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What we learnt before lunchtime at the festival of education

What we learnt before lunchtime at the festival of education

The Education Festival is one the highlights in the education CPD world. Once a year, for two days, the good and the great of education come together to discuss best practice and research. We have two sessions after lunch (please come see us at 1400 on Growth Mindset and 1600 on The Teenage Brain), so thought we’d blog on what we’ve learnt so far.

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First up for us was Harry Fletcher-Wood on responsive teaching and how we measure feedback and progress. He spoke about how much time is spent (and probably wasted) on learning outcomes. This is something we definitely agree with, and that we even recently blogged about here. Harry mentioned the ‘Infant Simulator’, which was a project that gave young girls a baby doll to look after, but actually had the opposite effect of deterring them from teenage pregnancy. This led to the question: how do we know if what we are teaching is actually working? One big take home from this was that we should consider using rich multiple choice questions as they allow us to quickly assess where people are at and are quick to implement.

We also visited the guys from PTA UK, who were discussing how to harness the power of parents. They pointed out that 80% of GCSE difference in results happen outside of schools. They went on to highlight how many parents are reluctant to come in to schools, so schools need to explore how to best communicate with them. This does not necessarily mean digital, as it is hard to know if emails have been read or how they have been interpreted. A key place to access parents is at the school gates, as this is where relationships could be built. For more about how parents can improve grades, you may like our blog on it here.

Hearing David Didau speak next was interesting. He asked if we all see the same things, but interpret them differently. This was illustrated with this rabbit v duck graphic. He highlighted how Central to learning underpins performance, but often people confuse the two. Central to this was the research around how 38% of feedback does more harm than good. This is something we have been interested in for a while, writing about ‘common mistakes students make when asking for feedback’ and ‘how to give feedback better’. The main stand out from here really was that more feedback doesn’t mean better feedback. When it comes to feedback, quantity will never trump quality.

We also had the pleasure of hearing Katharine Birbalsingh discuss her work at Michaela School. She discussed the power of high expectations and how they weigh up the potential impact with the amount of effort it will take. This helps them manage teacher workload more effectively. She also talked about how they support their staff, with regular CPD and no graded lessons observations. We found their work around their bootcamp induction fascinating and is something we want to hear more about in the future. This blog, by one of her colleague goes in to a bit more detail and is worth a read.

Hearing Professor Rob Coe talk about how to be a better teacher was one of the highlights. He made complex research understandable and above all, practical. He encouraged everyone to check out the Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit which highlighted the benefits of helping students develop their metacognition. Other areas included the power of high expectations, reviewing previous learning and having deep subject knowledge. Things to be wary of include lavish praise, learning styles and excessive use of highlighting as a way to improve memory. Also interesting were his comments on the importance of deliberate practice, which must be challenging, specific, focused and with feedback.



It has been a great opening few hours at the Education Festival. Thank you to the organisers for putting on such a great event. The next day and a half should be great. If you are around at 1400 today come see our resident psychologist, Bradley Busch, discuss growth mindset and resilience, and then see the company founder, Edward Watson, at 1600 discussing the teenage brain. If you aren't here today but are coming tomorrow, we will be participating in a panel for the lovely people at Education Policy Institute at 1520 on PISA, well-being and everything psychology related.

Now, what's for lunch...


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