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February 05, 2021

RiA Conference Review – part one

The show went on this year with the University of Warwick Centre for Teacher Education’s seventh annual Research in Action Conference. Unlike any before, the 2020 RiA Conference was held virtually via Blackboard Collaborate online meeting rooms, of which students could pick and mix which links to click, or rather, which talks to attend. This allowed students to explore a variety of current issues and initiatives within educational research in the comfort of their own homes (and slippers) ranging from the implications of class and colonialism in international schooling, to how teens feel when their Nan comments on their social media posts.

The conference aims were to help trainees get a feel for what educational research is, and to understand how being research-engaged can enhance our professional development. The day went smoothly and was received well by students, who felt that the talks were informative, easy to access, and refreshing at the end of a long and stressful first term. Here are overviews of the talks I attended, and what some students thought about them.

Keynote: The Trust Revolution in Schools – Jeanie Davies “We are the revolution. We are the culture […] It is in every one of us.”

Davies’ keynote presentation on building revolutionary school cultures was an excellent start to the day, with many students noticing their enthusiasm for the subject, and commenting on how informative and reassuring they found the talk. Davies’ background in international business helped train her eye to recognising toxic cultures, but it wasn’t until they progressed into teaching that they had the language to describe the experience. Davies’ upcoming book The Trust Revolution in Schools (2020) details the importance of vulnerability and the capacity to show up as we are when navigating our professional and personal relationships. As trainee teachers, some of the statistics that Davies enlightened us to were shocking; in 2017, the number of teachers leaving the profession was higher than those entering for the first time since records began, and currently, 20% of NQTs are leaving the UK state sector within their first 2 years. Davies argues that a revolution is necessary, and that it is in our hands to bring one about. It may be true that it is a British tendency to avoid the Zone of Uncomfortable Discussion, or to flee toxic cultures by calling in sick, but so long as we do not believe that growth and change are possible, they never will be. Davies calls on teachers and leaders alike to cultivate trust-based cultures in schools, promising outcomes of collaboration, up-skilling one another, improved teaching and learning, but most importantly a higher state of wellbeing for all.

Getting published: a workshop aimed at helping you to get published – Kate Mawson “You only need to do it in order to have done it”

Mawson’s workshop style event advised trainees on how to maximise their publishing opportunities, and was open to people from all areas of education, whether aiming to publish academically or non-academically. The session was constructive, with clear examples of Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPPs) which trainees could look out for as ways to enhance their professional identity. Mawson also discussed how LPPs can help to limit imposter syndrome when facing concerns about our own experience or relevance, particularly when comparing ourselves to ‘experts’, who Mawson claims are just further along their participatory journey than we are. They encouraged the trainees by telling us that we were more experienced than we realised, and Mawson’s biggest piece of advice for students trying to get into blogging and publication was to engage socially with this environment, but also, to “Just do it!”

January 26, 2021

7th Annual Conference on Research in Action report part two – Kymberley

Teachers are the revolution!

Jeanie Davies provided an exceptional talk on the root causes of why teachers leave the profession. With a brief overview of the origins of our eight primary emotions as humans, and our deep rooted need to stay connected to one another, Jeanie highlighted the importance of social capital and the need for a shift in school culture. Workload, accountability, Ofsted and government ideologies are just a few of the pressures teachers have to face, and this has generated an increase in fear and created a lack of trust between staff.

Jeanie’s overall message set the tone for the rest of the conference: the power of using research based evidence to apply positive change within education, lies with us. We are human. We are educators and teachers are the revolution!

Supporting the engagement of disaffected and disengaged learners/those with low academic self-esteem

An in-depth look into Becki Coombe’s research highlighted the importance of creating positive learning environments to increase pupil engagement of tasks within the classroom. Obstacles to learners’ progression were considered, and different methods of motivation such as providing a supportive structure, leading by example and the 5 R’s for a positive learning environment were explored.

Teaching Early Numeracy to Children with Developmental Disabilities

This presentation by Dr Corinna Grindle detailed the ‘Teaching Early Numeracy to Children with Developmental Disabilities (TEN-DD) approach. It effectively summarised the assessment and learning framework and interestingly discussed the implications. Corinna highlighted the lack of research and resources that is currently available, but with effective use of the TEN-DD approach, children with developmental disabilities can show significant improvement in attainment of skills.

Action research: Workload reform for teachers

This talk by Dr Deborah Roberts examined the current issue of the teacher and trainee workload. It featured key policy documentation from Ofsted and the Department of Education. Deborah effectively presented her research from a yearlong project, exploring methodology and findings, of an investigation of trainee experiences of workload on the PGCE. It also included an interesting summary of their reviews on workload reform initiatives.

Empowering preservice teachers to develop personal and professional resilience

This interesting presentation given by Georgina Newton and Dr Holly Heshmati explored the strategies that preservice teachers can implement to help with the development of personal and professional resilience. The session also included an insight into relevant and current research regarding teacher well-being and how we can boost this.

Attendees were introduced to the five aspects of resilience as a multi-dimensional construct and also focused on the exercise of agency in employing practical strategies to overcome daily challenges in the teaching profession.

This presentation continued with a discussion on the possible implications this could have on trainee teachers and the ITT education programmes, including school leaders and preservice teachers. The overwhelming message of this session was the focus on building a toolkit of resilience to be used within our professional lives.

The ethical teacher: Why character matters in the teaching profession

The session by Julie Taylor placed great emphasis on the importance of character. It provided a perceptive exploration of its impact on teachers, by considering the profession through an ‘ethical lens’. We examined the meaning of virtuous practice, and the positive impacts this can have on school ethos and teacher/pupil development. This was a very enlightening discussion that all teachers should consider within their own practice.

January 11, 2021

A Review of the 2020 CTE Research in Action Conference by Carl

Writing about web page

Conference highlights and lessons learned

When deciding which sessions to attend, it came down to a matter of what I felt would benefit me most as an educator. I knew that, coming into the conference, I was interested in going on to do further research after my PGCE. My subject specialism, history, was also taken into consideration – I wanted something I felt would have an impact in my lessons.

As a start to the conference, I found Jeanie Davies' keynote presentation to be informative and thought-provoking. Not only did she highlight some of the current issues facing the education sector, such as the retention crisis, but she also concisely verbalised a topic that I’ve found is ofttimes hard to describe – that of culture within schools. Using her Trust Revolution Model, Jeanie Davies discussed both the rise of fear-based cultures, how they arise, and how to lead a trust-revolution to inspire change in a schools culture. She also gave helpful advice on how to assess whether a culture matches your values when applying for NQT roles.

Dr Marcelo was my most enjoyed session of the conference – it was clear how passionate he was about inspiring students and helping them be excited about not knowing. Dr Marcelo argued that the key to this is how we create the conditions that enable the children to want to learn - enthusing them to want to learn and want to know. Whilst I can’t discuss the entire session in so few words, to sum it up, it was a transformative experience that made me rethink my approach to questioning; especially the dreaded answer of ‘I don’t know!’

As a queer teacher with a passion for LGBT+ rights within education I have realised there is a limited amount of literature available – which is why I found Jen Rowan-Lancaster’s session so interesting. It was inspiring to see people within the field pushing research forward. This session was complimented greatly by Carol Wild’s presentation. I found that where Jen’s was an informative indepth study, the greater breadth of Carol Wild’s session allowed me to leave the conference with a clearer sense of direction for my academic career after the PGCE.

As a Secondary History PGCE student, I also felt that attending Dr Alison Morgan’s session allowed me to look at history education through a different perspective. The workshop style of the event was one of its strengths, especially when analysing the Peterloo Massacre through different lenses. It gave attendees the opportunity to experience the other side of the classroom beyond the teachers desk. The session did require some level of knowledge on different theories. However, whilst some pre-reading may have been beneficial, this did not stop anyone accessing the session.

The 2020 CTE Research in Action Conference was a good opportunity for trainees to experience and engage with some of the latest research. At the end of a long-term, faced with unique challenges, it re-energized me as I was able to talk and discuss exciting topics with experienced professionals.

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