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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!”


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