We thought therefore we were; probably very tired after an enjoyable, engaging day…
Not only are there many ways of using the mind, many ways of knowing and constructing meanings, but they serve many functions in many situations. Bruner 1996
Dateline Saturday 15th October 2016
Venue Southampton University; Teaching and Learning Takeover 2016 (aka TLT16)
When around 200 teachers gather together from all points North, South, East and West, prepared to spend the whole of their Saturday listening to colleagues sharing their thoughts, it has to be a point for celebration. That some had been on the road for several hours, others journeying on the Friday and paying for a hotel overnight speaks volumes for to things, professionalism and camaraderie.
There is evidence of significant personal relationships having been created through events such as these, which inevitably bring together people of like mind, but prepared to consider other points of view, adding to the sum of their existence. TLT is the epitome of the growth mindset of (at least 200) teachers, led by the honest and open reflections of workshop leaders. It’s not a place to sell a product, but it is a place to be made, at times, to think hard.
Quality time to talk before the event started, with coffee and pastries to provide a second breakfast, or well deserved sustenance for the long-travelled, ensured a gathering point, where intermittent friendships were rekindled and new links made. It helps if people look like their social media pictures!
There was an interesting experiment during TLT16, with attendees asked to offer 1 minute insights into their experience and the impact on their learning, through the TLTpod, which is online.
Astington and Olson (1985) comment “thinking does not have any behavioural indices”. It is difficult to observe it in action. Teachers can only really “infer” what kinds of thinking may have taken place by listening to children’s speech, responses to questions, conversation, watching actions, close observation in working situations and judging a product. Debra McGregor 2007
No one will really know how the day will have had an impact, as each teacher will return to their home environment, within which each operates and this may be significantly different to that of the speakers. However, it can be reassuring, if working life is challenging, to know that there are places that think differently.
I always enjoy the honesty of John Tomsett. What you see is what you get, a real human(e) being. That John finds great pleasure in his job comes through every pore and every syllable. He’s grown himself into his role and is helping others to aspire to do the same, unpicking the detail of his thinking journey and sharing it openly.
He brought the word “love” into the talk, which could create difficulty, but, reflecting back, I could use the same word to describe my career; I have loved being a teacher and head, and now a helper of newbies to take those roles. I still enjoy picking over the bits and pieces that go to make up the roles, to support dialogue.
Which clumsily takes me into Chris Moyse’ talk about coaching. This aspect of personal development could be seen as a buzzword, and, many will attest, when done badly, it can regress to dictat. To embark on a developmental journey can be hard for the coachee, as they will be doing so in order to “improve”. It is just as hard for the coach, preparing the ground for the dialogue within the context of the institution. There have to be clear structures and high awareness, among the participants, of the specifics of the context and the personal elements. The opportunity to discuss is often a luxury for teachers in the business of their daily lives, cannot be rushed and needs purpose in order to support desired change.
Quality change cannot be rushed; another of John T’s messages.
Andy Tharby stood in for Shaun Allison, his co-writer and ideas developer. Their book is worth reading by both Primary and Secondary colleagues, as they have distilled some truths common to all phases, such as:-
· clarity in exposition, broadened to capture appropriate links and metaphors,
· challenge in tasking,
· thinking, talking, anticipating, planning for and effecting change,
· creating “baselines” from which progress can be inferred.
This to me, is where the knowledge debate forks, as the processes described, working within all subject (knowledge) contexts, create an appropriate pedagogy for each. It’s never, in my experience, been either or. You have to know your stuff, and have the vehicle(s) through which your knowledge can be shared. Broader contextualisation, sometimes shorthanded as “cross curricular” links, creates a greater imagery, which enable a learner to bring other dimensions into their reflections. Andy gave the example of reading Freud and Darwin to provide background to Jeckyl and Hyde.
The afternoon slots saw me sitting in Athena Pitsillis of Cannon’s School's session. It was interesting as a Primary person, to have some insights into KS3,4 and 5. A key area shared was the use of the Solo taxonomy as a means to promote progression. This was interesting, in that, earlier in the week, I had gone back to the report of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing (TGAT 1987) for an earlier blog, to rediscover an almost identical model proposed by those authors of the original National Curriculum. Of course, while Solo focuses on the progression of thinking, articulated through words, the NC descriptors became shorthanded to numbers and letters, and therefore devalued.
Summer Turner is also Secondary and has recently had a book on Curriculum and Assessment for Secondary Education published. An accomplished writer, blogger and speaker, Summer spent some time focusing on tests, which is an area of much current discussion among bloggers and authors. Perhaps, being Primary, I’m a little sceptical about some of the claims for “testing” which can sometimes assume a purity that seeks to elevate them to supremacy in the panoply of the teacher’s armoury. With younger children, being able to ask the right question, at the right time can be sufficient unto the day. However, if a few spellings have been sent home, to check the security of the learning requires the performance of those spellings, likely to be a simple test, which then results in a need for extension or repetition. Performance, to me, is a higher form of testing, where the known is used and applied; so every piece of work is effectively a “test”, if you know what to look for.
Lindsay Skinner closed the day with another dose of humanity, reminding us that children need to see teachers as human beings, with feelings, but ultimately with the children as the centre of their thinking and actions. It was a really pleasant way to end a pleasant day.
Thanks to Jennifer Ludgate and David Fawcett for their organisational acumen; it worked a treat.
See videos from the #TLT16 #TLTpod on the #UKEdChat app