I have little experience in presenting to breakfast adventurers - so when I was invited to talk to groups of educational breakfasters, I was uncertain about what the experience would be like.
I will admit I was initially anxious about my ability to communicate any sort of pedagogical message at an hour when I am more used to talking with “Volstagg the Certain” and “Stanley the Errant” about the importance of not scoffing more than their share of the dog biscuits.
The occupants off the corridor were no help. When I woke them at dawn to explain I had an invitation to talk about SOLO Taxonomy as a mental model – and as I would be doing this as the first rays of sun broke over the Russley Golf Course in Christchurch I needed an audience to practise on …. They became just a tad abusive – refusing to come out from under the duvet/s - and worse still became convinced that if I wasn't dissembling I was likely suffering from some kind of rapid onset delusional disorder and needed to be removed from the house and monitored in a secure facility.
Given the lack of interest from the occupants off the corridor I decided to involve Stan and Voly in an early morning educational conversation. It was a heartening experience - both bulldog and labrador hung on my every word – tracked my every gesture – and I feel certain picked up on every educational nuance right up until the moment the bacon rinds I had hidden on my person fell to the ground. Where upon they scoffed the rinds and the wrapping and - ignoring me - and my remaining message - wandered off to find a place to snorf in the sun.
The demographic of a breakfast audience also troubled me – having never attended one of these sessions I wondered about the attributes of a group of educators prepared to throw off the duvet and rise before dawn to share breakfast with others – all on the off chance they might learn something pedagogical.
I searched Timperley’s BES Best Evidence Synthesis on Teacher Professional Learning and Development pdf but could find no reference to any relevant research studies on the outcomes of professional learning undertaken with breakfast.
And then I got just a little excited when I realised I was thinking in uncharted educational waters. All that was missing from a powerful PhD proposal was the framing of a research question or three. Timperley’s Bulleted “do one of the following” List (below) proved useful in this regard.
Following assessment and interpretation of the relevance, usefulness, and cost/benefit, teacher learners/communities do one or more of the following:
• reject/ignore new theory and practice and continue with prior practice;
• continue with prior practice, believing that it is new practice;
• select parts of new theory and practice and adapt to current practice;
• implement as required;
• actively engage with, own, and apply new theory and practice and change practice substantively;
• demonstrate enhanced regulation of own and others’ learning. (refer Timperley et. al. 2007)
I wondered if educators who rise early and attend professional learning breakfasts before going to work at a local school are more or less likely to [insert an outcome from Timperley’s bulleted “do one of the following” list above] than educators who chose to stay hidden under the duvet for as long as possible before going to school.
Even if this turned out to be yet another research study documenting no significant difference in student outcomes based on mode of education delivery – I could still add it to the research bibliography at nosignificantdifference.org
The day job is all about shifting the learning outcomes of teachers in ways that impact positively on their students – it is is challenging work – and you don’t need to read Timperley’s BES Best Evidence Synthesis on Teacher Professional Learning and Development to suspect that listening to me whilst munching muesli as day breaks over Christchurch (or anywhere else for that matter) is unlikely to rank highly on the list of initiatives that create any measurable shift in student learning outcomes.
And yet sometimes in education “research-based, classroom-tested, and peer-reviewed” is trumped by “let’s give it a go and see what happens” thinking. The feedback from educators at the CoreED breakfast sessions has surprised me – both in its quality and its quantity. It seems that educators who are prepared to rise early to wrestle with ideas pedagogical over breakfast are also educators who “actively engage with, own and apply new theory and practice”. Only time will tell if they “change practice substantively” – but the detail in the responses to date means I want to add an “over breakfast” context to Timperley’s list of approaches that get the big tick for deepening key professional understandings and skills (see below).
My experience leads me to suggest that professional development / professional learning activities designed to develop and deepen professional understandings and skills will have a greater impact when shared over breakfast.
For example I suspect:
• listening with green eggs and ham will trump listening without;
• watching with banana bread and French toast will trump watching without;
• being observed and receiving feedback with egg and bacon butties will trump being observed and receiving feedback without;
• receiving student activities and materials with eggs Benedict and a latte will trump receiving student activities and materials without;
• engaging with professional readings with French toast and Earl Grey Tea will trump engaging with professional readings without;
• discussing practice with someone more expert over muesli and yoghurt will trump discussing practice with someone more expert without;
• authentic experience of subject in action over toast and marmalade will trump authentic experience of subject in action without;
• discussing own theories of practice and their implications over mushroom omelette will trump discussing own theories of practice and their implications without;
• examining student understandings and outcomes with blueberry pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will trump examining student understandings and outcomes without;
• analysis of current practice and reconstruction of new practice with apple cinnamon porridge will trump analysis of current practice and reconstruction of new practice without;and
• discussing self or mutually identified issues over a bagel and long black will trump discussing self or mutually identified issues without.