, #2ndaryrocks, #PrimaryRocks, #NQTChat, #ScotEdChat & #UkEdChat

There is also an excellent guide by Erin Miller to getting started with twitter here.

Another way to become more research informed is by reading books. I love to read and have really built a good habit of reading. I set a target of 10 pages a day minimum for an education book to help me master my craft. If you like to read there are a plethora of excellent books out there that can make an impact on your teaching practice. So much so that it is worth a blog post on its own. However to get started I would recommend the following books.

  • The Learning Rainforest by Tom Sherrington
  • Just Great Teaching by @TeacherToolkit, Ross Morrison McGill
  • Teach Like Nobody is Watching by Mark Enser
  • Oops! Helping Children Accidentally Learn by Hywel Roberts

If you want to go further with books and book recommendations I would encourage you to read this blog by @87History Kate Jones on her Love to Teach blog.

There are a range of websites out there that are run by educational researchers. These sites are filled with strategies and research that are proven to work in classrooms. The best websites for me are the following.

A final recommendation to becoming research informed is to engage with your own action research. This can be as big or as small as you would like. Some local authorities in Scotland offer practitioner enquire courses which helps you focus on one or two things to investigate and improve in your classroom. It is important with any research you do that you prioritise the impact on young people. A basic structure to conducting action research in your classrooms can be found here in a blog post by @TeacherToolkit. He breaks it down simply for the reader and things of action research in as four point.

  1. Ask – what do you want to investigate? What types of evidence can you gather?
  2. Investigate – What types of evidence are available? How do we best investigate our practice without impacting too much on workload
  3. Innovate – What tentative claims can you make once you have tried new ideas and gathered evidence? What is working and what isn’t? Is the evidence reliable?
  4. Reflect – What did you learn about your practice? What do yo now know? What can you celebrate and share with your colleagues.

Ross articulates it much better than I do in his own blog. I would recommend you read that if you are interested in action research.

Becoming a research informed teacher isn’t as time consuming as you think and starting with as little as 15-30 minutes a day will build your knowledge quickly. Whatever you read or see it is important to consider whether it will work in your context and if you would be willing to put the time into investigating whether it works for you. Collaborating with colleagues is an excellent way to do this and some schools have some excellent examples of working groups and book clubs. I have recently been reading ‘Research-Informed Practice’ by Jennifer Ludgate and it would be an excellent addition to your own and your schools CPD Library.

I hope you do engage with research as I believe that in doing so we can only become more effective and efficient teachers who become masters of our craft, which will improve outcomes for our young people as the better we become as teachers the better it will be for the students in our classes.

 

 

UnsustainED? Why ESD isn’t working.⤴

from @ robin_macp

“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?” – Greta Thunberg

2019 has seen millions of schoolchildren across the world strike on Fridays because of inaction on climate change. As a teacher, this poses an ethical dilemma. We want our pupils to show exactly the kind of intelligence and integrity that Thunberg does, but we don’t want to see formal education being excluded from the solution. It’s a damning indictment of our profession if pupil empowerment comes from skipping school rather than being in lessons. 

At the heart of this is a significant issue that isn’t widely enough acknowledged; the drive for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has singularly failed to improve the sustainability consciousness (SC) of young people. This is despite UNESCO organising an entire decade (the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, or DESD) from 2005 to 2014 on the issue. National programmes of certification of eco schools have been rolled out on different continents, but the research done so far on their efficacy all points to one uncomfortable truth; its impact has been negligible. 

There are big questions to answer here. What problems has research into the approach revealed? Why has the approach largely failed?  And, crucially, can it be rescued? Let’s begin with the issues that have been thrown up by schools that have followed some form of certified approach which requires standard practices like audits of the curriculum and basic operations. Different research papers have focused on Belgium (Boeve-de Pauw and Van Petegem 2013), Sweden (Olsson et al, 2015), Taiwan (Olsson et al, 2018) and America (Higgs and McMillan, 2006), to name but a few. There are some common themes that emerge:

  1. Gender gap: girls are more likely to exhibit behaviours and attitudes that show sustainability consciousness than boys. This may even be due to implicit gender stereotyping in how programmes are constructed. 
  2. Age fluctuation: young children (typically up to age 12) show genuine interest in ESD programmes, but by age 14-15 this actually becomes negative – what Olsson calls the ‘adolescent dip’. There is an improvement by age 18, assuming the programmes are continued to that age.
  3. Socio-economic background: schools in areas with higher levels of income struggle to make any inroads on SC, and in fact the overall effect may be negative. 
  4. Death by Certification: schools that have followed certified programmes show little if any improvements over schools that do not, in terms of the SC of their pupils. Effect sizes where eco programmes are adopted are 0.2 at best. Worryingly, many of these schools think they are making a difference when they are not.

Much of this is due to the limited interpretation of what sustainability really is. When the focus is restricted to environmental issues only, the knowingness, behaviours and attitudes of pupils shows little change. What schools are failing to emphasise are the social and economic dimensions. In his PhD thesis (2018), Olsson goes into depth on his development of this model:

Olsson diagram

In this context, ‘knowingness’ is defined as a “theory of knowing” about the fundamentals of sustainable development, where critical thinking is an essential component. This addresses a core issue: much of what is going on in ESD-focused classrooms is about imparting knowledge without understanding. For example, pupils may know that eating less meat is good for the environment. Do they know why? And are they able to critically debate the dissonance about environmental sustainability (reduced water consumption) and economic sustainability (the impact on farmers)? This is where ESD is currently falling down: there is an absence of both breadth of the concept and critical thinking about it.

What is emphasised as making a difference is the need for pluralism and holism in teaching methods. What this means is teaching the full range of ESD concepts (not just environmental) from multiple disciplines and angles. This leads to ‘action competence’ in pupils, which means they understand a range of possible options, have confidence that they have agency, and then show willingness to turn this into concrete actions. Research conducted so far suggests that ESD can have an impact if it leads to this, but all too often it is ideologically driven, lacking in solid pedagogy, confined to environmental issues, and the agenda is driven by agencies outside of education. 

Back in 2007, Vare and Scott made an important distinction between ESD 1 (education for sustainable development) and ESD 2 (education as sustainable development). ESD 2 offers much more promise, as it focuses on critical thinking (which the authors emphasise is domain specific) and metacognition. This approach appeals to me and I hope that it will be the basis of ESD going forward.

There is no doubt that making all systems that support human life more sustainable is ethical and desirable. What we need to do is make sure that education about these issues is itself sustainable, and that is what bodies like UNESCO and the OECD have yet to get right. The Incheon Declaration of 2015 and the laudable goals it sets out have 15 years to deliver. Four years in, the Greta Thunberg effect suggests that a lot will need to be done in the next 11 years if this is going to make a difference.  

References:

Lyons Higgs, A., and McMillan, (2006) V.,‘Teaching Through Modeling: Four Schools’ Experiences in Sustainability Education’, Journal of Environmental Education, Vol. 38, No1

Olsson, D (2018) ‘Student Sustainability Consciousness: Investigating Effects of Education for Sustainable Development in Sweden and Beyond’ Doctoral Thesis, Karlstad University Studies

Olsson, D., N. Gericke, and Chang Rundgren, S.-N. (2016) ‘The effect of implementation of education for sustainable development in Swedish compulsory schools assessing pupilssustainability consciousness’, Environmental Education Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, 176202,

Olsson, D., Gericke, N., Boeve-de Pauw, J., Berglund T., Chang, T., (2019) ‘Green schools in Taiwan – Effects on student sustainability consciousness’, Global Environmental Change 54, 184–194 

Vare, P. and Scott, W. (2007) ‘Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship Between Education and Sustainable Development’, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 1:2, 191–198

Catching my breath⤴

from

Bee

Phew, I am glad May is over. Annual review and a deadline to submit a draft lit review in the same week – both done. I am apparently on track to submit by January 2020. I hope I can cope – I have spent the last few weeks either writing or feeling guilty that I was not writing. Today I gave myself permission to take a day off. I have gardened, doodled, read for fun, relaxed.

I’m not going to share my draft lit review here – it’s not that interesting. A whistle stop tour of some educational theories with a nod to constructionism, and a note to myself to think more about tinkering as an approach.

COBIS and researchED Dubai: takeaways⤴

from @ robin_macp

I spoke at the Innovation in Education conference last week at Dubai College for COBIS and researchED, which was a great chance to catch up with friends and meet new people working in the Middle East. Here are a few thoughts based on the sessions I saw.

Becky Allen – @profbeckyallen

This is always a pleasure, because Becky’s book with Sam Sims ‘The Teacher Gap’ is excellent and takes to task the poor policies and practices that have beset the profession in recent years. There are massive crises in terms of recruitment and retention (with 20% the typical turnover figure per school per annum), but few people are doing something about it. Becky is. She’s also responsible for Teacher TAPP, which, if you haven’t downloaded it, do. It’s nicely addictive and is the best opinion poll on teaching out there: weapons-grade data, served daily.

Becky A

David Bott

Positive education is getting a lot of traction internationally and David taught at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, which has been a pioneer in the field. They send all Year 9 pupils to a remote campus at Timbertop for a year (without any tech or much comfort) to develop resilience and coping skills, and established the Institute of Positive Education. There was definitely an evangelical feel to the room and David’s charisma fueled this, and I liked the discussion that followed from his simple question of ‘what do you most want for your students?’ This said, I’m not convinced about this approach and want to see that it means more than virtue signalling. Wellbeing is important and young people do need support, but at the moment I see more style than substance here. I’d be happy to be proved wrong, but the evidence base looks shaky to me.

David Didau – @DavidDidau

A double dose of Didau, covering his two books ‘What if everything you knew about education was wrong?’ and ‘Making Kids Cleverer’. What I like about David is that he always challenges established norms and makes you reconsider everything you think you know. I don’t always agree with him, but you can’t deny the breadth of his knowledge in terms of research. What caused a storm on edutwitter was my support for this slide:

Didau
I have a lot of issues with the 21st century skills narrative because it is misleading and may even detract from skills that are more recent and need sharper focus for students (networking, for example). Is creativity a skill? No, it is a characteristic. Is it 21st century? No, it is as old as the human race. Can it be taught? I don’t think it can be taught explicitly, but can be nurtured in the right environment. In this respect, it is the product of a good education rather than a subset of a curriculum. It is the sum of the whole school experience. Needless to say, the jury is still out on this though.

Kate Jones – @87History

No one has done more to promote effective teaching and learning in the Middle Eastern classroom than Kate Jones (not least because she runs @teachuaechat) and her book ‘Love to Teach’ is a modern classic. She offers a wealth of practical strategies to try in the classroom and has read pretty much every edubook moving. In particular I liked her own version of the TPACCK model, which looks like this:

20190427_151817

Kate’s addition is cognitive knowledge and it’s fair to argue that the sweet spot in the middle of this leads to great teaching and learning. The best way to find out more is to follow her blog here.

Mike Lambert – @DCol_Head

Mike is the headteacher at Dubai College and from what I have heard (and now seen) he is doing a great job. He has been a key figure in bringing  UAE schools together to form a strategic alliance which will bring huge benefit to pupils in the country. This isn’t easy – competition for pupils means that schools here have not cooperated a great deal in the past because they are rivals more than allies. This seems to be changing and the culture now is very different to the one I experienced in the UAE a decade ago. Mike elaborated on the efficacy of systems leadership and the extent of his knowledge on the evidence base is really robust. Definitely one to follow on Twitter.

20190427_112117

Olly Lewis – @OLewis_coaching

This was really impressive. Olly is doing great work in ed-tech and recommended (and demonstrated successfully) a number of websites and apps that I haven’t come across, like Mentimeter. There was also a great discussion at the end about the level of engagement between teachers and ed-tech companies, sparked by the presence of an ed-tech rep in the room who spoke up for the companies that often get slated for failing to listen to teachers or be familiar with the needs of schools. I’ve got a long list of things to look at from this, so tweet Olly for more recommendations.

Rose Luckin – @Knowldgillusion

Artificial Intelligence is the Fourth Education Revolution, but what impact will it have on education? Rose Luckin is a Professor at UCL IoE and helped to establish the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education. She tackled some of the standard claims about AI, such as the extent to which it will consume jobs. Crucially, she pointed out that machine learning cannot understand everything, including itself, and also asserted that AI will mean a need for more teachers, not fewer. This field continues to be contentious, and although I missed the panel debate afterwards I gather it got a bit heated. It’s an area we’ll all be hearing more about, but I would like to see more people challenging the assumption that AI will be the end of us all; I want more hard evidence, less Terminator-style narratives.

Rose L

Me…

I did two sessions, one (happily) titled ‘death to CPD’, and the second on the reasons for the rise of cognitive psychology principles in teaching over the past decade. In short, I find the old model of CPD (one-size fits all, one day courses and little impact for high cost) infuriating. I’ve written about this here, and argued that we need to look at under-used resources that have greater benefit and cost less.  Above all, good professional learning takes time and needs to be stretched over a year. The Teacher Development Trust is a great place to look for more on this, as is ‘Unleashing Great Teaching’ by Bridget Clay and David Weston.

IMG_20190428_223902

On cog-sci, I am a big fan but I think it’s important that we stop to consider some of the issues that arise from its sudden and widespread adoption.  The field goes back to when Hermann Ebbinghaus started his groundbreaking research into memory in 1879, and spread further when the ‘father of cognitive psychology’ Ulric Neisser published his seminal book in 1967. This raises various questions. What caused the shift towards cog-sci, and why is it only relatively recently that it has grown in popularity? Secondly, are we sufficiently skilled as a profession to practise this? After all, how many of us had proper training in this field during ITT? Are we just an army of enthusiastic amateurs? If we embrace interleaving fully, what are the implications for the curriculum? Mark Healy (@cijane02), a graduate and teacher of psychology for 25 years, tells me that even now he struggles to understand some of the nuances of working memory – yet everyone on Twitter is apparently an expert. These are all valid concerns so I will continue to a) use cog-sci in the classroom but b) critically scrutinise whether I am getting it right. As is often the case with research, the evidence base and theory are solid, but application can be awry. To be continued…

And finally…

A huge thanks to Annie Kirkaldy, Dee Saran, Sarah Lambert and all the other Dubai College staff who hosted and ran the events over two days superbly. Let’s hope it becomes a staple of the Middle Eastern education calendar.

The Ship of Theseus: the Nature of Change in Schools⤴

from @ robin_macp

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

This is about a philosophical thinking problem, and the messages that emerge for teachers and school leaders. If you know your philosophy, you can skip to the second half. If you don’t, read on…

A philosophical dilemma: the Ship of Theseus

Plutarch highlighted this problem and it has been developed and debated for centuries. In the dilemma, the ship of Theseus returns after a long period of voyaging (aided by the youth of Athens, he slew the Minotaur). When his voyage ends his ship is maintained for posterity, so when any part of it decays it is replaced. In the fullness of time, none of the original ship is left, but it still looks exactly like the ship of Theseus. This raises a question: is it still the same ship?

There are various riffs on this dilemma. A popular one is Washington’s axe, but you can also use Trigger’s broom. Washington’s axe resides in a museum, but the handle becomes rotten and is replaced. Then the blade becomes rusted, so it is also replaced. Same axe? Not the same axe? Personally I prefer Trigger’s broom (from Only Fools and Horses). Trigger wins an award for using the same broom for twenty years. He then reveals he’s changed the head seventeen times and the handle fourteen times. If you ask Trigger though, it’s the same broom – it looks the same and does the same job. No doubt he would agree that it’s the same axe wielded by George Washington.

You may be unconvinced by the ship, and the axe/broom examples seem trite. But how about Shinto temples? Their wood is replaced every 20 years. In one temple, the wood always comes from the same nearby forest because the trees are held to be sacred. Is this still the same temple?

And finally – to really mess with your mind – no cell in the human body lives longer than seven years. If you’ve done the ten year challenge, then consider this: not a single physical shred of that person exists anymore. Is it the same ship/axe/broom/temple/you?

What does this mean for teachers?

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” – Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist

Education has never been, nor ever will be, static. Pedagogy changes, policy changes, culture changes – children change. We can never stay still as we constantly need to be up to speed with our professional practice. However, we all know people who teach exactly the same way in 2019 that they did back in 2009. They think they’ve cracked teaching and that what they do ‘works’, but how do we define what ‘works’ and how can teachers know if their practice is effective? Something to consider is that we have learned a great deal from cognitive psychology in the last decade. The quest for a better understanding about how we learn and how our memories work will take decades yet. Teaching will change in line with our collective knowledge.

I accept that lessons I taught that I thought were great a decade ago won’t pass muster now. I accept this, and I welcome it as a challenge of my job. My father decided to quit teaching (at age 71, incidentally) when he felt he had run his course in the classroom. He probably hadn’t, but he I admire him for having such self-awareness and being so honest with himself. It’s what we now call being a reflective practitioner, and good teachers have always done this. Therefore what we do can change, but there is also consistency in what it is to be a true professional.

This is where meaningful professional learning comes in. We, as teachers, need to stay current in our practice the same way that medics need to keep on top of new developments in treatment and pharmacology. Evidence is key. Here are three things that I’ve changed about my craft that came after serious reflection and engagement with educational research:

  • Marking: I loved (and I choose that word deliberately) forensic marking. It made me feel that I was doing my job well, and that my pupils respected me for my work ethic and commitment to them. It gave me lots of lovely data and – I mistakenly believed – made them better at what they do. Now I have read more, I realise that written feedback is limited and my lessons could have been better if I’d planned (and read) more, rather than dedicating too much of my time to marking. I now follow Dylan Wiliam’s ‘four quarters marking’ regime and everyone is better off for it.
  • Feedback: related to the above, my feedback came mainly through my pen. I was fast at turning around essays (always back the next lesson) but I now see that live feedback is much better. I am seeing more tangible learning gains by oral feedback on the spot than I am from my trusty red pen. Whole class feedback has been a revelation to me and I strongly recommend it.
  • Peer and self-assessment: again, related to the above, I was always distrustful of these practices as I thought they were for show and were actually treated with disdain by pupils. That’s probably true if they are done badly (as always happens when you do things in a tokenistic way). However, training pupils to be discerning critics of their work can come through practice of evaluating their peers’ work. Done well, it can lead to greater insight and progress than having yet another piece of work marked by me. Without it, four quarters marking falls down.

So am I the same teacher? I certainly hope not. I also hope I won’t be doing things the same way in ten years’ time. Great teaching is about evolving your practice. It terrifies me to think that teachers plateau after only three years, as David Weston’s work with the Teacher Development Trust shows. Don’t let that happen to you.

What does this mean for school leaders?

Change is an ever-present word in leadership conversations. In fact, the Standards for Leadership and Management in Scottish education put change right at the heart of it:

“Leadership is central to educational quality. Leadership is the ability to: develop a vision for change, which leads to improvements in outcomes for learners and is based on shared values and robust evaluation of evidence of current practice and outcomes; mobilise, enable and support others to develop and follow through on strategies for achieving that change; Management is the operational implementation and maintenance of the practices and systems required to achieve this change.”

Therefore the same golden rule applies to schools as well as teachers: change comes from knowing that we can always be better, and must move in that direction. Bill Clinton once said that you can have good politics, or good policy, but without both you can’t have good government. The same is true for school leaders. What you do and how you do it are equally important.

Some key points:

  1. Accept that change is inevitable, but aim to control the extent, pace and timing. Too little leads to stagnation, too much leads to chaos. You will see things that you need to change, but you will probably also have to change things that you like too. The key is to recognise the need, choose the moment, and don’t break the speed limit.
  2. Develop a culture of professional learning that embraces change. The teachers in your school need a mindset where they recognise that their practice needs to evolve. The Wiliam mantra is invaluable: improvement doesn’t come from inadequacy, but from the certain knowledge that we can always be better at what we do. So be very careful about how you use the word ‘improvement’ – never make your staff feel that it is motivated by a feeling that they are not good enough.
  3. Are you still the same teacher? I hope not – but how do you know? Do you remember what it’s like to teach a full timetable? If you’re asking teachers to mark a lot of books, ask yourself when you last marked a set of books? I have yet to come across a teacher who didn’t value a senior leader who led by example. What example are you setting?

So is it still the same ship?

The ship has changed in its constituent parts, but its core purpose and overall identity are the same. This is how I view teachers and schools. Throughout their lifespan, a teacher and a school will have the same overarching purpose. Yet how they achieve this will be in a state of constant evolution, and at times it may need revolution. Change fatigue is a serious issue for teachers, but so too is stagnation. Deng Xiaoping tried to bring order to China after the ideological upheaval of Mao’s long tenure, and his maxim was “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse.” I don’t mind what the answer is to the Ship of Theseus dilemma, but if it still sails well then I’m fine with that.

Further reading

Five great books on school leadership: