Reading Time: Approx 3mins

By Andrew Pearson, Deputy Head, at Durham School

The first conference of its kind in the North East brought together an assortment of thought leaders from the contemporary education scene.

They were there to present to an audience of enthusiastic, geeky-about-education, passionate teachers and other education professionals. All this at the beautiful (even in the rain) Durham School which hosted the day.

As Deputy Head at the school, I was particularly keen for the event to go well, and as an ‘edu-geek’ myself I was excited about the prospect of seeing Rob Coe, Sarah Donarski, Kris Boulton and many more without having to travel hundreds of miles.

New perspectives

The event kicked off, after words of welcome from Headmaster Kieran McLaughlin and Helene Galdin-O’Shea from researchEd, with Professor Robert Coe of CEM talking about assessment and how it might not be telling us what we think it is. This is a recurring theme with Prof Coe and it was one that ran throughout the day and stimulated much of the post-conference discussion (argument? Maybe, but always good natured).

Later in the day, we heard from Gary Jones and Adrian Simpson on effect sizes and why things might not be as clear-cut as we had imagined. Recently published articles have discussed Hattie’s meta-analyses and why they may be telling us something other than what is the most effective intervention.

Gary and Adrian made this point strongly, backed up with examples and counter-examples. Do meta-analyses pass the dipstick test? They thought not, if the original experiments did not have the same initial conditions and comparisons.

Focus on assessment

Add this to Stuart Kime’s talk ‘What every teacher needs to know about assessment’ and the day’s focus on assessment, its validity and how we should respond to what it tells us (or what we think it tells us) was becoming clear. Stuart’s talk was standing room only which shows the depth of enthusiasm amongst the delegates to understand more about this fundamental part of our professional life.

My other highlights of the day were a fascinating discussion with Sarah Donarski on whether verbal or written feedback was more likely to improve pupils learning (in case you are wondering, they are both useful in their own way) and Kris Boulton’s talk on Direct instruction. It seems that the ‘old fashioned’ chalk and talk methods of teaching are very close to methods that are scientifically verified and backed by years of research (so close in fact, that I would challenge anyone to tell them apart).

Top 5 takeaways from researchEd Durham

  1. John Blake’s assertion that trainee teachers and NQTs should be able to use ready-made resources to support their teaching.

    It sounds obvious, but trainee teachers feel under pressure to make their own resources. This is happening in schools all across the country and means time that could be spent improving lesson content and quality is spent making resources that probably already exist. A coherent approach by publishers to producing resources would make a huge difference to the experience of pupils and their teachers.
  2. Sarah Donarski: Pupils with a negativity bias will focus on the negative no matter how many positives you include, so ‘two stars and a wish’ isn’t enough. On the other hand, build confidence too high and performance can decrease for those with high illusory superiority. As in life, when giving feedback balance is everything.
  3. Kris Boulton: Direct Instruction has been proven to be the most effective way to teach children many times, but is always out of step with the prevailing wind. Maybe now ideas like child-centred learning are falling by the wayside it will gain the credibility it deserves.
  4. Professor Coe: A 3 mark difference between pupils on a 20 mark test is essentially the same mark. We need to get better at designing questions so the data we collect genuinely means something.
  5. John Taylor produced several studies that showed students who completed an EPQ performed better in their A levels, received lower offers and went on to get better degrees than other students. Pretty compelling!

We hosted 150 delegates, mostly teachers from Durham City and the surrounding area, as well as the twenty speakers, who came away feeling energised and enthused by the ideas and issues discussed.

Each speaker presented something thought-provoking and challenging, and we appreciated the time they had given to the event.

All that remains is to look forward to researchEd Durham 2019!

Find out more:

On 4th June 2019 in Durham, CEM will be hosting The Big Evidence Debate with presentations by Dylan Wiliam, Larry Hedges, Prof Coe and many more

Register for the ticket ballot now

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