Research School Network: Speak now or forever hold your peace Let’s talk about oracy and implementation

Speak now or forever hold your peace

Let’s talk about oracy and implementation

by Great Heights Research School: West Yorkshire
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Just like a bride and groom at the top of the alter (or other non religious/​religious equivalent), it seems that all eyes are on oracy. Some of our Research School team were at the Voice 21 Conference with Geoff Barton as the Edupress’ released information about the new Commission on the Future of Oracy Education with Barton as its chair. Was this the education world’s equivalent of a new album being announced at a Taylor Swift concert?

We are looking forward to the release of the Oracy Commission report in the Autumn (post election/​post summer rest and recharge) and in the meantime we would recommend listening to the audio of the Commission Conversations. But right here, right now, where might we begin when thinking about oracy? How might we use the new implementation guidance report to think about next steps?

First things first, oracy isn’t something new and as such we want to avoid fangirling’ what seems like an emerging trend. There is lots of evidence about oracy and there are lots of schools providing rich exemplification.

With the demands of a global economy, the surge of artificial intelligence, and the persistent and pernicious achievement gap and inequality in life-chances, there is a pressing need to ensure that all children and young people benefit from an education that builds their language, understanding and confidence to find and use their voice to thrive in their learning and life beyond school.

Commission on the Future of Oracy Education Commission

The EEF’s new exploration tool provides a great framework for consideration. Here we consider step 1 of this ongoing process.

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Identify pupil needs and their root causes

What is the pupil level problem? Have we gathered a wide range of data’ to generate credible interpretations? For example, how might we triangulate lesson observations, pupil interviews and informal conversations to glean information about communication skills and how well this is supported by modelling? Or the limits of pupil vocabulary and opportunities for extending this? How far can weaknesses in reading be attributed to lack of vocabulary? How far are weaknesses in writing exacerbated by lack of opportunity for oral rehearsal? What are the root causes of the pupil level problem? We need to get to the heart of this to consider the extent to which the evidence around oracy might provide a solution.

Understand current practices and what influences them

Do we have a shared definition around oracy? What are the specific pedagogies already being used in classrooms? Is it a question of quality and consistency rather than starting afresh? What are the beliefs and values that sit behind these practices? What are some of the beliefs and assumptions about oracy? Do we even have a shared definition of what we mean by oracy?

We also need to consider the contextual factors that are influencing current practices. For example, how far has professional development supported knowledge around oracy development? Do policies place emphasis on written outcomes leading to a perception that there isn’t enough time to focus on oracy? Is there lack of guidance around how we explicitly teach the skills required for collaborative learning? Does quality assurance favour factors that can often be poor proxies for learning such as a quiet or calm’ environment?

How do all the factors above impact on pupil need? Our overall aim is to provide a window into the experiences of pupils rather than deciding what needs to change before we have engaged with research evidence.

After having considered some of the above, if we are certain that the root cause of pupil need is lack of skills and strategies that sit under the umbrella term of oracy then we look at what the research evidence tells us in terms of solutions’.

Stay tuned for our next blog for an overview this research evidence linked to box 2 of the exploration framework.

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