How do we sum up these two days? There was lots of interesting discussion on PIAAC, social inclusion, numeracy, family learning, among many other relevant subjects. PIAAC was high on everyone’s agenda and we do need to engage with PIAAC – that is the message we were getting. Despite some legitimate misgivings, it is a rich evidence base that we can use to further our work.
PIAAC is a fabulous resource. So, we need to think about how we can use the evidence base represented by PIAAC – it is a quantitative dataset of the type influential with policymakers and is likely to inform policy direction in many countries. We can’t always make policy do what we would like, but we should consider what the direction we’d like policy to take and gather the evidence to support our conclusions.
Thinking about the partners we all need to engage – for some of them perhaps education is not their first priority. So, we need to be thinking about how we can provide evidence for them to demonstrate that our work is of value and relevance to them. Perhaps we need stories and numbers – examples of effective practice that we can put together with the quantitative evidence from PIAAC.
This conference has considered how we might systematically collect the qualitative evidence that together with those numbers can make a far more powerful case.
We need to demonstrate and illustrate impact. We’ve all got really nice stories about our learners, but where’s the impact? It’s not just the nice stories, though these are valuable. Our decision makers want to know what impact an intervention has had. It’s up to us to think about how we shape that evidence. It would be a bit naïve of us to think that they will just accept our nice stories. We need to show the people who make the decisions what a difference it will make.
In our work at NIACE on basic skills for social inclusion, we’ve got very good examples of collaboration between formal and civil society, NGOs and other intermediaries. But more needs to be done.
Teacher education, initial and continuing professional development is If we think about that in terms of EBSN Academy. We’re very good at thinking about developing CPD for teachers and trainers, but shouldn’t we also be thinking about who we can support those intermediaries that we work with. Think about the unfamiliar, think about the tricky. Don’t just work with the people that we’re used to working with think about the other audiences.
We need to think and act strategically. We talked about family learning, which, as we know, is very good at engaging on an informal level. But we need to think about how we can take a strategic approach to family learning. That it is central to some of the work that we do. And how do we put the teacher at the centre of that, so if they are working with children or with adults. So, what training is needed, what decisions are needed? Where does it sit? Is it just going to be over here because we think it is a good thing to do?
As the Briefer Than Brief teams have noted, we lack evidence in key areas and family literacy is no exception.
We’ve heard about a number of digital innovations, we have seen that it can be effectively applied to the teaching of numeracy and now we need to think how we work with teachers and teacher trainers to help them to keep their own digital skills up to date so that they can fully understand and use new technologies with their learners and support their learners to engage with new technologies outside the classroom.
Teacher training is adult learning. Teacher training can be very academic, very didactic, very dry. It can be ‘you’re professionals – just read this book. There’s no time for this, we know you’ve very busy so we’ll just give you the information. ’ Whereas we ought to be mirroring the same approaches that we use in adult learning
And we should we think about planning our new teacher training around the skills that future teachers will require. How do we mirror in our own teaching practices the teaching that we expect our learning to have? We know how long it takes to create those interactive resources for our learners, but shouldn’t we, as teachers. Get the same type of innovation and fun, engaging type of provision? We want to attract people into the profession, but if they are not taught like that we’ve got no chance.
So what’s your action plan as individuals? Are you just going to walk out the door and do nothing? You, as individuals, are EBSN. What are you going to do to be proactive to ensure that we get those cases studies that we are sharing effective practice, sharing those case studies, those examples of good practice sharing our stories so that we can build up that evidence base collectively and effect change? Rather than thinking that the network will do that for us.
We had the Commission here and we are pushing at an open door, they like EBSN, giving us a great endorsement here at the conference – don’t be shy to ask us. So, if the commission is asking for information, for support for suggestions as to which direction we think policy should travel, we should be proactive as a network in providing them with what they ask. So that we can further what it is that we want to do.