Despite nature’s little surprise in the form of an ice storm, researchED Ontario was a success by every measure. This installment was the fifth I’ve attended, in three different countries. I can’t say enough about the inspirational and collegial atmosphere of this movement, and I’m so happy to see it growing into a successful and valuable staple in the world of teacher/educator professional development.
I hope the two-day conference trend continues, although there’s still never enough time to chat with people and to delve into everyone’s expertise in a variety of areas. My researchED Ontario experience began on Friday, April 13, where I socialized with respected authors and classroom practitioners, and where I was able to connect with people I’d met through Twitter and at other researchED events. We were treated to an opening address by founder Tom Bennett. Tom’s expertise lies in both distilling big ideas from education research, but also in maintaining a classroom as an effective learning environment, or, as he calls it, running a room. His suggestions for reforming teaching into a more evidence-informed profession are based on his own experiences as a teacher, on common sense, and on the research into which he has delved over the years. In a diverse group of more than 300 teachers and educators, each with their own experiences in schools, Tom’s ideas were universally well-received. Thanks to Stephen Hurley, Tom’s talk can be found here: Tom Bennett Keynote
The official Saturday conference began with a keynote address from Dr. Daniel Willingham. As a cognitive scientist, Dr. Willingham is in a unique position to help teachers understand the science of learning. He spoke about the most useful aspects of cognitive science as it applies to teaching and learning, and he addressed common, persistent myths in education. Again, thanks to Stephen Hurley, in his “On the Road to researchED” series, Dr. Willingham’s address can be found here: Daniel Willingham Keynote
My day continued with an excellent presentation from Carl Hendrick, who spoke about key findings in best teaching practices, and the importance of asking how research applies in the classroom. He has co-written a book on this topic, which is extremely helpful to those of us “at the chalkface.” For the second session, I attended Eva Hartell’s talk on comparative judgement. Eva presented a comprehensive overview of this somewhat complex idea; it’s taken me several conversations with CJ experts and more than two years to begin to wrap my head around how I might apply this approach to teaching and assessment in the classroom, particularly when I’d likely be doing it on my own.
After lunch, I got to see Beth Greville-Geddings expound on starting an education journal reading club. She outlined pitfalls to avoid, mindsets to embrace, and gave us a head start with respect to where we might look for articles. Most graciously, Beth offered to share her own hard work as a research lead in her school. For my next session, I attended Martin Robinson’s presentation entitled “Athena versus the Machine.” Martin explored the nature of consciousness and its role in education in general, not just in schooling, and he reiterated the need for knowledge if we are to meaningfully participate in the world. My day ended with my own talk, where I outlined my experience of Twitter as a gateway to the most valuable knowledge I’ve gained as a teacher, including what I learned during my education degree. In advance of the event, Stephen Hurley spoke with several participants about their presentations, and I was lucky enough to chat with him. My conversation with Stephen is available here: The Evidence-Informed Tweacher
The official program ended with a panel discussion about the future of education. While we all had pretty similar takes on the issue, key ideas were articulated through various starting points and examples that could resonate with most people working in schools today. The panel discussion was recorded, and Stephen Hurley has made it available here: Closing Panel
As always, the only problem with these events is that there are so many brilliant speakers, it’s not possible to attend every session, and cutthroat decisions must be made. But this just means that every researchED conference presents opportunities to see someone you might have missed, and to learn something new. Check out the other wonderful conversations with Stephen Hurley on voicED radio to see what I mean.
I’d like to thank everyone involved in researchED. As a full-time classroom teacher, I can attest that these events deliver the most useful and illuminating professional development I’ve attended. In particular, I’d like to thank Tom Bennett, Paul Bennett, Randy Banderob, Harvey Bischof, Stephen Hurley, and Eric Kalenze for their support and for nurturing my interest and involvement in issues that go beyond the classroom, yet that positively impact my classroom practice. I often feel hamstrung by education policies in Alberta, and I rarely feel that my views are respected or even acknowledged. This organization, and those associated with it, has inspired me to find a voice where I feel valued and inspired to always improve, even after thirteen years of teaching. I’ve met so many amazing people through this network and I plan to attend future events as the message and ethos of researchED continues to prove itself as the way forward. For me, this will probably be the next conference in the U.S. in late October. Philadelphia – here I come!