As ever, ResearchEd was a great day with plenty to take away and think about. I struggled to pick which sessions to attend as there was a great selection, in fact at one point I would've liked to have been in three rooms at once. Thank goodness for Twitter, I was able to catch up with them all later on. My day looked a little like this:
As you can see, I was a little indecisive! I started off with David Michael Shanks and his session '3 Ways Forward in MFL'. David talked about lots of different points, from the use of Target Language and how there is not a required percentage to be used in each lesson, to transition and language leaders. He gave lots of good examples of MFL networks to be a part of, and a couple of websites and apps to try out. I've been meaning to try Plickers for ages now, and now I'm convinced that I should give it a go.
Then to Steve Smith, 'MFL teaching: it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it'. Speaking at the same time as Steve was Abigail Parrish. She was talking about something I am very interested in, 'Should you offer students a choice? Motivation and decision making in GCSE language study', having completed my MA Education dissertation on a similar subject. I'd have liked to have seen this, as I think I saw Abigail speak at the last national ResearchEd when she was still working on the study. I'm going to blog in more detail later about what Steve got me thinking about, especially justifying (to myself) why I do what I do. He's also helped to add another couple of books to my ever-growing and never shrinking wishlist! Steve talked about giving students lots of meaningful language input, recycling language, balancing the skills, carefully selecting and sequencing grammar and vocabulary and enhancing student's proficiency to use language promptly in real situations. He talked about two contrasting approaches, that taken by the Michaela school, and an approach based on stories. This session left me with some thoughts that are too much for this post and I'll blog those later.
Finally for the morning I saw Joe Nutt for 'Educational research is only ever as good as the questions you ask'. Joe had some good warnings about marketing dressed up as research and how research is often used, or not as the case may be. He quite rightly said that schools are not set up to be able to assimilate research and often have to rely on third parties to tell them about it - even though they may not have even read the research themselves! He also emphasised that heads have the most impact where they promote teacher learning and development, and sometimes the best thing to do is to have professional conversations with other teachers and see what is and isn't working for them.
After lunch headed to see Diane and James Murphy talking about illiteracy. It was a close call with Jo Facer talking about 'What to do less of in lessons'. I chose not to attend her session as not only have I seen her speak before on a similar topic, but I have read quite a few blogs from Michaela staff and I have their book, so I felt as if I probably knew about a fair amount of what she was going to say. In fact it was her talk back in September that got me using less PowerPoint in the first place. Unfortunately I think I would have been better off in Diane and James' first session to have made better sense of it, it was probably the wrong topic for me. Interesting, had I known a bit more about it before however.
Then, having heard about the MFL Pedagogy Review by the Teaching Schools Council from Steve Smith earlier in the day, I decided to go and see Ian Baukham. Ian started off with some depressing statements related to MFL learning currently, sadly no one was surprised by the things he was telling us. It seems that despite students understanding the importance of MFL they are being put off by their experience at KS3 and not wanting to take it any further. This is clearly something we need to quickly reverse. He also pointed out that progression from GCSE to A Level is 20% lower for MFL than any humanity subject. This means that a student needing high grades for A Level would be ill-advised to take an MFL when they could do better in another subject. Following Ian's session I am going to have a look at our KS3 S.O.W for Spanish and see what changes could be made, I am particularly a fan of moving away from the topic based SOWs.
Following the break I attended a session on 'Grammar teaching in schools: good or bad' by Professor Bas Aarts. It was interesting to hear about how grammar is being taught to younger students and also to hear about the terminology now used - goodbye connectives and hello conjunctions! I'm all for students having better knowledge of grammar, it would definitely make my job easier at times. I already think my year 7 this year are more interested in grammar, long may it continue.
For the final session I could've happily been in 3 places at once, and this was the hardest decision I had to make. I decided not to go and see Jessica Lund for similar reasons as I mentioned above for Jo Facer. I then had to choose between Gianfranco Conti and Candida Javaid. I decided to see Candida, having read a number of Gianfranco's blogs before, I thought it was a good idea to see someone different. Unfortunately there were not many of us in the session, but it gave us a good opportunity to discuss things from the day, including the resources Candida had supplied about using cognitive science to influence the way we teach. It was a good way to end the day, thinking forward to the things I would like to change in my planning and teaching.
As always I left ResearchEd with my head buzzing with things to think about and put into place. I've not had the chance to get the wheels in motion for a lot of it so far, but it's been good to digest and plan the next move.