researchED Surrey 2022 – reflections

On Saturday 8th October 2022, the sun shone gloriously across Surrey, thus enabling both a beautiful day for researchED-ers from across the country, and me the chance to open this blog post in clichéd fashion.

The sun merely acted as a symbol for the energy and optimism of the hundreds of people who gathered at Farnham Heath End school for a day of CPD, by educators, for educators. Yet again, Jack and the FHES team put on an event that was well organised, friendly, and lived up its renown of first-class catering!

This wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was my first chance to present at researchED. Yes, I was given a red lanyard and no, that elevation in status did not calm my nerves. I initially cursed Jack when I saw that my speaking slot was session 6 (graveyard shift), worried that I would spend the day nervously rehearsing my lines in anticipation of messing up my talk in front of the two people that I was sure would turn up.

But, I was wrong. The brilliant conversation among delegates and speakers, the high-quality presentations, and the ever-replenishing coffee meant that the day sailed by, and I barely thought about my session until it loomed in front of me at 15.20.

Sessions that I went to:

While my school role isn’t strictly linked to CPD / Teaching and Learning, it is a huge passion of mine, and when I saw Rachel Ball on the session one listing, I knew I had to attend. Rachel has really lived it – she reads books, papers, and diligently researches things, and then applies them to her school. She reminds me in many ways of Jade Pearce in terms of intelligence, work ethic, humility, sincerity, and dedication – I’d really recommend engaging with these two on Twitter, conference talks, blog posts, etc. I especially liked Rachel’s focus in the session on ‘Responsive CPD’ – that is, seeing how things land at your school, listening to staff, and then tweaking your provision based on that. Fantastic stuff.

Travelling next door, I slalomed through what felt like hundreds of people to attend Isaac Moore’s session on the principles of great teaching, according to cognitive science. His presentation can be found here. If you haven’t met Isaac, he is a humble, softly spoken man of great intellect and kindness. But his work packs a punch. Not only in the quality and depth of content, but also in the at times direct, at times humorous method of delivery with which he enthralls an audience. I loved this session! I laughed, I cried, etc etc.

Tom Sherrington then stepped in last-minute to deliver a session on team coaching. Ah, music to my ears! As a coach, and a teams researcher, this was fascinating. Tom has a huge wealth of experience in working with actual teams – seeing what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve them. What I like about Tom’s line of thinking is that he promotes ideas that encourage efficiency; for example, the model of team coaching he proposed meant that team members and leaders might attend fewer 1:1 meetings, in favour of a group coaching approach that would also lead the group to healthy, productive conversations. It’s an excellent adaptation of his walkthru model for coaching.

I also attended a session by Neil Almond, who spoke about the explicit teaching of knowledge required to improve comprehension for students. I have to admit, the skills vs knowledge debate in reading / comprehension isn’t something I’ve come across before, but Neil’s presentation was packed with research and genuine evaluation. I could see a room full of primary teachers thinking, nodding, questioning each other, reflecting on how this information might change their teaching. That’s what researchED is truly about.

My session on high-performing teams:

I found this a difficult session to plan for, given that I had 40 minutes, perhaps less.

So I split the talk into 3 sections:

  1. What does research, across many sectors, tell us about high-performing teams and how we can codify some of their traits
  2. Which do I feel to be the underpinning factors that elevate all the others to help a team truly thrive
  3. How can we take some good bets from the above and apply to school teams

The slides are available below, so please feel free to read and use.

If you are curious about the underpinning factors, for me it is resoundingly the team’s sense of belonging and psychological safety. Teams can, in theory, perform without those. But not often for long. And certainly not with happy staff who are developing and enjoying high-levels of trust and wellbeing. I’m passionate about belonging and have delivered other talks about this element of teamwork alone.

Finally, I picked out a few wins for school teams, which were:

  1. Knowledge and mental models
  2. Communication
  3. Meetings and debriefs
  4. Learning culture

So, in 40 minutes I gave a fairly whistle-stop tour through high-performing, thriving teams. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch. I’m reading, writing, and presenting on teamwork every day, so I’d be delighted to work with you.

Thanks for reading

Sam

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