Reflections on the Bryanston Edu Summit

Twitter_20190605_092616I recently attended the Bryanston Education Summit, with this being my third visit for what was the third annual education summit.    As has been the case in previous years the weather smiled on the event.   Having now had a little time to reflect I thought I would share my take away’s from the event.

The need for reflection

Sir Anthony Seldon’s keynote began with a breathing exercise where he encouraged all in attendance to get involved, providing all a moment of mindfulness.  This was a bit of a departure from the normal start to a presentation which might highlight the key questions of the session or the key topics.  The purpose of this activity was to highlight the need to stop and reflect.   Sir Anthony also suggested the need for us to stop and ask “am I being the best I can be?”    This message is one I believe strongly in as our fast and frenetic lives often mean we are focussed on getting things done and checking off tasks from our to-do lists, simply moving from one activity to the next.    In education things can get particularly busy as is evidenced by the continued discussions as to workload.   The issue with this is that we don’t have time to reflect on our core values and on what really matters, on being the best we can be.    Without time to reflect we may be very busy however we may be having little impact or may simply be doing the wrong things.  In order to address this we need to provide ourselves both the permission and time to stop and reflect.   I will admit that finding the time isn’t necessarily easy but we need to prioritise and provide ourselves regular opportunities to reflect.  I also think there is value in doing this to model best practice for the students in our care.   Otherwise all they will see is their teachers rushing from task to task, forever busy, and for them this will shape their view of what is normal.

Trust

The session on leadership by Michael Buchanan included mention of trust and the need for leaders to provide their teams the “permission to be themselves”.    I think this needs to permeate through the culture of a successful school to include formal teams such as departments, but also informal teams and all the way through to how teachers lead the students in their care.

In Alex Beard’s session he referred to the need to try and remove things from teachers where they don’t have an impact on teaching and learning going on to suggest that such time might be used to develop technology skills, understanding of cognitive science and subject expertise.   To me this links to trust in that the most obvious thing to remove, or at least the thing which appears most obvious to me, is any task of an administrative nature which is related to accountability.   If we trust teachers we wouldn’t need as much of the paperwork and data to prove that what needs to be done was being done.

Professional Learning

Cath Scutt’s session focussed on the status of the teaching profession.    She quickly identified her concern with the idea that we need to “raise” the status of the profession in that this creates a “deficit” model.    It suggests that there is something wrong or deficient.   This is similar to the concept of Professional Development which has always for me suggested a deficit;   I have therefore always preferred the term “professional learning”.   For me the key issue here is the need for a culture in education similar to the Japanese term Kaizen, or continual improvement, as mentioned by Alex Beard in his presentation.    We should be seeking to improve, or better learn, not because there is a deficiency, but because we have to if we want to be the best we can be and if we want to enable our students to be the best they can be.

Networking

The session focussing on Hattie’s research into visible learning highlighted the importance of teacher self efficacy to student outcomes and also on the need for “teachers who are learners.”   I believe technology can help with both of these issues.   Take for example twitter.   It allows for discussion and sharing of ideas, for us to question our own practices and ideas.    I think as a tool to both self reflect and also to search out new solutions, twitter is excellent.   It also allows us to stretch beyond our own local context and connect with different educational institutions with differing age ranges, focal areas, internal structures and from different parts of the world.    This can only help us both in being more self aware and in being learners as well as teachers.

Conclusion

The third annual Bryanston education summit was an interesting and useful event.  The above only briefly summarises some of the key points of the pages of notes I found myself coming away with.   I suspect as I have more time to reflect other points will likely surface for me.   One area which I haven’t mentioned for example is the impact of technology on student outcomes.   The provided Hattie data indicates 1:1 laptops only have a minor positive impact on student outcomes however, as was suggested in the session, there is a lot of context to be considered in this.  This is something I will likely discuss in a blog post in the near future.     For now I will conclude that my key take away wasn’t a particular leadership approach or curriculum model or learning model.   The key message I heard from sessions was a need to focus on softer aspects of education, on reflecting, on trusting and on working together to ensure the educational experience we provide is the best it can be.

I enjoyed this years event and now hope to be able to put in practice some of what I have learned.   I look forward to next years Bryanston Education Summit.

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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