Conference Programme: The Age of Oracy (July 3rd 2019, Hughes Hall, Cambridge)


Programme summary – please see below for details of talks and speaker biogs

8.45 – 9.15       Welcome and coffee 

9.15 – 9.25       Anthony Freeling, President of the College: Welcome to Hughes Hall

9.25 – 9.30       Alan Howe: Plan for the day

9.30 – 10.00     Alan Howe: Keynote I: The Ages of Oracy

10.00 – 10.30   James Mannion: The role of oracy within a knowledge-based curriculum

10.30 – 11.00  Wendy Lee: Oracy and inclusion – squaring the circle

11.00-11.15     Break

11.15 – 11.45   Ayesha Ahmed: Assessing oracy: opportunities and challenges

11.45 – 12.15   Rupert Wegerif & Laura Kerslake: Teaching children how to think like scientists in response to claims made in the media.

12.15 – 1pm   Discussion session:  Conference responses to
the Oracy All-Party Parliamentary Group
(APPG) questions

1pm – 2.00      LUNCH

Books & materials on display and for sale

2.00 – 2.30       Neil Mercer: Keynote II: Oracy education and effective ways of teaching

2.30 – 3.00        Paul Warwick: Exploring an IT tool for coordinating classroom discussion

3.00 – 3.30        Pete Dudley: Leading oracy, in and across schools

3.30                  Conference Questions

4.00                  Conference ends


About contributors and contributions (in programme order)

Alan Howe Alan has worked at the forefront of educational change and improvement for the past thirty years, as a Local Authority Advisor and Inspector, and with the National Strategies, where he was a Senior Director leading initiatives in literacy and English teaching, assessment, and teaching and learning. As Director of the Wiltshire Oracy Project (1983-88) and National Oracy Project (1988-1992) he was part of the first significant movement in the UK to establish oracy as a major educational initiative.

The Ages of Oracy
Alan presented a trajectory of work in the field of oracy education, evaluating awareness of changes in the way that oracy education has been viewed and perspectives on educational practice in the teaching oracy skills. Some conclusions were drawn about the current provision of oracy education.

James Mannion James is a member of Hughes Hall, Cambridge, and an Associate of the UCL Institute of Education. His primary research interest is Learning to Learn; his PhD focused on a 5-year evaluation of Learning Skills, a whole-school approach to Learning to Learn that led to significant academic gains, especially among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

What is the role of oracy within a knowledge-based curriculum?
In 2019, curriculum reform is in the spotlight. In particular, a range of influential education researchers, government ministers and institutions such as Ofsted are calling for a transition to a knowledge-based curriculum. Part of the rationale for a knowledge-based curriculum comes from cognitive science and an understanding of the relationship between working memory and long-term memory. In this talk, James welcomed this development, and argued that this period of transition to a knowledge-based curriculum presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give oracy education the status it deserves – as the beating heart of a knowledge-based education system.

Wendy Lee Wendy is a speech and language therapist and has worked for 30 years across education, health and the third sector, with a focus on children’s communication. Until recently she was Professional Director at The Communication Trust where she led on a number of projects promoting the importance of oracy skills, as well developing evidenced interventions and inputting on national policy and research.

Oracy and inclusion – squaring the circle
One of the strongest arguments for a focus on oracy is that of social justice – equal access to the powerful skills of talk for thinking, learning and self-expression. As many of our most vulnerable children have language difficulties, we need to ensure inclusive oracy practice for children who struggle with talk. Research evidence including the recent “Bercow 10 years on” report have repeatedly shown the challenges experienced by these children, impacting on learning, mental health and long term life chances. In this talk, Wendy explored why this is important, the value of collaboration and how oracy can work for children with language needs; from key principles to practical examples of inclusive oracy practice for children and teaching staff.

Ayesha Ahmed Ayesha is a Research and Teaching Associate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and a Senior Member of Hughes Hall, Cambridge. She is interested in the teaching and assessment of oracy and is currently researching assessment of group work.

Assessing oracy: opportunities and challenges
Talk is one of the hardest skills to assess, and when it is part of a group discussion the challenges are even greater. However, if we want to help learners to develop and make progress in this area we need to understand what we mean by ‘good’ and ‘better’ and how we can communicate this. Ayesha shared research carried out with Ruth Johnson in which we analysed the talk that occurred when groups of 15 year-old students were working together in groups of three. Our aim was to identify the features of talk that were contributing to good collaborative problem solving and then to use these as the basis of assessment resources for use in the classroom.

Rupert Wegerif  Rupert is Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge where he mostly teaches educational psychology. His research focuses on education for dialogue in the context of the Internet Age. He researches dialogic theory in education and ways of teaching through dialogue and teaching for dialogue in classrooms with and without technology. He is co-leader of the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research group (CEDiR).

Laura Kerslake Laura is an Education PhD student in the Faculty of Education at Hughes Hall. She researches collaborative critical thinking in younger primary school children, for which she developed the Playground of Ideas. She is Co-Investigator on the Inquiring Science which researches children’s critical engagement with media sources following philosophy of science sessions. She is also the co-editor of Theory of Teaching Thinking: International Perspectives (Routledge).

Teaching children how to think like scientists in response to claims made in the media.
The primary science curriculum emphasises ‘working scientifically’, but what does this actually mean? How and why is working scientifically different than in other subjects? Laura discussed a new project to integrate the Philosophy of Science into primary science lessons, working with practitioners to develop sessions in which children can discuss issues such as evidence, truth, proof and the nature of scientific understanding. The project also considers these issues with regard to other sources of information – particularly online – and will research children’s ability to better evaluate the information they encounter following the Philosophy of Science sessions.

Lyn Dawes Lyn has taught in Primary and Secondary schools, specialising in science and spoken language. She has trained teachers at Bedford, Northampton and Cambridge Universities, and now provides ‘Talk for Learning’ in-service workshops for teachers. Lyn has published books for teachers and children, most recently Talking PointsTalking Points for Shakespeare PlaysSubject Teaching in Primary Education, and Talk Box.

Planning oracy into the curriculum
In this open consultancy session, delegates shared their queries about oracy in the classroom, and discussed strategies for integrating the teaching of oracy skills into curriculum lessons.

Neil Mercer Neil is Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Cambridge, where he is also the Director of the Oracy Cambridge centre and Life Fellow of the college Hughes Hall. He is a psychologist with particular interests in the development of children’s spoken language and reasoning abilities, and the role of the teacher in that development. He has worked extensively and internationally with teachers, researchers and educational policy makers.

Oracy education and effective ways of teaching
There has been increasing support in in recent years for the view that teaching and learning in schools should be more firmly based on research evidence. Thus the new Chartered College of Teaching defines itself as ‘a conduit to a more evidence-informed profession’. In this presentation, Neil outlined what recent research tells us about the importance of oracy education, and how talk can be used most effectively in the classroom to enable students to learn. 

Paul Warwick Paul Warwick is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Homerton College. He is engaged in a range of research and teaching activities that link directly with his interests in oracy and dialogue in teaching and learning, primary science education, the uses of technology in teaching and learning, and the professional development of trainee and beginning teachers.

Exploring an IT tool for coordinating classroom discussion
Using a microblogging tool, Talkwall, Paul explored some ideas from recent research with the University of Oslo. This focused on messages from the teachers involved in the research, considering what they had to say about Talkwall use in the classroom. In this presentation, Paul used Talkwall to give delegates a flavour of whether it might be useful in their contexts.

Pete Dudley Following many years as a teacher devoted to improving collaborative learning among pupils, Pete has led developments in the key role of talk in teacher learning and school leadership through (i) Lesson Study (which he introduced to the UK) and (ii)school networked learning communities. Both were the subject of his Doctoral Studies at Cambridge. He is now a lecturer at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Hughes Hall. He was formerly the Director of Education for Camden.

Leading oracy in and across schools
We believe that the current resurgence of interest and energy for oracy is going to last. The social justice case for empowering all children with optimum abilities to think effectively and express their thoughts effectively is overwhelming. Pete shared the practicalities of leading developing oracy that runs deep, across subjects, throughout year-groups and inspires the whole school community with a passion for success in learning and communication. This included ‘don’ts’ as well as ‘do’s’ and a range of tools and resources to consider and use strategically in school to help create lasting change – whether you are a lone champion, a school working alone or whether you have ambitions to join a network of like-minded schools.

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