All entries for July 2018
July 16, 2018
When asked by Deb Outhwaite to present at the WomenEd Conference 2018 I immediately said yes. I am a yes person. It has opened up many opportunities for me during my career, but it has also led me into some sticky situations. I said yes, then I asked what I needed to do. Deb asked me to present on my Doctoral Research; how hard could that be? Then some time later I realised how much work I had to develop, and almost changed my mind. I realised I needed to go back to what I knew.
As a Drama and Performing Arts specialist who has worked in educational contexts my whole career, I knew this was my starting point. Working with the PGCE trainees at Warwick has made me recognise how much work some people need to put into their sense of presence in the classroom. As a former performer, and an acting tutor and director, it is often difficult for me to see this. It comes as second nature to me. If I find that I lack confidence, I have the skills to make it look like I have no cares in the world. It is part of my training, and now, something I rarely think about. So how do I help others to develop those skills and to consider how they present themselves in the workplace? This was where I needed to start.
I then saw the list of presenters for the WomenEd Conference and immediately became nervous. Incredible women professors and doctors speaking about their research, education, and leadership experiences. I wanted to change my mind. I was not ready to present in a line-up such as this. Then Deb said the theme was ‘10% braver’ so I reminded myself of that. As an early career researcher I knew that I would have to take the plunge at some point. So why not now, in a place full of supportive and like-minded women!
The day was unlike many other conferences I have attended. The atmosphere was not competitive at all. The speakers shared their personal narratives which lead them to where they are today, demonstrating a resilience that is incredible to hear. My journey is not the same, but I come from a working class background where no-one went to university or achieved. A place where people struggled to afford food or clothes. My narrative is different, but still challenging. I believe it has made me a yes Person. When you grow up with no opportunities offered to you, you grab them desperately as an adult.
The end of the day concluded with me being encouraged to sit on the panel! I almost said no. But, of course I said yes! I had no idea what I had let myself in for, and did not have time for my confidence to fail me. ‘10% braver’ I told myself. I was.
July 09, 2018
Book Review: Assessment - Evidence-Based Teaching for Enquiring Teachers, Chris Atherton by Will Haywood
For a small book, Assessment: Evidence-based Teaching for Enquiring Teachers, packs a big punch. In the 92 pages of content, Chris Atherton covers nine chapters which are clearly organised and perfect for dipping into, or easy to read cover to cover. The book starts by introducing key ideas and debates around assessment; before giving an outline of the how ideas in assessment have developed and mapping out existing evidence and research in this area.
Discrete chapters then go on to address areas such as feedback, peer learning and metacognition before exploring how assessment has been implemented in various contexts around the world; finishing with a guide of how to take an evidence-based approach to the development of your practice in assessment. The chapter on assessment and memory draws on cognitive science to explain the key role of assessment in the learning process, particularly through techniques such as retrieval practice.
Throughout the book, good use is made of clear tables which offer definitions and explanations of key terms. The two-page research map on assessment in chapter two is a particularly good resource and will be valuable to anybody looking to embark on further reading around assessment. Each chapter concludes with a clear summary, followed by questions to consider around your own practice/assessment practice in your school and finally one or two recommendations of key sources for further reading.
Trainee teachers (and more experience teachers) will find this book a useful starting point for understanding key ideas in assessment and as signposting to key authors and sources for further reading. It is helpful both for the development of professional practice in assessment and supporting the development of critical analysis and academic writing in this area. Some teachers may be looking for more direct examples of assessment strategies, approaches and activities to use, which are not present in this book. There are, however, other titles which offer that and the ideas within this book can be used to help teachers decide which ones may be worth trying and how to take an evidence-based approach to their implementation.
Teacher educators will find this book a valuable resource for guiding developing teachers in their practice in assessment. The questions for enquiry will also be a good starting point for reflective practice and/or professional development sessions focussing on assessment.
Overall, I think this short book is accessible, comprehensive, and has a lot to offer. It is the first in the new Evidence-based Teaching for Enquiring Teachers series from Critical Publishing and I will definitely be adding this one to my module reading list and be looking out for future titles in the series. Cross-posted on Will Haywood’s blog.
July 02, 2018
National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) Conference 22-24 June, Aston University - Alison Morgan
Despite being a member of NATE for a few years, this was my first visit to the annual conference.
The opening keynote was by Debra Myhill, Professor of Education at Exeter University, whose research lies in the inter-relationship between metalinguistic understanding and writing. The title of her keynote was: Creative Knowing: Bringing Grammar in from the Cold. This was of interest to me for a variety of reasons: firstly, as a literature specialist, I have always felt that grammar teaching is challenging. It is relatively easy to engage students in literature through narrative and character but more challenging to find fun ways to teach the differences between a defining and non-defining relative clause. Secondly, as something of a grammar pedant, I am constantly dismayed by the low literacy levels of some trainee teachers and recognise the important of grammar teaching in schools. As the mantra goes, all teachers are teachers of English.
Myhill began by outlining how grammar itself is contested and often regarded as a ‘dirty word’ in English teaching, stifling creativity. According to one academic, grammar is the skunk at the garden party of the language arts. Despite the emphasis on grammar in KS2 SATS, there is no evidence to suggest that teaching and testing grammar makes better writers. It is one thing to identify an adverbial phrase but another thing entirely to use it effectively in an essay or short story. The knowledge and understanding of grammar, she argued, is to help learners understand both their own work and that of others. It is a resource for shaping and crafting meaning in a text; however, grammatical metalanguage is not always familiar to teachers and grammar itself is conceptually complex. Having learned grammar myself firstly through studying French and Latin at school and then through working as a TEFL teacher and teaching A-level English Language, I can attest to this and recognise in many trainee English teachers their wariness and lack of confidence in teaching grammar.
The issue is further compounded, Myhill went on to say, by the conflict between the prescriptive model of grammar as advocated by the DfE (courtesy of Michael Gove) and the descriptive model used by academics. In short, the debate is between whether grammar should be used to guide the accuracy of writing or to describe what has been written. Debra cited the work of the famous linguistics academic, Michael Halliday, whose theory of ‘functional grammar’ defined it as a meaning-making resource, a gateway to the study of discourse. I endorse his (and Myhill’s view) that grammatical knowledge should be about providing choice to a writer, a way of both choosing the most effective language and syntax for a piece of writing as well as identifying the reasons behind the choices made by others. The teaching of grammar should emerge through the study of literature or writing rather than a dry exercise in feature-spotting.
Overall, an engaging and illuminating lecture which provided an excellent start to a very good day.