Thursday, 4 December 2014

ResearchMeet Reflection

I'm going to be slightly rude and have this window open whilst listening to the various ResearchMeet presentations. My initial idea is to type up what people are saying, should I happen to find it interesting or relevant. Hopefully, if I have time, I can go back over my initial thoughts and clarify them. Apologies in advance if I've quoted anyone out of context or misinterpreted what people have said. Also, you'll have to excuse the briefness of my responses; people are talking for short periods of time before someone else goes up, which limits the amount of time I can reflect!

Anyways, here goes...

The first group of speakers were aiming to talk about the impact of MEd research on practice. The first presenter, a former MEd student, felt that taking part of the SUPER MEd allowed her to better access 'the third space' - essentially bridging teaching and research. This is definitely something that I can agree with, as I feel like I can better see the connection between educational research and the process of teaching.

The next speaker, Laura, is a current MEd student in the same cohort as myself. She felt that being part of the SUPER MEd allowed her to become: Stretched, Ubiquitous, Practitioner, Enthusiasm, Reflective. She felt that it was the best CPD that she's ever done, and I'm inclined to agree. It has totally changed how I see teaching, as it has Laura as well.

It was really nice to see other MEd students who are passionate about their thesis projects. We all seem to have pretty ambitious aims, hoping to be able to use our findings across the whole school. I think we all plan to take our findings and make use of them after we finish the actual thesis. I know I certainly don't want my thesis to be the end of my academic learning. Similarly, I sometimes I worry about the 'generalisability' of the research I plan to undertake, but at the end of the day if I can provide useful information to myself and my school, then that's all that should matter.

Another current MEd student really made me think about the use of setting within subjects. I'd really like to read his thesis, once he's done, because it sounds like a really interesting topic. As an English, history and media teacher myself (whom he identified as subjects most likely to be 'against' setting), I completely agree that sometimes setting isn't necessary. I teach mixed ability GCSE groups and set GCSE groups, and to be honest, I don't have to differentiate any differently for the set group versus the mixed ability group. Differentiation should take place in EVERY classroom, so having mixed ability groups doesn't necessarily mean more work for teachers, which I think some fear.

The next speaker was discussing cultures of research at Sharnbrook - specifically, how to inspire people to partake in research. He stated, rather correctly, that there will always be some people who are interested in taking part in research projects (such as myself), and others who don't find it at all alluring. The speaker then went on to talk about how they're trying to 'close the gap' between teachers who are interested and those who are not. At their school, it seems like they're using Lesson Study to reach this aim. He also mentioned the use of 'Top-down' research about homework (re: the use of it, etc.), although I must admit I'm not sure what he meant by that. Clearly there's some questions I need to ask him, perhaps an explanation of what that means. He ended by saying that it's a  'Slow and ponderous journey' to embed a research culture within a school. He's not wrong.

Impington has a really cool idea going, with their Imp-Act in-house journal. That's an idea that I think my school should really get on board with; teachers SHOULD read more academic articles, even if it is a condensed version. I know we have a 'Teaching and Learning' newsletter, but sometimes I find that a bit basic and repetitive. It's definitely something to chase up in the future. I know it's tooting my own horn a bit, but I think that something like this blog, where I review books and articles that I've read, is more what we need to produce for staff members. Overall, Impington sounded like a pretty enthusiastic school, when it comes to a research culture. I got the impression that the assistant head who was speaking first was quite 'buzzing' about what was (or will be) happening at their school.

I also enjoyed hearing about the Faculty's work in Kazakhstan, where they tried to share the SUPER idea with teaching communities in Kazakhstan in order to create research partnerships. Bottom up research in an action research format. Culturally, the teachers in Kazakhstan didn't want to talk to teach other - they wanted to listen to the researchers. This would mean they had a tricky task - to change that culture. No easy feat. When discussing what the TRCs brought to the programme - they stated that it was beneficial to the other teachers to see that it was 'normal' practitioners who were driving research within the school; they got to see real people who are doing the job of teaching and researching, which could hopefully inspire them to do the same. This is something that even teachers in the UK need to see, I would argue!

Another MEd student, Dave, spoke briefly about teaching on the edge of chaos. He included a very interesting quote, which stated that 'The effective teachers keeps the classroom on the edge of chaos' (Harjunen, 2012). I found this a very interesting concept! I applaud Dave for taking such a huge leap with his own classes. I would really be interested in reading his thesis as well, because it would be really cool to read about the outcomes of his 'chaotic' experiment.

The penultimate presenter gave a pretty sound piece of advice, in that she told us to ask our supervisor to challenge us. I think this is something I definitely have to do more often. I was disappointed with the outcome of my essay 2, and maybe it's because I didn't ask my supervisor to push me hard enough. That being said, I am a bit of a perfectionist.

So those were my initial thoughts. Enjoy.