I had been looking forward to Saturday 14th June for a long time. PedagooSW featured prominently in my diary, with reminders weeks ahead to start preparing my workshop. I felt honoured to have been asked by Mark Anderson to present something, and was looking forward to sharing the work which I have been doing with my peers. I have been to, and presented at, a few TeachMeets, but the scale of Pedagoo is something else. Well over a hundred teachers giving up their Saturday to share and learn, people giving up weeks of their time to organise it all, asking no money and even shunning credit and thanks! It is a remarkable model which is being developed across the country as teachers take charge of their own professional and personal development. Combined with TeachMeets, twitter and blogging it creates an extraordinarily powerful platform for change: change in the way we view CPD, change in our own practice, change in our schools, and yes even change in the way educational policy is made in this country. I am proud to be part of this movement and determined to continue sharing and contributing ideas, doing as much as I can to improve myself, and to help others in the process of self-reflection and personal development.

The workshop I led was entitled “What can students really tell us?”, and was based on the research I have been doing for my MEd. For the impatient ones who will not read the rest of this post, here is a link to the insipid slideshow which accompanied my hopefully mildly more inspiring workshop!
Here is the link to my workshop which is now on YouTube: http://youtu.be/wEiC4GbtWIQ

As I started my MEd last year, I was inspired by a meeting with Sugata Mitra to look at how to use collaboration and high challenge to rethink the way we see our role as teachers. A summary of my first year assignment is here.

The results were fascinating, with year 9 students of an average level achieving a grade in AS level French reading comprehension papers! However, more than the quantitative results, what fascinated me was the mature way that the students approached the whole experiment and became involved in the research. I began to think that the mere fact that I asked these students their opinion had changed my relationship with them, and that they had developed as a result of this. Due to this I changed my focus from collaborative work to student voice and feedback and attempted to narrow down a field of study for my final dissertation. As I delved into the research and looked into questions of student voice and agency I found it harder and harder to find a research question. With the help of my supervisor I managed to determine what it was that I wanted to do in my classroom – namely gather student feedback on my lessons in order to improve my teaching – and to try to find which part of that process my research question would focus on. As I read through papers and studies that had been done, I found that very little had been written about what teachers reaction to this process of student voice and agency might be. I envisaged sharing the results of my experiments with colleagues at my school, and started to think about what their attitude to the process would be. I finally settled on “Teacher attitudes to student feedback on lessons” as my research question, and the draft introduction to my dissertation can be found here.

Over the course of this year I have just about managed to stay true to this focus, with minor diversions into the fields of critical pedagogy,feminism, complexity thinking and other ideas which infiltrate my reflections, infuse them with colour and occasionally allow them to resonate. I am in the process of doing surveys with 4 of my classes, asking for feedback on my lessons through a Likert scale questionnaire. This is based on the MET survey and has been adapted and improved by Nick Rose of Turnford School. Nick has written about the work he has done on his blog here , here and here . This blog, incidentally, is one that I can highly recommend, and Nick writes with intelligence and erudition about a range of educational issues. The second part of the experiment will involve surveys and interviews with teachers to look at their attitudes to the student feedback process in general, and towards the work that I have been doing. The project will continue after the write up of my dissertation this summer with my mentoring a pilot group of teachers, who will do the survey with some of their classes, as part of a Middle Leaders training programme.

Presenting a workshop (and this was quite a new, big thing for me!) allowed me to summarise, explain and justify the work I am doing,  helped me to situate it in a wider context and provided me with useful feedback and opinion on my research. The presentation and ensuing discussions revealed to me an element of the research which I had perhaps undervalued up until now.

Many of the studies I looked at noticed that the act of dialogue with students radically changed the nature of relationships within schools – as Fielding  (2001) notes:

“…the double fact that students see different issues and see issues differently, but also the fact that the nature of teaching in schools is such that a professionalism adequate to our needs in the twenty-first century must incorporate a much more overt openness and reciprocity indicative of a much more flexible, dialogic form of democratic practice. In other words, contemporary teacher professionalism needs to incorporate an expectation that teacher learning is both enabled and enhanced by dialogic encounters with their students in which the interdependent nature of teaching and learning and the shared responsibility for its success is made explicit.”

This brings me to the concept of “radical collegiality” described by Fielding as ”

“…a collegiality constitutive of a professionalism commensurate with the move towards a more dialogic form of democracy. Here teachers learn not only with and from each other, from parents and from their community, but also, and more particularly, from their students.”

Being at Pedagoo yesterday made me realise that this is what we are all working towards, in our different ways, and that before we listen to students, we must listen to each other; before we allow students to join the decision-making process in schools, we must allow all staff to participate in this process.