My notes from #rED17

I attended Research Ed 17  in London at the weekend. Another wonderful day, and any teacher or manager who does not take advantage of CPD of this quality at around £8 a session should take a long, hard look in the mirror the next time budgets are being discussed.  How much did that specialist presentation on classroom management used at inset cost?

Anyway, this time I was trying not to be too English-centric and my notes (incomplete) are below. I did not leave punching the air with any new ideas, but was provoked into thought in every session and I have noted my talking points at the end of each summary, along with suitable web links.

Thank you @tombennett71 for your energy and vision and to all at Chobham Academy in Newham who made our day so stimulating.

  • The Floating Teacher… Kierqan Dhunna Halliwell and Pete Bradshaw. Kieran, @ezzy_moon, had presented this research in conjunction with the OU at a previous conference but it was the first time I had seen it.

Her simple videos, filmed in real time, in silence in her own home can be used as starter and then left on the devices/school network form students to refer to during lessons. She had created this work for a KS6 class and used the technique to explore aspects of grammar. The videos are around 3 minutes in length and became very popular in her class. I like the simplicity here –no fancy animations or strange accents –just the teacher of a group of students. She used a small whiteboard and felt tip and filmed anywhere in her home that she felt like. Simple and effective.

Talking point in my department:

Can we make a series of simple videos in the same way which would support our weaker KS4 students? This could be in school or at home and might include grammar or key element sof poetry analysis or set book work. The work could be saved on the school VLE or on One-Note and so become an archive of material which can be used again and again. As BYOD is about to be introduced in my school, I am thinking of students accessing these reminders during lessons. IN this way they can receive help discreetly and help to free the teacher to help in person elsewhere.

There are also clear applications in Learning Support, and indeed, in many other subjects. The videos are silent and students watch the teacher writing the explanations/examples. They are, of course, therefore, available for homework.

  • EMC: Barabara Bleiman It’s good to talk-group work in English.


A hugely popular session with around 60 teachers in a room for 25.

I am aware that I have been doing less group work recently. I’m not sure why, but I do know that my students don’t easily shift into meaningful groups and the removal of S+L marks in the GCSE format has made the need somewhat less. This may be my bad, and I was happy to go and learn a well-focused approach to the issue.

This was introduced as unashamedly subject based research into pedagogy. Not a huge project but an EMC funded internal project.  There was no agenda to prove anything- this was investigation not proof


‘So what can make group work an excellent tool to use?’  Asked Bleiman.

The aim was to move beyond common structures to engage with new ideas.

The point sunder consideration were: what is good, what is the role of the teacher, the role of feedback from class, what issues are there with timing and pacing, what is no progress, what sort of tasks work well, what is the correct level, what insights are gleaned, is there any value when looking at creative work on texts, how should we address mixed ability working mixed ability(?).


We focused on Two poems (Ted Hughes and Jonathan Steffen falcon poems… unleash me… and the falcon)




A set of statements were printed and handed out about the poems. Students were asked whether they agreed, disagreed, were not sure. The questions are useful prompts and set up the task well. Statements provoke response. As was seen in the video evidence provided. Often student generated questions are too wide for many to engage with any real focus in tasks like these, in my experience. The production of the material requires more effort than we often wish to give to this area, when group work can become a method of using 10 minutes to tick a box and allow the students some rather unfocused disucssion. It is too easy to ask them to discuss what they feel It is much more useful to give them this tighter framework. I will be thinking again about this aspect of my practice.


Student feedback suggested that harder tasks are good and that they want to be allowed to use their imagination and to work things out for themselves. Teacher feedback mirrored student feedback closely suggesting that student voice does have a role in shaping classroom activities.


Talking point for the department:

Group work needs to be challenging and needs to have a clear purpose and a serious frame and place in the lesson. If we use direct statements instead of questions, the students have something to push against and will tend to think more clearly about their work. Friendship groups work as well, if not better than those devised by teachers.


Web link:


  • Improving Assessment, the key to education reform: Daisy Christodoulou

Improving assessment. Daisy is Director of Assessment at NO More Marking –an online specialist in Comparative Marking. I felt that there was a sense of advertising here for the web site which I had looked at last academic year and parked to one side. This is not to criticise too much. The evidence produced in her discussion was compelling and I will be returning to the web to look further at wha tis being suggested. The main idea seemed to be that bad measurement leads to distortions and disadvantages: there are simply too many distractions. Marking with absolute judgement, especially with prose descriptors for grading, such as in mark schemes has become the definitive form of assessment and is not fit for purpose.

These forms of assessment give no accurate information with which to summarize a grade. Given 3 examples we are shown the decrease in correct responses to a tight and clear maths question. The tiny surface differences in a question reflect enormous differences in level of accurate response. But the rubric remains the same. Maths is certain, English is far too vague. Feedback embedded in the lexis of such descriptors is confusing and potentially harmful. This is very clear. Each year the questions change and the rubric remains the same – there is no real correlation from 1 year to the next simply because such small variations in difficulty mean that the grade is being given to students of very different abilities over time.

She suggests feedback in the form of multiple choice questions… These must be designed effectively and not giving away the answers use their wrong answers to populate the wrong answers in your choices. Her examples relating to the capital of Moldova easily proved this –we cannot give MCQs which can be answered solely by elimination. Well organised MCQs are diagnostic.

Absolute judgment is open to change depending on the list of choices given.

Essay marking shows this. Constant reappraisal of the scale whenever you start anew. The No More Marking comparative marking method relies on a series of qualitative holistic judgements to rank essays and to allow for whole class feedback as a much clearer way of ensuring students receive meaningful feedback.

Another issue is that grades are treated as discrete categories- a grade is seen as a ‘thing’ and used to make a qualitative judgement about a group of students. Using marks we see numbers and a relationship, using grades, we see a potential distortion as students become boxed into closed groups. Grades are laid on top of marks. We should never forget the reality of the work which sits underneath. The actual scores should be seen as a guide and the link to what a pupil can actually do.

We are often guilty of thinking that test scores matter. What matters is the inference we make from them. We need to recognise level and infer sensible outcomes. Can simple scores tell us readiness for further EDU? for example. Test scores are samples from a wider domain. If we break the link between the sample and the wider domain we learn nothing.

Political polling used as an example of breaking the link. As soon as we apply external pressures such as 5A*to C we will create pressures which hamper the accuracy of the data difference. Schools focus on this to the exclusion of wider teaching and the data becomes necessarily slewed.

No More Marking web site

Christodoulou book link

Talking Point in department: Consideration of our assessment of Years 10 and 12 in  particular. Are we too quick to lay the Assessment Objectives onto essays rather than judging them comparatively? We should probably be using more whole class feedback at this stage, before adding the layer of examination requirement onto the data.


  • 6th Form Late Start: Jonathan Taylor. Head Teacher, Northbridge House, Canonbury

A school-based presentation based on practical actions within the school, reflecting struggles with telling people how to manage their teenaged students and overcoming entrenched attitudes. Based analysis on the need for sufficient sleep for all, not just teenagers. The research explores sentinel theory regarding sleep patterns. The variation in chronotype tends to be driven by age. Research evidence from Nuffield dept of Oxford University suggests asking a teenage to rise around 7.00 is similar to asking a 55 year old adult to rise at 5.00am. Colin Espied, OU video, was cited as evidence.

Taylor was clear that some evidence suggests that late starts are not really needed and the issue is more about ensuring natural light at all times, and also commented that little of this evidence came from practical application of the idea and was often rather theoretical.

The Teen sleep study should be a starting point for all discussion he suggested. There is due to be a Lancet article this month about sleep and mental health issues.

He noted that US schools have recently been pushing school times back, but acknowledged that research suggests 08.30 as the earliest sensible start time.

His school introduced a 9.30 start time for the 6th form.

Evidence can be drawn from: looking at exam results, which can be difficult to identify the cause of any improvement since there might be muddy waters caused by a number of effects, and from Feedback from students and staff. A significant majority of students felt this made a difference to their readiness to work. Lateness  dropped by half for period 1 attendance. Many people seem to think that students will simply go to bed later but this did not seem to be the case.  A knock on is a later finish for 6th formers. There are significant issues with timetabling and teacher workload. There has to be a quid pro quo. The new finish time of 5.30 also eats into rehearsal time, for example. It is possible to condense the teaching/free period ratio to ensure a prompt end to the school day and this is being trialled at present.


Talking points: I am going to take this to my SMT. We have a school, which is tight in terms of rooming and which could use a staggered start as a means to avoid overcrowding at some point s of the day. I can see the same issues with the late finish affecting my school, but would be interested to try something to make an impact on the tight timetable as well as possibly avoid overcrowding in our narrow approaches AND which might be of significant benefit to the 6th formers it affects.



  • Martin Robinson : Has Growth Mindset gone too far?


Has it gone too far?… yes. The unintentional result of Dweck’s research is the development of the ‘growth mind set school’ and Robinson delighted in scorning the various mission statements: ‘mind set run through every aspect of school like a stick of rock… all staff on board. Takes considerable times…’

He pointed oput that Dweck is openly dismissive of teachers taking the idea and applying it with their own thinking under the name growth analysis and losing sight of the original material.  There is a clear issue in that no single version of growth mind set in schools is the same.  John Hattie views it as a low impact tool and, worryingly, Dweck’s findings have never been replicated, yet schools are basing their entire identity on this idea.  Dweck points out that there are ‘certain ways’ of doing this Mindset work and few would absolutely replicate her work. So if researchers can’t replicate it in the real world, how can it help in the case of factual ignorance is the central thrust of Robinson’s talk.


Robinson prefers instead the age old adage: If you don’t work at it you won’t get the results, and suggests that growth mind set is a reworking of this old advice. Can it be applied to the whole of life? He asks. Alongside under some clever and witty asides and a great Lance Armstrong gag there is a serious point: you can’t be brilliant at everything and you do have to give up at some stage. Most brilliance is down to practice and application, not growth mind set per se, but creating the environment in which hard work, repetition and practice will be what is required, not some magic panacea which can be essentially disheartening when repeated again and again in the face of failure. A growth Mindset which does not result in success must seem doubly disappointing. Why can’t we tell parents and children that this is not your thing? He asks. He was challenged about going too far… but point seemed to have been missed by some – the point of discussion was the charge towards adopting the idea as a whole-school identity, not a total rubbishing of Growth Mindset as an idea. Yes, he would wish more focus to be laid on HOW to improve rather than endlessly repeating that it will happen at some point in the future.


Talking Points:

I found this hugely enjoyable and allowing for the highly personal nature of the material, rather than being a presentation in which Research was clear throughout, yet I will want to discuss with my department how we offer practical assistance when students are struggling. Do we make rooms available for them to practice and home their skills at lunch-time for example? This must be better than simply telling them not to give up. That said, if anyone reading this can give me the answer to the parents’ evening question – how will he get an A* (or a 9), asked about a solid B(6) grade student, I will buy them a drink.




  • Alex Quigley: 50,000 small solutions to the big problem of the new curriculum.

Focus on Language, communication and vocabulary. Inspiration was derived from a student shadow. Looking at range of decoding of lexis in the various lessons, Quigley noted that the child found no issue with decoding the specifics throughout a 6 lesson day in which he needed to speak and relate to 5 ‘languages’’ through the day. Children can do this, but not all. We need to be aware of those who cannot respond well to this challenge. His central question is:  ‘how do we meet this challenge and communicate clearly with all children all of the time?’   50,000 words seen as being the basic need for success in the adult world in research and Quigley asked us to consider even whether this would be enough in the modern school.

His examples from science text books show how highly complex the required language is. Quigley refers to the tiered words hierarchy


Tier 2 (high frequency in written, low in speech) is a critical phase. These must be assimilated and can be a huge problem when transitioning to y7 as the quantity of new decoding dramatically rises, and greater weight of non-fiction needs to be accessed. Science requires the largest number of tier 3 words which demand understanding. Thus even 95% understanding may not be enough. No wonder science is so hard he suggests.  Fiction can be much more straightforward but we can’t rely on dictionaries because dictionaries require word knowledge to choose the correct definition. When did we last think carefully about the actual words we are using and ensuring comprehension of the whole material?

As Head of English this has made me want to chat to my science HODs to see what can be done to address this issue in KS3, before the difficulties of KS4 and 5 begin to emarge.

We need word consciousness to have an understanding of the subtleties and different renovations of the words we use in all lessons. Faced by 2  different y7s we begin to call some academic and consider the Wordpoor to be unacademic and naughty. They may simply have been denied access to a breadth of language and language support at home. Quigley lists briefly the key elements required to address this issue in most schools:

Students should read more actively

Student and teacher awareness of the potential issues

Parts of words. Prefixes, suffixes, root words should form part of all teaching in all subjects, to help to allow students to access the decoding process

Etymology should be discussed

Discussing layers of meaning is important and helpful

Strategies to work out the words which are unknown must be discussed and taught.

Finally, Literacy Across the Curriculum must reflect the needs of the other departments and  cannot be simply about reading. A policy must engage with individual subject requirements.


This was excellent and thought provoking and will form the basis of Alex Quigley’s new book due out soon. ON his blog, he discussed the issue of whole school literacy.