ResearchEd Blackpool – 30 things to go and tell your colleagues from @mathsmrgordon

This was my first Researched and I left with my head spinning so this is a great way of reflecting and getting ideas down on paper. It was great to listen to and meet some of the people who inspire me to be better and keep my brain ticking over constantly. I have tried to summarise what I learnt as well as add things that I think are useful.

ResearchEd is a movement but will only become a force if it changes practice throughout the country. The conference acts as the lightning and we are the thunder that must open dialogue in our schools, particularly as/with leaders to affect change.

Thanks to Tom Bennett and the team, the speakers and all involved at Blackpool Research school, particularly Simon Cox, Phil Naylor and Stephen Tierney for a fantastic (hopefully annual) event!

Sessions visited:

  1. Tom Bennett – Creating a Culture – what evidence tells us about good behaviour in schools
  2. Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson – Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice
  3. Tom Sherrington – No Can do? Making Assessment Actions Count
  4. Nick Rose – Memory Research for the Classroom
  5. Harry Fletcher-Wood – Responsive Teaching – Cognitive Science and Formative Assessment in Practice

Session 1 – Tom Bennett

1. Read the “Creating a Culture Report” from Tom.

2.  Biggest lever for effective behaviour management is leadership. Maybe leaders can run a room but can they manage more than one room, school trips, duties, corridors – have your leaders been trained in how to do these things or just use intuition?

3. Get in front of behaviour – teach teachers how to respond to behaviour – good and bad. Explicitly and deliberately define these things. What does good behaviour look like on corridors, in the canteen, during the transition of activities, what does being on time mean? Rules can have exceptions but they must be just that – exceptions.

4. Decide what ALL teachers should do the same and make that an expectation – the steel pillars of routine. The norms that you establish and the norms that staff and students gravitate to. What you permit you promote.

5. Create routine behaviour that you want to be automatic – “don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Routines save time, free up working memory and defer rule breaking. Make checking the routines part of your routine.

Session 2 – Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson

  1. “Motivation does not always lead to achievement but achievement can often lead to motivation.” Let’s not do it the other way round and try to motivate our students to succeed using growth mind set posters and inspirational assemblies. Instead let’s provide success and quick wins for students to ensure that students become intrinsically motivated and curious.
  2. Classrooms are inherently unstable environments – educational research is not prone to certainty in the way that physics is but can make us better informed to make decisions. “Something doesn’t work every where, but everything works some where.” Try to implement it, discard it or adapt it based on your context.
  3.  The streamlined practitioner and class room:
  4. Does your school development plan refer to research or evidence at all? Maybe it should so you can say, “we are doing this because this research informs us that this is the best bet.” Monitor the strategies for effectiveness and adapt as necessary.
  5. Start a journal group in your school and begin to pick some articles to unpack and discuss as part of routine practice and conversations. Research is done for teachers, not to them. Read research in the first instance instead of trying research out yourself.

Session 3 – Tom Sherrington

  1. Curriculum is not just about the sequencing of content – it is about the details and the knowledge.
  2. Data should allow teacher to become better teachers and students to become better learners – parent reports with extensive comments extremely rarely feed into better decision making for students and teachers in future learning. Prioritise CPD on questioning in the class over using staff time to complete pointless data drops for monitoring adults.
  3. Provide low stakes knowledge based quizzes regularly for students so that they are accountable for recalling key knowledge. Provide the quiz in advance and a source where they can learn the facts  (flash cards, knowledge organisers etc.). Give them the same quiz to do in class.
  4. Don’t use “can do” checklists as assessments – they are too vague. Blogs on assessment here.
  5. Give feedback as actions and provide a “model of excellence” for students to work towards. Don’t assess them until they know what a brilliant model answer looks like.

Session 4 – Nick Rose

  1. Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows us that students forget most of the information that we teach them, even when it is taught well. Plan for this and include daily reviews and retrieval practice into your scheme of learning.
  2. Working memory is limited and can become easily overloaded. We can help by not splitting student attention and by choosing the modality we present information with. Talking over large bodies of text is not a desirable way to provide instruction but we can talk over an image or diagram. (see Split Attention Effect and the Redundancy Effect from Cognitive Load Theory as well as Dual Coding.)
  3. When introducing abstract ideas, use concrete models first but fade this concreteness and scaffolding over time. We learn things in terms of what we already know. Pre-requisite knowledge is key if we want our students to efficiently think critically.
  4. Novices and experts think about topics in a completely different way. We can’t rock up to period 2 on a Tuesday and teach “expertise.” This is absurd. Instead let’s teach inflexible knowledge that will gradually become more flexible over time as we allow it to be used in varying contexts. Novice undergraduate physics students would group questions together based on their surface structure and expert post graduate students would group questions together based on their deep structure.
  5. The difference between distributed practice and interleaved practice is that distributed practice revisits that same body of knowledge and different intervals over time, where as interleaved practice will bring in more than one idea together as part of another topic. An example of interleaved practice might be to provide shapes to find the area of and then asking what is the probability that the area of one of the shapes is less than 50 square units. Here, you are interleaving area knowledge and probability knowledge.

Session 5 – Harry Fletcher-Wood

  1. Responsiveness in human relationships can be defined as understanding, validation and showing care/support. This can also be applied to teaching.
  2. In order to respond correctly you need to specify content of the unit up front and share this with the students and the department in detail. Collect good explanations, design examples together, pre-empt misconceptions and how you will provide a vehicle to tackle them head on.
  3. Focus on one or two key ideas each lesson and ensure students can retrieve this efficiently so as to build on prior learning. Don’t expect to teach algebra/a historical event  and develop students into better people in the class room. Focus on the learning in the class room as the main thing and character development as a bi-product of the ethos of the school, form tutor time, school trips and extra-curricular activities.
  4. Checking for understanding by asking students if they understand or using confidence rating is a poor proxy for learning – instead design diagnostic multiple choice questions with clever distractor answers to elicit the misconceptions or use well designed exit tickets that focus on the main things of the lesson. Collaboration to resource these things key.
  5. When marking extended writing, consider narrowing your focus – maybe you just mark everyone’s introduction and give feedback to the whole class based on your reading of these. You do not need to mark them individually. Split into three – don’t get it? Rescaffold. Kind of get it? Re-draft and provide a model answer. Get it? Extension task. Keep it simple.


  1. Visit Tom Sherrington’s blog on research articles to go and read tomorrow
  2. Harry Fletcher-Wood’s blog on effective feedback here, including a decision tree.
  3. The Learning Scientist’s website for 6 Learning Principles that are easily actionable in the classroom.
  4. I asked Craig Barton a loaded question because I wanted him to share Anki – an interactive set of flash cards, that have an in-built (imperfect) algorithm, to help space out the cards back into the deck based on how well students can respond to the questions.
  5. Some of my favourite research articles:

Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction here.

Daniel Willingham’s collection of articles here.

Dunlovsky’s – Strengthening the Student Toolbox here.

What makes great teaching? from Robert Coe here.

A summary of Cognitive Load Theory from Oliver Caviglioli here.

Some images from the day:

2 thoughts on “ResearchEd Blackpool – 30 things to go and tell your colleagues from @mathsmrgordon

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