What was asked at ResearchEd Surrey?

ResearchEd is one of the most exciting developments in teaching in the last ten years. Teachers and school leaders are now asking questions that cut to the core of how we can improve education.

The sharing, passion, generosity and collegiality make for an amazingly vibrant atmosphere. The thinkers we now have in school leadership in England make it feel like the best time in history to be in teaching.

From the six talks I was able to see at ResearchEd Surrey, I’ll share some of the most powerful questions and some of the central insights.


How can we create a culture of teacher expertise?

Rebecca Lee

How can we develop our expertise and access others’ tacit knowledge?

How can we give teachers great subject feedback whilst avoiding the rubric problem?

What’s the best way to get external challenge?

Rebecca suggests building our knowledge, organised as mental models to guide actions on persistent problems, without falling into the trap of mimicking surface-level features (like copying the way Jonny Wilkinson holds his hands together when kicking rugby penalties, which isn’t a vital factor). 

How can we make today into CPD?

Mark Enser

How can we create great CPD without rushing it?

How can we create better, lasting learning for  all our staff?

How can we evaluate the impact of CPD both for novice and more expert teachers?

Mark argues that we should treat teacher learning more like pupil learning, plan our CPD like a curriculum, and allow plenty of time for discussion, experimentation and reflection.


How do you build a curriculum from scratch?

Josh Vallance

Where and who does your curriculum come from – is it poached, imported, inherited?

What can we learn from others’ curricula – and get others’ input into ours?

What questions and ideas are most useful to focus curricula conversations on – without shortcuts?

Josh’s message is that conversations are the lifeblood of curriculum: deep subject knowledge and thinking over time, with deliberate selection and sequencing choices, allow us to make each unit in our curriculum build on prior knowledge, and help build future knowledge, to open up worlds for our pupils, to turn prohibition-era shacks into well-built houses. 


Why do school leaders do daft things?

Becky Allen & Matthew Evans

Why do people overestimate their knowledge of how even simple household appliances work – until they’re asked to explain them exactly in writing?

What does this mean for schools, which are much more complex and fast-changing than household appliances, and for school leaders considering initiatives and interventions to improve them?

How can school leaders deal with complexity, uncertainty and the invisibility of learning, and avoid doing daft things that have harmful effects? 

Becky and Matthew urge us to face up to the limits of our knowledge, to see how ideas rise and fall in education, to notice when we’re in the grip of them, and to be alert to our own unhelpful tendencies as school leaders.


What can we learn from Ofsted’s subject research reviews?

Heather Fearn

Why think about curriculum at all?

Why should we teach knowledge?

What knowledge should we teach, in what order?

What do teachers need to know? – a question also asked by Pete Foster at ResearchEdSurrey.

Heather suggests: curriculum reconfigures the way we think about teaching; knowledge helps us learn, and it helps us share in society’s conversations. We should teach the most significant knowledge, ordered to build useful schema. Teachers need to know how subject content will help pupils learn future content, and how secure pupils are in what they’re learning.


What makes good writing?

Daisy Christodoulou

Why do pupils make writing errors in their sentences?

Is it that they know how to write accurate sentences but forget and get overloaded? that they don’t understand what a sentence is? or a combination?

How can we improve pupil understanding of sentence structures?

Based on studying over 500,000 pieces of student writing, and on extensive follow-up diagnostic questions to explore misconceptions, Daisy is testing two main hypotheses: many pupils have a shaky knowledge of what a sentence is, thinking that run-ons, comma splices and fragments are sentences and that short sentences aren’t sentences; sentence-error-correction exercises and multiple-choice questions give pupils lots of examples, practice and feedback to improve their understanding of accurate sentences. Writing ages can help teachers, school leaders, pupils, and parents know where they’re at. 


Two themes that ran throughout these talks and others are deep knowledge and deep thinking. Deep knowledge helps pupils learn our subjects, teachers develop their expertise and school leaders understand how better to improve our schools. Deep thinking over time is required to build deep knowledge. 

Like the scientific revolution that underpins it, the knowledge revolution marches on.

The passion and generosity of the speakers and organisers, preparing and sharing their ideas and the weekend, is awe-inspiring.

ResearchEd is the best example out there that shows that we, the teachers, are now leading our profession.

About Joe Kirby

School leader, education writer, Director of Education and co-founder, Athena Learning Trust, Deputy head and co-founder, Michaela Community School, English teacher
This entry was posted in Education. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What was asked at ResearchEd Surrey?

  1. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: 17th October 2021 | Class Teaching

Leave a Reply