I wrote about Reading Research here and Dr. Mary Howard capped our #G2Great chat with this post on 11.03.18. As I reviewed the #NCTE18 program in the weeks before the conference, I thought about my “research filter” and the sessions available. I also thought about previous conferences and this post. What factors would drive my decisions about sessions to attend?
Before I even arrived in Houston, I had perused the app and added many of my favorites to my list. At first glance about half of our crowd-sourced experts would be present.
“Richard Allington; Donald Graves; Don Murray; Peter Johnston; Marie Clay; John Hattie; P David Pearson;Lucy Calkins; Tom Newkirk; Taffy Rafael; Nell Duke; Ken and Yetta Goodman; Louise Rosenblatt;Kylene Beers; Bob Probst; Carol Lyons;Ellin Keene; Donalyn Miller; Kathy Collins; Fountas and Pinnell; Stephen Krashen;Stephanie Harvey; Regie Routman; Debbie Miller;Jennifer Serravallo; Gravity Goldberg; Kate Roberts; Maggie Roberts; Ralph Fletcher; Nancie Atwell; Penny Kittle; Kelly Gallagher; Kara Pranikoff;Dave Stuart Jr.; Cornelius Minor; Katie Wood Ray; Anne Goudvis; Georgia Heard; Jan Burkins; Kim Yaris; Susan Zimmerman “(Literacy Lenses 11.03.18)
And I added others:
Tom Marshall, Kari Yates, Christina Nosek, Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Lester Laminack, Colleen Cruz, Justin Dolcimascolo, Jess Lifshitz, Jeff Anderson, Smokey Daniels, Sara Ahmed, Carl Anderson, Ruth Ayres, Stacey Shubitz, Katherine Bomer, Donna Santaman, Dorothy Barnhouse #BowTieBoys, #TeachWrite, Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capelli. (Representational list and not meant to exclude anyone.) And then there were teachers, authors, poets, “Slicers” and friends as presenters.
What was the reality?
With luck, I would be able to choose about 15 sessions.
The names above represented about 65 sessions.
I had four time slots with five possible sessions to attend. Without Hermione Granger’s “time-turner” that was not going to happen. So how was I going to make decisions? What would I use as my filters?
Research-Based Decision-Making Filter
Why was I interested in research? I wanted the best quality experience that #NCTE18 had! Research, classroom-based and empirical has always fascinated me. I’m pretty picky about my educational research. I believe in being an “informed educator” as espoused by Nell Duke and Nicole Martin’s 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know about Research. The work presented at #NCTE18 would be research-based. Much would not be research-tested. It is easy to get lost in the misrepresentation and misuse of research. Of course, there are limitations. But one only has to read this gorgeous new text by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp to connect with the research about the need for book access for all! And just like a book and movie pairing – I want to read the book before hearing Colby and Donalyn talk any more about it – so one decision made!
I was pretty sure that sessions at #NCTE18 would not be guilty of these misleading uses of research that Mary Howard listed in her blog post.
“Citing research to sell products
Citing research to justify practices
Citing questionable research to support an agenda
Citing flawed and outdated research”
But I do want to remind you that some national conferences have sessions that seem to be at cross-purposes with the beliefs and values listed for the conference! Careful reading of program descriptors and sponsors is always a good idea.
How would I use research as a filter?
One of my criteria for session selection was NEW and recent work, perhaps something that has become an addendum or just a continuing evolution since the last book was published or their July #ILA18 presentation. That was the purpose behind my attendance at both Responsive Teaching: The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader and Capacity – Based Writing: Instruction Empowers Students – Deconstructing the Struggling Writer Label while Championing Inclusive Practices. I knew some individual pieces of their work and wanted to see how the “presentation package” brought in the research, the work with students, and increased my knowledge.
What other criteria did I use?
Who have I not seen lately? So after spending an entire day with Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher and 350+ best friends in Iowa in October, 300 minutes . . . Was I going to try to catch them as a part of a 75 minute panel? . . .
Ellin Keene was with Debbie Miller in July at #ILA18, so I heard about her new book there after reading it.
Have I already registered to see them at CCIRA in Denver in February? There are another 10 slots or so where I will see presenters alone . . . no panels, no roundtables, just the speaker and a room full of learners. And with preregistration everyone should have a seat.
Where are there gaps in my knowledge base? This question led me to sessions about equity, mentor texts, and literacy mentors on Friday. And then there was the second session about the 4th edition of the Handbook of Research on Teaching of the English Language Arts.
Am I under-utilizing available resources? Of course that led to the featured student panel, the ubiquitous #BowTieBoys that I heard three times at #NCTE17, and #TeachWrite friends.
Will I be able to make it to the room in time to actually be in the room for the program? We tried five different sessions on Thursday and ALL were overcrowded and packed with “bouncers” on the door to keep additional attendees out. Many times the lack of seating in the room was a decision point as well. Sometimes I deliberately chose a session that I believed would have fewer attendees.
#NCTE18 often had over 60 sessions per time slot. That means there were many choices. Some might even argue that there were too many choices. However, 7,000 + attendees had to be somewhere so “choice” of sessions is crucial. I believe that filters to sort out expertise and research wer helpful for me when I had to make final decisions about the sessions where I would learn the most. And the sessions that I was curious about. And the sessions that challenge me to stretch and grow!
How do you make decisions about competing sessions?
What criteria do you use?
What criteria will you consider at your next conference?