I very much enjoyed my first day at the 2016 National Summit on Student Engagement, Learning and Behaviour, held at QUT in Brisbane. I enjoyed meeting people I have engaged with over Twitter for a long time, but in this blog I would like to shift the focus from back slapping my professional learning network and have a quick look at the ideas that were most engaged with online through the #ngage16 Twitter hashtag.
First, I used Storify to quickly get an estimate of the number of tweets the evening keynote speaker, Professor Russell Skiba received. It was a long day and the evening keynote saw depleted numbers. Regardless, the presentation which problematised and went a long way to showing the ineffectiveness of Zero Tolerance discipline in schools and the fairly sobering evidence presented about the connection between suspension and juvenile delinquency/school drop out in the United States resulted in almost one-third of all tweets for the first day.
I also used the free tool tweetchup.com to analyse the most Retweeted and most Favourited tweets of the conference. I don’t usually go into that sort of thing. I usually like looking at the outlying ideas, but that will take much longer as there are around 1500 tweets to go through on Day 1 of the conference which trended at Number 1 on Australian oriented Twitter around about midday.
The following are the most Retweeted tweets and my personal commentary.
Number 1 tweet: Question and answer sessions in class
The number one Tweet, combining the online engagement with the original tweet and an endorsement of the original tweet, challenged educators to allow longer thinking time in class between the question and asking for an answer. This challenge came from speech pathology educator, Keely Harper-Hill, who explained that auditory and language skills are crucial to engage effectively in a question and answer session with a teacher and that many teachers only allow one second for students to respond.
I must admit that I was the endorsing tweet because this is a particular bug-bear of mine. I have been observing my daughter’s Prep class lately and I know that she takes a bit of time to work things out so does not participate in the question and answer sessions in class. When I was teaching, I remember being shown some research which showed that students who were read aloud to by their parents and teachers all the way through to Year 12 were the most successful. It was hypothesised that this was because reading aloud helped students pronounce words making them more likely to participate in question and answer sessions in class or participate more in general. Participation in class was seen to have a snowball effect on student’s confidence. The more attention they got from the teacher the more confident they became and the gap between the grades increases.
When my daughters were born, I embraced this research and read to them every day, but watching my daughter in class, I realised that the research might not hold as much water as I thought. The quality of the reading was not a silver bullet for class engagement. The strategies that the teacher uses to help students engage with question and answer sessions also contribute to a child’s confidence to engage in class.
Tweet 2: Quality of teaching
Speaking of magical bullets, the quality of teaching not being one was the second most popular tweet. The conference did a very good job of revealing the complexity of what makes each and every students’ education experience successful. A lot of national policy attention seems to be focused on the quality of teachers, and while this is definitely a factor in a child’s feelings of success and worth at school, it is not the only factor.
Each child has a bibliography of experiences that contribute to their relationship with their school. They may have a family history that hates school, parents that feel unwelcome, parents that don’t want to engage because they have educational baggage about their personal relationship with the principal’s office. There are also developmental factors which contribute. Professor Stephen Lamb’s morning keynote showed that approximately 68,000 children per year are considered not developmentally ready for school and that unreadiness which results in disengagement snowballs throughout a core group of students’ lives.
Tweet 3: Relationships matter
The third most popular tweet reminds us that relationships matter in education. Evey person that has a vested interest in education needs to work on their relationship with each other. Schools with parents, parents with schools. Teachers with students, administration and executive with teachers. Between faculties. Between sectors. The focus must remain on the core business of education: happy, healthy, and safe learning students.
Tweet 4: Inequity in the Australian system
The fourth most engaged with tweet supported Professor Lamb’s claim that Australia’s education system was the most segregated in the world.
I think the most visionary statement of the conference was that the children of Australia deserve a schooling system that provides state-of-the-art schooling for all communities. That the constant financial pressures that come to bear on government schools, the constant liquidating of government educational assets, in no way advances equity in the Australian community. In fact, the gap between the have and the have nots is widening.
I will sign off now because I have to catch a train to Day 2.