The strength of the wolf is in the pack

ResearchED (researchEdhome) was launched by Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) in 2013 “to bridge the gap between research and practice in education. Researchers, teachers, and policy makers come together for a day of information-sharing and myth-busting.” ( This was my third time at such a conference – the first ResearchED in Nottingham (#rEDNotts) - which take place on Saturdays at low cost to enable access for everyone.

After a welcome from organisers, George Coles (@MrColesDrama) and Jagdeep Pabla (@j_palbla_), the morning began with an inspiring keynote from Sam Strickland (@strickomaster) in which he gave 20 top tips. Whilst not new, these core principles presented as a sequential list gave key reminders of educational fundamentals. The phrase, ‘you permit what you promote; you promote what you permit’ has stayed in my head. Whilst not new. It offers a concise, helpful way to frame the ideal which we, as a staff, aspire to and one underwritten Maura Favell’s (Headteacher at The Polesworth School) phrase which she often uses: ‘the strength of the wolf is in the pack’ promoting a joined up, united front as powerful.

Following this were four workshop slots in which delegates could choose which session to attend. I found it extremely tricky to make my selections as I felt there was potential learning from every session.

My first choice was Nimish Lad’s (@nlad84) speedy tour of MARGE – A Whole Brain Learning Approach. Nimish kept up an impressive pace as he presented the ideas from his book based on the original paper by Arthur Shimamura ( This session was highly engaging and useful, examples from a variety of subjects and key stages were given throughout and Jessica Delf (@DelfJessica) interjected useful working examples of the model from her perspective as an English teacher. The model was an exceptionally useful way to process a large amount of complex research and offered a practical model for teachers to make clear connections between science and teaching pedagogy. (Shimamura’s MARGE Model of Learning in Action / Nimash Lad)

I then chose ‘Teach to the Top’ presented by Megan Mansworth (@meganmansworth). Mansworth redefined ‘the top’ as ‘the highest in every group’ stating that even bottom sets should be given access to the top. I welcomed her ideas about being over aspirational and teaching beyond the grades framing these examples for learners as beyond ‘all of our current positions’ and as something that we can ‘move towards’. Inspired by this talk, on Monday morning I decided to readdress the concept of ‘form’ with my year 13 Drama & Theatre class; it is a concept that they had been grappling with for some time and had trouble fully understanding and applying. My teaching of it drawing from degree level knowledge, was met with enthusiasm, understanding and joy, “can you over teach us something else?” was their response. (Teach to the Top, Aiming high for every learner / Megan Mansworth)

After a quick break to discuss some of the morning so far with colleagues and other delegates, I moved on to Kirstie Dixon’s (@DixonMFL) Refining Retrieval. Dixon offered a fresh insight into retrieval practice through her journey. From starting with a random list of five questions each lesson to an evolved meaningful, focussed and usefully crafted list of eight, Dixon explained how she used research and trials to guide her development and refinement of retrieval techniques to open her lessons. The presentation was cross-referenced throughout with key research with regards to forgetting, effortful retrieval and timing to support decisions made. It concluded with four principles which now guide retrieval questions at the starts of lessons: ‘revisit core knowledge; activate prior knowledge; identify learning gaps and misconceptions and re-teaching opportunities and using a variety of cues to retrieve the same information.’ The now carefully crafted retrieval quizzes used are welcomed because the science has been shared with students so they understand that work should be difficult; additional benefits are that it models effective revision strategies and exposes students to tier 3 vocabulary often.

My afternoon was spent with Oliver Caviglioli (@olicav) and David Goodwin (@MrGoodwin23) presenting Organise Ideas based on their new book (which I bought the week before). I freely admit that I am fairly obsessed with Caviglioli’s work as it makes perfect sense to me and I have already had major success with the application of his ideas in the classroom. I admit, I was excited to attend this session. It was the absolute highlight of my day and started by reframing ‘cognitive science’ as ‘cognitive psychology’ before explaining exactly how learning works and the role of ‘word diagrams’ in the learning process. The underlying principle is that our world has intrinsic order; for example, kitchen items are categorised, then cutlery, then sub-sections of cutlery. Making the organisation of subjects, knowledge and ideas explicit through word diagrams ‘widens the points of access’ which make it ‘more probable that we will understand’. The process of selecting, organising, integrating and performing was explicitly explained and multiple examples of word diagrams for different purposes shared. The concept of moving ideas around as objects is certainly powerful as was the other research presented with regards to the powers of gesturing and tracing. (Organise ideas / Oliver Caviglioli & David Goodwin).

The day was completed with a panel which delegates could pose questions to and a call to action by organisers. ResearchED events are very much seen as a beginning rather than an end.

In summary, if you have opportunity to attend ResearchED, I would fully recommend it. Yes, it’s on a Saturday but it’s worth it’s weight in gold and will provide you with knowledge, practical ideas and a whole new network.

Sharon Leftwich-Lloyd (@leftylloyd)

Lead Practitioner (Open element, Coaching, Research led practice)

The Polesworth School

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