The Festival of Education 2018, held at Wellington College, brought together a range of practitioners, policy-makers and advocates for two days of inspiring debate, CPD and networking. In this blog, I share details of the sessions run by the Chartered College of Teaching and reflect on some of the themes that emerged from the challenging, exciting events I attended.
Connecting research and practice
The first period of day one included a session by Cat Scutt, our Director of Education and Research, and Sam Sims, Research Fellow at Education Datalab, on how practitioners can use journal clubs to engage with research. Teacher journal clubs, a regular cycle of meetings at which teachers discuss research, encourage autonomously chosen goals, peer collaboration and the translation of research into practice. Reading Impact, our termly journal, could be a good place to start – we welcome article submissions by practitioners, and the Chartered College’s Head of Publishing, Miriam Davey and Head of Content, Kate Hodge, led a workshop on the process of writing for publication, including books, professional journals and e-first works.
In another session, led by Sarah Harrison, Head of Teacher Development Programmes, three teachers taking part in the Chartered Teacher programme shared their reflections on how engaging with research has informed their teaching. Evidence-based changes they have implemented include using verbal feedback within lessons rather than marking books, and making better use of other adults in the classroom. As well as having a positive impact on learning, these changes have helped to reduce their workload and enabled them to re-engage with what they love about teaching. Later in the day, Professor Dame Alison Peacock, our Chief Executive, gave an inspiring keynote about the value educators have on society and the central role of teachers in young people’s lives.
Both days included talks on overarching issues, such as approaches to curriculum design, assessment and effective school leadership, as well as a number of subject-specific sessions.
Curriculum design and delivery
What’s the fundamental purpose of the curriculum, and who should be involved in creating it: teachers, parents, policy-makers, experts? This question ran throughout a number of sessions, and the responses were nuanced and helpful. For example, in a session on ‘The green classroom’ the panel debated the extent to which climate change should be taught explicitly. While Tatiana Shahir, Head of Education at Tribal Planet, argued that, as our greatest global challenge, it needs to be tackled directly, Mark Lehain, Interim Director, New Schools Network, cautioned against overloading the curriculum, emphasising instead the centrality of disciplinary knowledge. To a degree, a consensus was reached, with all of the speakers agreeing that thinking critically about climate change needs to be rooted in disciplinary knowledge.
As well as controversies over what to teach, sessions tackled debates about strategies for effective teaching. For example, expanding on his recent article in Impact, Alex Quigley pointed out that there is currently no concrete, shared understanding among practitioners of how to define metacognition, making it difficult to develop consistent approaches to it in the classroom. Metacognition refers to the way people monitor and direct their learning, and while developing such awareness is one of the most effective ways to support learning, children need subject knowledge in order to use metacognitive strategies.
Developing shared understandings
As well as curriculum design and approaches to teaching, many sessions discussed the need to develop shared understandings of assessment. Assessment is crucial for enabling students, teachers and schools to gauge progress and recognise achievement. However, as discussed during one of the Festival’s NFER debates, the outcomes of assessment, whether high-stakes or low-stakes, can be difficult to interpret – there is a need to shape and create a shared language and understanding that teachers and pupils can use with confidence. Rob Coe helpfully summarised five criteria for assessment, which can be found on this blog.
Alongside these talks on the particular methods and processes of curriculum design and assessment, there were important sessions on the education system as a whole. The most challenging and exciting, a panel discussion on ‘Leading a diverse education system’, discussed the meaning of diversity and why it is so important for educators and students. Drawing on the impact of initiatives such as WomenEd, BAMEed and the recently-launched LGBTed, the speakers and delegates shared their experiences, and discussed practical steps schools can take to support and promote diversity.
Attending the Festival was a rich and rewarding experience, and I hope the sessions will help to stimulate an even more inspirational, diverse education system in which all students and teachers are supported and celebrated.