ResearchED Scandinavia

Funny story: I put ResearchED Scandinavia in my calendar months ago. I sort of forgot about it and when the day got closer I thought I probably would not go. I live in Aarhus, Denmark and Gothenburg might as well be on Mars. Anyway, I saw my calendar and asked a couple of colleagues if they wanted to go. I knew one of them would definitely be down for it but the other one probably wouldn’t be. To my surprise, they both said yes. When we got on the ferry, the colleague I thought would not be interested, shared that she had thought I was pulling her leg. In her defence, I do have a dry sense of humour.

This is probably the largest effect my sense of humour has had on another person, though. 

The conference was a lot of fun. I have been really jealous of the UK and the evidence based movement going on there. Now I don’t need to be.

I went to talks about the movement itself, continuing professional development, urban myths about learning, the science about learning (particularly the role of feedback), teaching digital literacy, action research and a case study about teacher learning communities.

There is a lot to process still. My takeaways were how we need to let go of identifying ourselves with our beliefs and be more open minded about what we know and what we think we know. I also saw a common thread of how key senior management (and higher), are to what improvements can be made.

One thing that I cannot stop thinking about is how vulnerable to flim flam men and snake oil salesmen the educational system is. Part of it is how everyone is vulnerable to them, persuasiveness and certainty is alluring and we can all be fooled. I think also there is an issue with learned helplessness. Teachers are treated like crap in many countries. Why that is, I could talk about for years. But this leads to bruised and tired professionals who are more susceptible to pressure. 

Considering how much junk science made it to my initial teacher training just over a decade ago, I wonder why my teacher trainers were not more careful. Why didn’t they vet their curriculum more carefully? They were scientists, it should have occured to them. I was also taken in and did not think critically. I gave the things they insisted worked a good go. How frustrating now that it was misplaced effort. Why didn’t I notice that my excellent, inspirational mentor Huw was not doing all that stuff and doing fine? Better than fine! Exceptionally. I got as far as expressing cynicism in the physics prep room but no further. I just got the impression that the idea that reliability in educational research was a mirage and abandoned it all, just playing things by ear until I was happy with my craft.

I was inspired by the message at the ResearchED conference that we can give our profession herd immunity against bullshit ideas. Though it reminded me of a time in a North London school where the deputy head introduced the marking policy and cited Black Box as rationale. At the end, three of us got up and said “actually, no it doesn’t say that” and he said “I know. This is still our policy though.”

Would we have been inoculated from the time wasting rubbish we had been asked to do had we raised our hands in the middle of the presentation and embarrassed him? Why did we accept “I know” as an acceptable answer?

I would like to say that it is all over and wonderful now I am in Denmark but I had to sit through three hours of VAK training after I knew it was nonsense and all I did was blog about it in my private blog. Also, there are some practices which do not have the greatest evidence base that are required in my current school. What am I going to do about it? What can I do about it?

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