CogSciSci at researchED National Conference 7th September 2019

Last weekend the Harris Academy, Cobham was overrun with teachers and researchers eager to learn from each other. Some members of CogSciSci have given a quick rundown of some of the most relevant talks they went to below, in case you couldn’t make it.

Deep Ghataura – Fundamental measurement.

The premise of this talk was on how we can use assessment data in a more meaningful way. I know I’m guilty of doing some fairly shallow data analysis and this talk made any data work I have done seem fairly redundant or even potentially damaging to my perceptions of student attainment.

Surely the reason that we test our students is so we can find out what they can and cannot do? Hopefully this will lead to making some warranted conclusions.  Issues arise when we try and interpret the data due to the varying difficulty of tests and the varying ability of students. There is also the risk of data being used to fit some kind of progress-proving agenda, such as flight paths.

Even if we were at a point where test marks showed a regular difference between values (think the Celsius scale) then they don’t really tell us much about a student unless we have a meaningful zero point (think the Kelvin scale).  The Rasch model will help to make the data we collect from our assessments be more meaningful so we can draw better conclusions from it.

I was really excited by the possibilities such as correctly tiering foundation and higher students, analysing the quality of assessments and measuring progress of students defensibly.  I came away from this brief talk with some ideas to play with and some data analysis tools I could begin to try implementing.

This is obviously a complex field that would take a long time to master, however if you are class teacher, HoD or SLT and are interested in improving the quality of your assessments and the use of your data then the “Introduction to assessment” module by Deep Ghataura on the cogscisci blog is a great place to start.

By Louie Evans @mrLouieevans

Simon Palmer – work those examples.

This was a well researched approach on how best to use worked examples in calculation questions. Simon has spent the last two years fine tuning how he uses worked examples in his classroom, taking an evidence-based approach and being informed by the writing of some maths education bloggers such as Craig Barton (@mrbartonmaths.)

Simon’s presentation started with some cognitive science and how it relates to calculation questions such as the limits of working memory and how questions can include a large amount of extraneous load.

I have recently been impressed with how effective side by side examples (see the fantastic @iteachboys on twitter) can be used in teaching the use of an equation and this talk really highlighted why they work so well. We started looking at a conventional base of two worked examples followed by lots of practice which I imagine is being used in the majority of classrooms.  Simon explained some alternatives and their benefits; they include example pairs, faded examples, student self explanations, integrated examples and goal free problems. I was particularly struck by the research that showed completing fewer questions in example pairs is more effective than more questions following two worked examples.

I was left with some unanswered questions as Simon’s methodology seems to assume that all students can successfully rearrange equations where you may be getting students to substitute values first. Further good reading on this can be found from @tomchillimamp regarding the EVERY method here and here and @emc2andallthat regarding the FIFA protocol

By Louie Evans @mrlouieevans

Paul Kirschner- Standing on the shoulders of giants

Dr Kirschner’s talk was aimed at discussing some of the keynote pieces of research that impact on all teachers day to day lives. He used the Newton quote to emphasise that teachers do not need to be researchers, but they do need to be aware of the implications of research. He is an academic who always seems to value the needs of the classroom teacher by giving practical advice and strategies.

His talk discussed a number of key findings and how they impact the classroom.

  1. Advance organisers: The use of knowledge organisers has really grown recently. Advance organisers are not just knowledge organisers. They are anything that allows the students to activate and organise prior knowledge and could involve generalisable examples and relevant prior knowledge. He discussed how the prior knowledge is the anchor for new knowledge and the learning activity is what helps the new knowledge become assimilated into the existing knowledge. For science teachers this is so important as we are constantly building on simpler models. Take the particles à atoms à bonding journey students go on over KS3 & 4. How often do we have to re-teach the earlier content to ensure the new information can be organised effectively?
  2. Elaboration: When explaining concepts we need to move from the simple to the complex. We need to start with the ‘epitome example’ and drill down in the layers of instruction. As the move towards increasing complexity we need repeatedly show the links between the complex and the simple, we need to expand through increasing detail making the knowledge more granular. Finally we need to review the knowledge and ask students to complete task which require them to use the information at various levels. This just screamed SLOP booklets and careful planning of explanations. Have we chosen the best examples? The best non-examples? Have we considered our explanation through the eyes of the novice instead of the expert?
  3. Working memory: The importance of chunking the information and the limits of working memory on the novice. There is a large mount written about working memory and its implications that I’m not going to repeat here. I think the main things to take away from this talk were that mnemonics are a great tool to help remember important things as they chunk together and provide a scaffold for information.
  4. Cognitive load theory: Again there is a lot written on CLT. Dr Kirschner gave a guided tour through the 3 types of load and their implications. He was very keen to remind teachers that it is not about making things easy and lowering the overall cognitive load. “It’s not about reducing the cognitive load, it’s about making it worthwhile” I think this is often lost in the training and has huge implications to the way a novice teacher might plan an activity. He discussed the implications of various aspects of CLT:
  5. Redundancy effect “reading your slides out is the worst thing you can do”
  6. Split Attention effect
  7. Modality
  8. Coherence “Try to avoid the seductive details which you love but confuse the point to a student”
  9. Expertise reversal effect
  10. Dual coding

Overall even though I was familiar with most of what he said, the way he explains and exemplifies each aspect was incredibly useful. I came away with many worked examples I can use in my training of others.

By Adam Robbins (@mrARobbins)

Gemma Singleton has also bogged about her researched national experience here

At researchED National and have something to add? We’d be pleased to hear from you. Drop us a line (see the About or Who We Are page for details).

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