Jelly and Chopsticks: Learning to Learn

Blog post by Charlotte Hart (Felsted Primary School) and Jess Stow (Great Dunmow Primary School)

 Learning, is it as obvious as teachers think?

Learning in English, learning in Maths, learning in Science. Children are expected to learn, learn, learn and of course they know how to learn. Of course all children are learning all the time but are we making assumptions about what children know about learning?  Do we need to be more explicit in teaching children how to learn?    

In the Dunmow Consortium of Primary schools we wanted to give children experiences to show them how to learn without having any preconceptions of the outcomes. Initial research by teachers had brought up the pedagogy of metacognition. We were interested in the cycle of planning, modifying and evaluating. This is where the pupils plan how to tackle a task and then use their experiences of success and failure to shape and modify how they continue.

Jelly and Chopsticks

Who doesn’t love jelly and chopsticks? We challenged the children to move a cube of jelly – not with their mind, but with chopsticks! We started off by asking the children for their initial ideas. What’s the plan?  How are they going to do it? Some children just wanted to get started, others were more reserved. There were no guidelines or rules here: they just had to have a go. Each child approached the task differently, which fascinated them when they thought about it afterwards and showed them that problems can be solved in many ways. Some children balanced the jelly on the chopsticks, others started using them to stab the jelly cubes. Some children even borrowed a chopstick from a friend. There were some successes and some failures and it was great to see children exploring how they could change or modify their plans.

jelly photo charlotte

A fun experience. So what?

We questioned how the children’s growing understanding of how they learn could be further explored so this was not a one off experience but integrated into all their learning. They certainly got excited about other workshops we offered, which included knot tying, building spaghetti and marshmallow towers, origami and writing with our non-dominant hand. Throughout all the fun we weaved in the cycle of planning, modifying and evaluating.

 

Fun, freedom and security

At each stage the children talked animatedly about their plan of approach, giving each other advice and tips based on their own experiences. Some children started using the cycle of planning, modifying and evaluating in other areas of the curriculum, such as when solving a maths challenge.  However, some children did exhibit negative emotions when things didn’t go as expected.  It seems that the least resilient children, whilst developing to some degree, remained the least resilient children. We now need to consider how to support this group whilst simultaneously promoting the resilience of all. 

 

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Addressing student stress: ‘Take five; feel better’

Blog post by Katie Neville-Jones, Teacher Research Lead, Bottisham Village College

With changes in the GCSE exams and the new 1-9 grading, the stress faced by students is increasing, and so is the urgency schools feel to find ways to help. At our Cambridgeshire 11-16 comprehensive, we’ve decided to start early and begin supporting children to cope with stress from Year 7 as they enter the school, with the aim of embedding helpful techniques from the outset. The initiative has not only helped pupils entering the school – which can be a stressful time in itself – but it has encouraged their Year 10 mentors to understand and manage their own stress better through supporting their younger peers.

In our work with Year 7 pupils here at Bottisham Village College, we adopted the Stress LESS strategy from the mental health charity Mind. The initiative aims to empower students to find positive ways of coping with school and exam stress using the message ‘Take five; feel better’. This involved all our students in Year 7 students deciding on five small changes that they can make to reduce their own stress levels, and trialling them over a five-week period. The changes are simple, every-day activities, such as talking to someone, taking a ten-minute walk and going to bed earlier. Students worked with older mentors to complete a simple action plan of changes, using the grid below:

stressless grid KNJ

During the StressLess workshops the Year 7 students avoided procrastination and got straight into deciding on the changes that they could make. Most students were able to recognise an area that they could make a small change to in order to reduce their stress.  Following the workshop, pupils had adopted some of the following strategies:

  • ‘Five minutes to relax each day’
  • ‘Listening to music’
  • ‘Be more organised’
  • ‘Drink more water’
  • ‘Focus on what I can do’

Why mentor?

Year 7 students were led in workshops to create their Stress LESS plans by the older mentors, and we found this peer-to-peer relationship has had powerful mutual benefits. With the Year 10 pupils approaching their own GCSE exams, being mentors gave them a fresh perspective on managing their own stress, and encouraged them to share strategies amongst friends.

In their feedback, their comments included: ‘The programme made me realise how important it is to stress less’ and ‘It gave me valuable techniques to help cope with certain periods such as exams’. This feedback from the mentors was what we had hoped to gain, illustrating the benefits for all participants.

What have we learned?

The Mind technique was a simple and effective strategy that we could adopt within the setting of a school. It is an initiative that we can continue to use and build capacity in the student mentors. We have shared our experiences with another local school and they are also trailing the initiative. I believe that introducing the ideas to 11-year-olds is useful supports students’ wellbeing and equips students with tools to manage stress. With all students understanding more about the causes and possible management options for stress, it is a small step to empower individuals to look after their own wellbeing.

Final thought, should we really be creating pressures that require this kind of stress management for our youngest pupils? And should we also be exploring ways to reduce teacher stress, rather than looking for ways to cope with it?

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SUPER Resilience & Well-Being Research: preliminary findings from our pupil interviews

The following post by our Teacher Research Lead (TRL) Krista Carson (Soham Village College) summarises some of the preliminary findings from a selection of our pupil interview data – collected by TRLs as part of our collective and collaborative research project  aiming to explore the following research question: ‘How do we promote character, resilience & wellbeing in an educational climate of outcome accountability?’

After meeting with the other Teacher Research Leads (TRL), alongside Bethan and Ros (from the faculty), in March, it was decided that a new blog entry summarising some of the preliminary interview data might be of interest to the wider world. As such, I’m here today to give a quick run-through of our initial thoughts regarding three of the twelve themes we’ve identified whilst coding the interview data. I have chosen these three themes as I (with the help of fellow TRL Anne Barratt from St Ivo School) carefully combed the initial interview data from across the various schools, focusing on these three themes; I therefore feel like I know the material a bit better than some of the other themes.

For interests’ sake, we identified 12 themes (collectively as TRLs and Faculty colleagues) for our analytical coding framework of the interview data:

  •    Involvement in school activities
  •    ‘Success’ –what does it mean?
  •    Exams – pressure (assessment, grades)
  •     Stress/worry
  •     Challenges
  •     Positive about/ Enthusiastic about
  •     Safety/feeling safe
  •     Curriculum issues (explicit and implicit)
  •     Equality issues (treated fairly/how inclusive is school)
  •     Caring – how does school care for you?
  •     Support – where from? Sources of
  •     Resilience

For this summary, I will be looking at the three themes of: involvement in school activities; success – what does it mean; and stress/worry.

Involvement in school activities

Whilst reading through the interview data we were able to find 40 mentions, across both primary and secondary school interview data, of involvement in activities within the school; a further eleven mentions were found of activities done outside of school. This suggests that school is, overwhelmingly, a key place for pupils’ activities.

Overall, Anne and I found it interesting that there appeared to be a split between primary and secondary school students’ involvement in school activities. The majority (if not all) of the primary school students interviewed said that they were involved in some sort of extra-curricular activity, either within school itself or outside of school.

Primary students mentioned a wide variety of in-school activities on offer to them. These included: ‘arts and crafts’; ‘football’; ‘after school club’; ‘running club’; ‘rugby’; and ‘cookery’. These activities seem to cover a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, and include more than just involvement in sport and academics.

In secondary schools, involvement seems to drop. Within the six secondary schools included in the study thus far, five of the six schools had at least one interview subject who said they had no involvement whatsoever in activities either inside or outside of the school. That being said, each school did have a number of students (either half or above) who said that they did some sort of school activity.

However, it was apparent in the secondary interview data that there was a lack of variety for activities offered within school. Most of the activities mentioned by the secondary students had links to the curriculum (for example, exam revision sessions) or sports. Students mentioned attending things like ‘statistics and extra exam practice’, ‘homework club’ or things like ‘hockey’ and ‘rounders’.

Outside of school, there appears to be more on offer for secondary-aged students; for example, some mentioned ‘horse riding’, ‘piano’, ‘cycling’ and ‘art and origami’. However, these activities are offered outside of school hours, and are therefore usually paid-for activities.

In summary, it appears that students are offered a wider variety of free activities to participate in  during primary school, and that students are keen to be involved in these activities whilst in the early years of their education. However, this appears to drop off once students begin secondary school. This could be because the focus in secondary school changes to activities that link to either the curriculum, and in particular exam revision at Key Stage Four, or sport, which is not appealing to all students.

Success – what does it mean?

Within the interview data, secondary students tended to equate success with getting ‘good’ or ‘high’ grades. Some mentioned specifically ‘doing well’ in exams as being a sign of success. At primary, this was slightly different, with students suggesting that being ‘good’ at something was a sign of success. The concept was therefore more vague to primary students, and much more concrete for students within our secondary schools.

As mentioned above, secondary students largely equated success with ‘positive’ summative outcomes (namely exam success, in the form of high grades). Students often saw having the ‘right answer’ as being the pathway to success (in the form of ‘good grades’). Mention was made of ‘doing well in tests and being confident in lessons’, ‘doing well, especially in exams’, ‘getting good grades’, or ‘achieving target grades’.

The concept of ‘hitting target grades’ came up often in the interview data. This suggests that secondary students are largely aware of the targets that are set for them, and measure their success against these targets.

Interestingly, there was only some mention of how teachers/school can help support students to become successful, which would be an interesting idea to pursue further.

Also, some students appear to equate success with ‘winning’ something, or receiving a reward of some sort. This was not necessarily linked to grades, which again makes it an interesting idea to pursue further.

Across both primary and secondary data, the idea of ‘right versus wrong’ appeared. Students across the Key Stages made correlations between getting things ‘right’ and success. Many students, across the age groups, also mentioned that ‘trying hard’ or ‘trying your best’ was helpful in achieving success. Similarly, some students mentioned that ‘persevering’ could also lead to success, which links in with the overall theme of resilience, which is driving the study.

Finally, the idea that friends can play a role in success appeared across both primary and secondary interview data. For example, one student suggested that they felt successful when ‘people like all my friends [are] around me to help me when I get stuck’.

Stress/worry

In the primary school data, children most often felt stressed by friendship or social issues; in some cases, students mentioned separation anxiety from home. These stresses appeared to change once students moved into secondary school. Here, students said they were stressed by things like: exam pressure, namely the desire to get ‘good’ grades; homework; difficult lessons; social and/or friendship issues; performance pressures; and high expectations.

In terms of homework, students mentioned a lack of understanding from, and coordination across, their various subject teachers. This often results in what they describe as ‘too much homework set at the same time’ from across the various curriculum subjects that students in secondary school study. One student mentioned that this often results in ‘piles and piles of [homework] to be completed by the next week’, which leads to high levels of stress. Another student, from a different school, said that because of ‘lots of homework’ they no longer have ‘time to revise’, which adds to their stress levels.

When looking at the subject of difficult lessons, one student mentioned that ‘at times [they] get frustrated ‘cos [they] can’t do the work…or teachers asking [them] to do things [they] can’t’, which led to high stress.

Overall, it appears that at the primary level, students experience stress namely through social tension, whereas at secondary school the amount of stress, and the things which trigger it, seem to grow and expand. Much of the pressure for secondary students appears to come from external pressures, such as exams. Further work is therefore needed to pinpoint how teachers can work with students to find ways to minimize the stress that they feel due to these pressures.

We will share more information about our project and more findings – from our quantitive survey and qualitative pupil interviews – in due course!

 

 

 

 

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Inspiring Schools Partnerships – the Schools Together Group’s first Annual Conference at Eton College 24th May 2017

Guest Post by:  David Hall (Teacher Research Lead at Samuel Whitbread Academy) and Jennie Richards (Emeritus Teacher Research Lead).  David and Jennie attended this conference on behalf of SUPER. Although all the partnerships presenting at the conference involved  collaborations of schools between state and independent sectors (unlike SUPER), it was to prove a thought provoking and interesting day which enabled us to reflect on our own partnership in new ways.

Keynote speakers at the start of the conference gave context to the growth of cross sector partnerships. Tom Arbuthnott of Eton College, as part of his welcoming speech, distributed a paper titled, “Independent-State School Partnerships:  An initial review of evidence and current practices”. This was produced by Bill Lucas, Louise Stoll, Toby Greany, Anna Tsakalaki and Rebecca Nelson. Bill Lucas then spoke in more detail about the findings of this report. It is available to download from www.etoncollege.com/CIRLResearch.aspx

This document provides both an academic literature review as the context for Independent-State School Partnerships (ISSPs), and a survey of current practice as reported by independent schools. Its conclusions show that not only is there a growing number of ISSPs, but that there is a wide variety of different approaches and foci for the partnerships. There is considerable enthusiasm for ISSPs, but significantly there is “no agreement of what constitutes best practice and we found no ISSPs which are being or have been formally evaluated for their impact or cost/benefit”.

John Weeks from the London Academy of Excellence laid out four key ingredients to successful partnerships of this nature.  He identified:

  • An identified need which could be addressed through partnership and skills matching
  • Financial security for the partnership
  • Academic security, meaning that there was an availability of expertise from specialist staff, mentoring, support, advice and guidance
  • A shared vision from single minded leadership in the partnership

Workshops These ideas were buzzing around in our heads as David and I attended a total of eight workshops out of the fifteen available. These described a range of current programmes covering mainly subject based developments, cross stage projects, teacher training and staff development.

An example of one of the workshops was given by Simon Davies who spoke about establishing a successful and sustainable schools partnership which is focused on:

  1. Working together using people, expertise, enthusiasm and resources
  2. Developing Priorities which inspire, excite and offer opportunities
  3. Being beneficial for young people, staff and schools

His premise centred around five fundamental aspects being essential to success and sustainability.  Firstly there was a need for a clear, agreed, apolitical vision.  Secondly, the people involved and their relationships need to have a commonality of purpose, an agreement for time investment and the important roles filled by the right type of characters to ensure the partnership continues.  Thirdly, there had to be a sustainable structure of meetings where the vision is repeated and cultivated, feedback and evaluations are discussed and resonance sought.  Meetings should also be planned for outreach to widen the scope and effectiveness of the partnership.  Fourthly, funding needs to be taken seriously and whilst schools should be prepared to be involved other sources of local interest and beneficiaries should be sought.  Lastly the management of the partnership needs to focus on transmission, collaboration, win-win-win and consistency.

The final panel discussion session also led to some key reflections for us both as the topic was, “How to measure the impact of school partnerships” which is often a topic of discussion at SUPER. The speakers were:

Speakers shared the view that partnerships need to be evaluated systematically and against previously agreed criteria. An emphasis on rigour and focus, a clear starting point, interim evaluation points and success measures were also necessary. The problems of measuring so called “softer” impacts, such as on resilience, character etc., were discussed as were ways to capture student and teacher perceptions regarding these issues.

Toby Greany emphasised that it is difficult to measure impact over different cultural contexts. He also spoke of the need to acknowledge difficulties and failures. He argued that just meeting measurable targets is insufficient because evaluation should be part of an ongoing improvement agenda, not just an end in itself. Whilst before and after audits can be effective, learning from all stakeholders must be properly evaluated.

Our Reflections. The conference made us consider the nature and impact of our SUPER partnership. We plan to develop a think piece to raise some ideas for discussion within the partnership, particularly regarding best practice, evaluation and cost/benefit analysis.

Having more than one attendee from our partnership proved to be a good way to promote an exchange of ideas and to share our experiences and interpretations of what we experienced. Even though SUPER is not an ISSP, there was much food for thought created as a result of a most interesting and informative day. Thank you to “Schools Together” for organising the conference and to Eton College for hosting the event so successfully. In addition, thanks to all the excellent speakers who contributed greatly to the experience we enjoyed.

David Hall & Jennie Richards

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What tools can be used to create and sustain teacher practitioner enquiry networks and partnerships?

Guest Post: Jennie Richards

Many thanks to Jennie, our SUPER Emeritus ‘teacher research lead’, for the following summary of the key ideas generated at the recent Research Leads Network Symposium hosted by SUPER on 7th March 2017 (see our previous two blogposts for more information, presentations slides etc.) Thanks also to all symposium participants for your contributions to the ongoing discussion and debate . . .

What tools can be used to create and sustain teacher practitioner enquiry networks and partnerships?

At the individual school level

  • The need to develop a deep and sustainable research culture (at governor, leadership and staff levels) was seen as key, but also challenging. The following suggestions were given as potential tools:
  • Recognition of the need to change and improve practice based on evidence based knowledge through Teaching and Learning groups.
  • Integrating enquiry into performance management.
  • Encouraging leadership structures and formalised support for groups to be involved in research.
  • Auditing and building on existing expertise in the school.
  • Offering time and possibly money incentives to engage with research (bursaries, Masters etc.)
  • Valuing, acknowledging and rewarding research efforts.
  • Finding ways to make academic literature more accessible. Research should inform as well as engage teachers. Developing opportunities to share and publish findings in practical ways which impact on teaching in the classroom.
  • Encouraging openness, trust, confidence.
  • Offering methodological support.
  • Knowing the appropriate time to launch and build momentum.
  • Mapping research interests across the school.
  • Involving parents and students wherever possible (modelling processes).
  • Creating informal and formal opportunities to share information in a variety of ways, e.g. posters, blogs, journals
  • Encouraging critical debate about evidence and impact

 

At the research network level

  • Creating the network with appropriate structures to support and sustain involvement.
  • Mapping research interests across the network to find common areas and problems to be addressed
  • Regular meetings of Research Leads from each participant
  • Celebratory information events/conferences
  • Recognising the need for shared communication and archiving structures.
  • Aligning the priorities and values of the members of the partnership.
  • Building non-hierarchical, non-competitive but inclusive, collaborative and trusting relationships.
  • Creating the ability to contextualise research to individual school s.
  • Developing robust, shared research knowledge and tools.
  • Developing good impact and evaluation tools.
  • Recognising problems and issues and sharing potential solutions.
  • Joint generation and publication of research findings

 

At the university/schools network level

  • Universities have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can be shared with schools in collaborative networks
  • Universities have access to methodological tools and knowledge of previous research which is invaluable to schools.
  • Research capacity within schools can be built through university programmes e.g. Masters, and also providing specific training.
  • Schools and universities learn from each other in a multitude of ways – it is symbiotic.
  • Universities can ensure research rigour and critical evaluation.
  • Creating joint research projects to move beyond the case study approach.
  • Universities can support applications for research funding.

 

Some final thoughts

  • In an age of austerity, how can funding for practitioner research be ensured?
  • Research empowers teachers – they are hungry to learn more. Teachers love learning!
  • All teachers are graduates and have some initial teacher training involved in research – this can be built upon.
  • Should all schools be formally linked/partnered with universities?

The power of the collective should be recognised, supported and celebrated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A review of the Research Leads Network Symposium, March 7th 2017 (hosted by SUPER)

Guest post: Jennie Richards, Emeritus Teacher Research Lead (SUPER)

What tools can be used to create and sustain teacher practitioner enquiry networks and partnerships?

About 50 interested people attended this recent event, which was the fourth meeting of the new “networks of networks”. A formal welcome from Professor Geoff Hayward, Head of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge highlighted the potential of research partnerships, coining the phrase which was to become something of the theme for the evening: “the power of the collective”.

The symposium consisted of two main parts, with each part launched through brief inputs from a variety of contributors from SUPER (teachers and Faculty representatives). The rest of the time was given to table discussions (each table hosted by a member of SUPER) where the main points were recorded on paper for future review.

  1. How has partnership research impacted on the schools and the university (benefits and challenges)?

IMG_9956Dave Hall, a Research Lead, spoke first, in particular demonstrating how using a networking survey of staff at his school led to significant insight into how information and knowledge about pedagogy is transferred. Then Rob Robson (a recent Head teacher) spoke of how involvement with research and SUPER had led to school improvement and a research culture becoming integral to the school’s development plans. Finally in this part, Bethan Morgan spoke enthusiastically of the symbiotic nature of the partnership and some of the challenges that were involved.

  1. An input on SUPER’s current joint research project, “How do we promote character, resilience and wellbeing in an educational climate of outcome accountability?”

Ros McLellan and Brian Barham explained how the research question had evolved over time, and the methodologies that had been chosen. In particular, emphasis was given to being able to use an existing survey tool for the enquiry which had already been successfully used by the Faculty, thus saving a great deal of time and effort.

Then 3×2 minute presentations followed from three school Research Leads (Abi Thurgood-Buss from Rodings Primary School in the Dunmow Consortium, Krista Carson from Soham Village College and Mike Murray from Impington Village College) with reflections on current findings and the next steps envisaged.

Discussions on tables then reflected on the research processes that had been described and any lessons that people had learned from the presentations which would help them to answer the question about useful tools to create and sustain networks as posed in the title of the symposium.

Finally the symposium finished with the question of where next with the network of networks? Nothing was decided at that point but hopefully more symposia will be arranged to build on “the power of the collective”. In my next blogpost I will summarise the ideas that were floated and collected during the evening’s table discussions.

Many thanks to Jennie for this guest post. We will publish her summary of key ideas next. For the session slides including programme, please see the previous blogpost.

 

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4th Meeting of the Research Leads Network Symposium hosted by SUPER, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 7th March 2017

Over 50 participants attended the 4th meeting of the research leads ‘network of networks’ which SUPER was delighted to host at the faculty (see previous blog posts by Jennie Richards for overviews of past symposia held at Eton and Christ the King Sixth Form).

IMG_9957

A more detailed blog post will follow but in the meantime participants and others who are interested can access:

SUPER would like to thank all the presenters and participants who came from near and far for contributing to lively and thought-provoking discussions!

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Please, Don’t Leave Educational Research to the Scientists!

Many thanks to Dr Frank Cornelissen for the following guest post!  Frank was recently a Visiting Scholar with us and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam. Follow him on twitter @Frank_Corneliss

Unfair, unwise, unethical

Like mfrank-at-tedx-cambsany people in education and society we believe that teachers and their pupils should have the chance to freely benefit from valuable insights of research. However, currently teachers have to pay an astonishing 30 pounds to download just 1 article from an academic publisher. Until this very day we systematically lock teachers (and the pupils they teach) away from possibly life changing research insights. This is unfair, unwise and unethical.

A matter of principle

Following the inspiring English example of Vincent Lien I also initiated a petition for Open Research Access for Teachers in the Netherlands. It was signed by many and offered to the Dutch Secretary of State for Education in the Hague last year. The Secretary of State replied kindly that he fully agreed on the importance of open research access, but at the same time was not planning on paying anything to academic publishers to make research available for Dutch teachers. Not paying for access was a matter of principle he stated. Consequently and quite conveniently the money stayed in the government’s pocket and again a more fundamental principle was bypassed i.e. that teachers as professionals who are teaching our future generations ought to have free access to all recent research insights that are relevant to  their education. Sadly enough I have to conclude that till this day nobody has given Dutch teachers free research access yet…

Groundbreaking news

All the greater was my joy when I recently received the groundbreaking news that the College of Teaching follows the examples of Ireland and Scotland and will give English teachers access to education research journals on January 18th!

Time to Hack Educational Research

Open access is step one, but of course much more needs to be done to bridge the longstanding gap between research and educational practice. In the past years I’ve been fortunate to meet many inspiring teachers, school leaders and academics who find creative ways to connect research to teaching. During a recent TEDx event at Cambridge University I had a chance to share what I’ve learned from them and explain how we may bridge the research-practice gap in a different way.

I believe the time is right to hack educational research, and we need creative teacher-hackers to do it…

 

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Meeting of the Research Leads Network Symposium held at City Hall, London 2nd December 2016

Guest post by Jennie Richards

City Hall London

Photo by tyom at Morguefile.com

I attended the third meeting of this group on behalf of SUPER and was very impressed with the level of interest in both the new “network  of networks”(there were well over 70 delegates from a range of schools and institutions) and our work at SUPER. I had been asked to be on the panel discussion for the final session, which gave me an opportunity to talk briefly about SUPER. Also, to ask for suggestions for the content of the next meeting, which Cambridge is hosting in a twilight session next term (date to be confirmed).

The previous two meetings  (at Eton College and the Institute of Education) were mainly about justifications for the new network, arguments for teachers researching their practice and some of the current thinking from academics and organisations involved in promoting evidence based practice in schools. This meeting was different in that it seemed to be more focused on giving concrete examples of the structures and current projects being created and undertaken in schools and networks, showcasing and evaluating the impact of some of their findings.  Prof Bill Lucas from the University of Winchester acted as facilitator, and the hosting was organised by Christ the King Sixth Form College.

Sessions were delivered by:

  1. CtK, the hosts, a consortium of 3 sixth form colleges whose CPD model was described, demonstrating the growing research culture across the institution, giving flavours of collaborative projects and outcomes of research from teachers involved.
  2. Eton College gave a presentation about their current progress, in particular focusing on the work of their Researcher in Residence.
  3. The Greenwich R and D partnership with the IoE, covering primary and secondary schools, described their more emergent stage of development as a research partnership.

Each session was followed by table discussion of what had been heard, plus the panel discussion later.

There was much talk of the range of options for schools to become involved in collaborative teacher research and there were plenty of opportunities to view not only the successes, but also the challenges that are involved. There was much emphasis on learning as opposed to performance, and a genuinely collaborative and optimistic culture seems to be emerging in the group. I believe it has the potential to be a powerful voice to promote SUPER, its values and aims.

Suggestions for the meeting at Cambridge which emerged from the group included:

  • More understanding of how networks and partnerships can be created and sustained
  • Support structures for developing deep learning
  • How to develop peer-led professional development
  • What tools can be used/are needed to facilitate research informed practice
  • How to evaluate impact and effectiveness

The next meeting at Cambridge should therefore focus on some of these issues. I would suggest that a mixture of theory and examples of relevant practice have been well received by this group, with plenty of discussion opportunities and a similar structure would be appropriate. The audience is mixed in terms, of schools (both independent and state), universities and representatives from various organisations such as CUREE. Some of the audience are experienced in promoting research cultures in schools, whereas others are at the start of their journeys. Hopefully SUPER will be hosting an interesting, informative and stimulating event which will enable this new network to move forward and flourish.

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Eton College Symposium: The Role of Research in School

Guest post by Jennie Richards

On 4th July 2016, Jennie Richards, Dave Hall and Lucy Sherratt, three teacher research leads representing SUPER attended a symposium at Eton College entitled “The role of research in schools”.  This was a very interesting and new event which enabled a wide range of people to meet, share ideas, and discuss possible future developments with regard to school based educational research. There were delegates from USA as well as the UK, and both the independent and state school sectors were represented.

Speakers included Bill Lucas, Geoff Petty, Philippa Cordingley, Louise Stoll, Rob Coe, Laela Adamson and Gary Jones. They provided thought provoking ideas which led to discussion between the representatives of schools, universities and relevant organisations regarding the use of research evidence to support school improvement and the development of sustainable professional learning communities.

The final session of the day enabled consideration to be given to the questions “Where might we go next, and what might we might make together?” Key needs that were identified, with remarkable levels of agreement, can be summarised as the following:

  1. One key umbrella website providing a user-friendly, free, robust and accessible body of professional knowledge which can support research in schools.
  2. A reliable and sustainable source of funding for supporting school research networks.
  3. A national organisation which connects and joins all the current networks together into a coherent whole.
  4. A network which researches and supports the development of teacher research leads in schools.
  5. University involvement with all schools to encourage joint research and knowledge sharing.
  6. Commitment from the government to the value of research in schools. Further support for teachers to Masters level study.
  7. Independent and state school partnership in promoting researching schools and networks.
  8. A more conscious commitment to developing teacher research “from the ground up” and the development of students as researchers.
  9. Aspirational standards for teachers which support professional identity. Universal recognition of the need for trainee teachers to develop research skills and expertise.
  10. National awards for good research practice in schools.

Clearly in the current economic and political climate, these ideas are ambitious and challenging. However, they need to be expressed and optimistically pursued.

It is to be hoped that this very successful symposium can be repeated next year, and thanks to Eton College for hosting such an inspiring event. SUPER is one of the most successful and longest surviving schools university research partnerships.  Dave, Lucy and I all agreed after the event that the day had been really worthwhile and we were really pleased to have been able to gain some recognition and publicity for the good work of SUPER at a national and international level.

For tweets related to the event, see #TLCresearch

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