#TLAB14 Conference reflections

Yesterday was the second edition of the Teaching Learning Assessment conference at Berkhamsted School hosted and organised by Nick Dennis and Rebecca Brooks. The event was another huge success; both enjoyable and informative.

The first keynote was by Elise Foster, co-author of ‘The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius inside our School’. The book is based on the premise that our attitudes (either intentionally or not) can serve to either multiply or diminish others.

Are you a diminisher or a multiplier?
Are you a diminisher or a multiplier?

This can be true of teachers to students, and of leaders to staff. You can get a sense of the idea in this video summary. Through research both in business and in schools, the authors identify different attitudes and acts that we might exhibit at times and the impact these can have. She started off with asking how many of us in the room had every felt over-worked but under-utilised…you can imagine how many hands went up! I would a head teacher to ask that in a staffroom! Elise talked about effective multipliers as being able to get more from people simply because their high expectations ask for it, but in a way that says ‘go for it, you got this’ – being supportive but stretching, giving freedom to try.

Are you an accidental diminisher?
Are you an accidental diminisher?

She commented that multipliers are talent finders who see intelligence as a muscle to be stretched in order to grow, and of the dangers of micro-managing. Elise also demonstrated some examples of ‘accidental diminisher traits’ that we might all exhibit at times – although I would argue that there is probably a time and place for many of these traits to actually be necessary, so long as they do not become the norm or your only way of operating. It was a very interesting talk which basically ran through the findings of the book – so if you’re interested in more, then read it!

I went to a workshop by Stephen Lockyer – mostly because I wanted to see him actually do some work :-p but also to get a bit of primary perspective. Stephen was talking about making a child-centred curriculum in order to balance out the issue of ‘what we have to cover’ and ‘what we want to cover’. He showed how similar the issues are for children at primary and secondary – which reminded me that they’re just kids with shorter trousers 🙂 I particularly liked his thinking about there being a fine line between efficiency and complacency when it comes to curriculum content and teaching & learning in general. That there is a danger in sitting still too long just because something has worked in the past – equally it isn’t efficient to always be changing things for the sake of it. Delicate balance. He also highlighted how good it is to be flexible to respond to the curiosity and needs of children rather than sticking rigidly to our pre-thought plans, because sometimes the most interesting and effective parts of lessons are those that follow from children’s tangents – so we should build time into our curriculum for tangents!

The second workshop of the day was one that I led, on teaching GCSE Geography. I’ll put the resource in the next post.

Final workshop honours went to David Rogers sharing how Geography can contribute to whole school aims such as embedding literacy and maths. It was good to be given time as a group to discuss and to collaborate. We picked a theme, such as how to use Geography to teach literacy, and then had a choice of outcomes that were generated by John Davitt’s Learning Event Generator before we shared our ideas with the group. I was very pleased to see a few delegates ask to use one of the tools from my session before – balloon concept mapping!

The final keynote went to Dr Andy Williams on ‘The Capacity to Improve‘. I really enjoyed listening to this, he just had such a great story-telling style and reminded us all why we do it, and how ‘good teachers change lives’. I liked his statement and stance to forget Ofsted criteria : that Ofsted definition of good teaching is about making progress (which is valid) but that this falls short because good teaching should also be about being inspiring. You got the real sense that to him and his school, the children really come first and that the rest falls into place afterwards. It was an uplifting and positive end to send us all on our way.

If you want to see a summary Storify of the event then click here.

So, thanks to all involved. It was a well organised and interesting event, and I’m looking forward to #TLAB15 already 🙂

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