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At Highgate, we’re fortunate to have teachers who are expert practitioners and passionate about their subjects. Two of our Senior School teachers, Sam Pullan and Joanna John-Baptiste spoke at the ResearchED conference on Saturday and were kind enough to tell us about the aspect of education which they chose to focus on.


Joanna’s session was aimed at mentors of new teachers and directors of teacher training. “I explained how findings from cognitive science are not only useful when teaching pupils, they should be kept in mind when training teachers too. I drew on my experience as a trainee teacher, explored the role and limitations of teachers’ working memory in the classroom, and how we can adopt strategies from cognitive science to manage and overcome working memory so that trainees can maximise their learning and development in the classroom”


Sam Pullan is our Head of Lower School who also runs the popular and thoughtful Politics department Twitter account @Highgate_pol. Sam explained his presentation at the conference “In 1993 two Harvard professors completed a study into how well students can predict teacher effectiveness. They found that a person watching a short clip of a teacher they have never met will reach conclusions of that teacher’s effectiveness that are very similar to those of a student who has been in that teacher’s class for a whole term. The length of the clip? Two seconds. And not only that: the audio was switched off. So the students based their judgements on two seconds of silent footage. And still they pretty much nailed it”


Sam’s talk considered the responses to and implications of those findings. Using further research and linked experiments he looked at just how important are those first two seconds with a new class, and tried to answer some key questions: What is the link between a good first impression and later judgements of effectiveness? Is it just correlation or could it be more significant? Can we recover from a shaky start? Is it really all about the non-verbals? Doesn’t what we say mean as much as how we say it?; And perhaps most of all, can two seconds of silent videotape really define a teacher’s ability?