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Archive for the ‘Research-Informed Teaching’ Category

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The impending arrival of the researchED movement in Atlantic Canada is gradually leaking out on social media, in teacher staff rooms, and on school parking lots. Speaking ‘out of school’ is not without its risks, especially if it consists of challenging ‘sacred cows’ or openly discussing ‘elephants in the classroom.’ That is why most of the talk is on social media, in notices and posts circulating among education reformers and research-informed teachers, or quietly shared among parents aware of the impact of researchED conferences.

That researchED event, “Shoring Up the Foundations: Student Behaviour and Learning to Read,” to be held Saturday November 12 at Saint Mary’s University, promises something completely new and different in Primary to Grade 12 education. Some of our brightest minds and live heads, attracted by headliners researchED founder Tom Bennett OBE and Nova Scotia reading specialist Jamie Metsala, are already snapping-up the remaining seats.

Since its inception as a spontaneous Professional Development eruption ten years ago, the grassroots British teacher-research organization, led by British teacher Tom Bennett (no relation) and teams of volunteers, has offered weekend conferences to over 60,000 participants in 13 countries on six continents.  It captures well the independent spirit of its founder and the general appeal of evidence-informed research and practice that challenges prevailing theories, education guru driven changes, and practices sustained by layers of administrators and consultants far removed from the classroom.

Independent educational thinkers, research-informed teachers, and serious education researchers) are attracted to researchED for many different reasons. Few are completely comfortable spouting “positivism,” living in “research bubbles,” or carrying out provincial mandates that are not “research-based” or are demonstrably ineffective in today’s challenging classrooms. Guiding student behaviour and managing our classrooms and ensuring that all students secure the “right to read” are two critical topics crying out for discussion, out in the open, in a professional conference setting.

“Working out what works” for teachers and students in the classroom sounds like common sense. Reaffirming that priority and empowering teachers to challenge cherished theories and largely unproven teaching practices is what gives researchED its raison d’etre and what has sparked hundreds of thousands of teachers and education researchers  to attend its Saturday conferences, including past Canadian events such as researchED Toronto (November 2017), researchED Ontario (April 2019), and researchED Vancouver (May 2019).

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researchED founder Bennett is the author of Running the Room: A Teacher’s Guide to Behaviour, and Senior Advisor on Student Behaviour to the UK Government. He’s a straight-shooter in a field overflowing with ‘happy talk,’ ‘edubabble,’ and obfuscation.  Teachers all over Britain flock to his PD sessions providing sound, practical advice on how to “create a culture” where teachers and their students exhibit mutual respect and effective teaching is, once again, not only possible but central to the whole educational enterprise.

Featured speaker Dr. Metsala, Professor of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University, is one of Canada’s leading authorities on teaching early reading, proves that Nova Scotian’s are sometimes last to acknowledge their heroes in some fields. She is very much in-demand across Canada, especially since serving as Academic Advisor to the Ontario Human Rights Commission Right to Read Public Inquiry from 2020 to 2022.

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With Twitter currently under fire from critics, it’s worth noting that researchED was actually sparked by a single, well-timed tweet by Tom Bennett in the summer of 2013. “I launched researchED,” he said back in 2017, “because I wanted a safe space where people could come together… and have a (frank) conversation.” It has surprised him, to no end, that it was considered “quite radical” at the time. Telling the truth in education, he learned, earned you as reputation as a “radical” among education’s gatekeepers and surprisingly large numbers of teacher education professors.

My first researchED conference, in New York City back in May of 2016, completely enthralled me. Seeing Canadian math wizard, John Mighton, founder of JUMP Math, on that program was a revelation, meeting American cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, and debating educational research findings with fellow educators and researchers got me completely hooked.  That’s how I ended up as the unofficial “Ambassador” for researchED in Canada.

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researchED is a real breath of fresh air that has proven capable of firing up frontline teachers, attracting leading researchers, and re-energizing education reformers everywhere.  For most, approaching educational change initiatives with a more skeptical eye comes naturally; for others, new to P-12 public education, it’s nothing short of an epiphany.

With the arrival of researchED in the Maritimes, thoughtful, up-and-coming educators see that there are alternatives to running with the herd and sublimating your concerns about the effectiveness of current practice, particularly when it comes to classroom management and learning to read.

Fresh from a researchED experience, educators, active parents, and commentators are more research-informed and less likely to be mesmerized by pet theories, to swallow educational platitudes, or to repeat common buzzwords.  You will never be quite the same again.

What can we learn from researchED now that it has arrived in Maritime Canada? Can researchED bridge the current divide between educators, parents and policy-makers of differing ideological persuasions?  Do prevailing theories of student discipline and learning to read pass the research sniff test?  Will we seize the opportunities afforded by the return of researchED Canada in the wake of the pandemic disruption?

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