Annual Conference

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Next year's conference takes place 27-29 March 2020.

This year's conference took place from 29-31 March 2019.

PESGB Teacher Scholarship - Greg McGuinness Blog Post

Why bother? This was one of the questions I faced sitting in my first PESGB Annual Conference workshop, albeit a pre-conference one if there is such a thing. While this was meant as an informative thought experiment that related, I later reassured myself, to writing a research proposal, I couldn’t help feel that it was a slightly-pointed question about whether or not I should bother trying to engage with the academic material to be discussed over the weekend.

The moment I stepped onto the New College campus of Oxford University, I was immediately aware that I was somewhere far removed from what I had been in as a teacher not 24 hours before. The classroom was an environment that I was familiar in, having both, with both experience and faith in my teaching ability that allowed me to feel comfortable as a leader in that space. Surrounded by academics however, many of whom the top of the field that I had only begun to partake studies in, I had the jarring realisation that this was now not the case. The phrase fish-out-of-water garnered a refreshed, and uncomfortably intimate, meaning in my head.

However, what else was I meant to expect? In signing up for the conference I was under no illusion that it was going to be a challenge for me, personally as well as intellectually. Reverting back to the role of student rather than teacher, I was made acutely aware of what knowledge I had (or lacked) and was faced with challenging the conception I had of myself that had been fostered over the past six years. Each day deepened my knowledge and understanding of the many areas of study within Philosophy of Education, and I found each talk both challenging and rewarding. The ever-flowing wine that was available at the end of each day really helped with this process.

I did however want to push myself and try at least to ask one question per talk I attended. The idea I had was that through participating in these educational spaces, I would feel more confident being in them. This I thought was pretty sound logic. There were rules though as I had an intense fear of being that one person who proves to the rest of the room that they are indeed stupid questions. Generally, I limited myself to raising a hand only in talks where I didn’t recognise the person speaking. This was similarly the case where I felt that the person speaking had written no more than one book. Suffice to say though, these moments ended up being few and far between.

Of all of the talks that I attended, all of which fascinating, all of which containing at least one doctoral student mentioning Heidegger and the nature of Being, Jan Derry’s key note speech on cognitive load theory seemed particularly effective at highlighting my own ignorance. When describing the concept of systematicity as “the idea that in order to possess one concept, it is necessary to possess many”, the only thought that ran through my head was that I had neither.

Although these difficulties were ever present during my time at the conference, I still felt that it was of huge benefit to attend. I learned to say things like, “I think you’ll find…” and “there seems to be two separate arguments happening here…”, and was offered invaluable opportunities to reflect on my practice as an educator. These powerful moments allowed me to think about my purpose within a school, what I wanted my teaching to achieve and how I could contribute effectively to an equitable school environment. However, on the train back to London after leaving the conference I was struck with the realisation that these thoughts will only make me question more thoroughly what is being implemented within my school and the reasons given as to why. Under management’s eyes, this could only lead to me being seen as one terrible employee as a result. Until next year.

PESGB Teacher Scholarship - Paul Moore-Bridger Blog Post

They say you should never meet your heroes.

Having spent a hugely enjoyable 2017-18 doing an MSc in the Philosophy of Education at Edinburgh reading and hearing from the likes of David Hansen, Jan Derry, Joseph Dunne and many more of the keynote speakers and delegates at the 2019 PESGB annual conference, the prospect of my own attendance at the gathering filled me with feelings of excitement and trepidation… My master’s had helped me reflect on and get a better understanding of my fifteen years of practice teaching Philosophy and Religious Education in English and Scottish schools. I had returned to the classroom refreshed, with a much more coherent sense of my professional identity. After a couple of long terms back in the thick of it, I was hoping that the conference would provide similar invigoration.

We plunged right in with David Hansen’s opening keynote speech on ‘The call to teach’ and from then on it was a breathless schedule of talks, symposia and workshops interspersed with good coffee and sumptuous meals, until Michael Bonnet led us - exhausted and elated, to the cool shade of an imagined beech-grove (we need to ‘ecologize’ education) by way of a finale. What was it all about? I am not quite sure - but what I took from it all was the importance of philosophy in helping educators think about how best to conceive and describe their practice. Hansen’s talk urged teachers and teacher educators to cultivate and bear witness to the ethical core of teacher-professionalism, whilst other events I attended re-imagined time, how to live in an equilibrium between past and future, the possibility of engendering epiphanies, the desirability of dwelling a little longer in the metaphorical darkness and the more obviously practical questions of which educational goods should be prioritised by policy makers and whether the community of inquiry was an effective method for morally educating children.

Questions kept bubbling up in my mind, and I asked several, although my meaning was frequently some distance from what I had intended (perhaps I was a bit star-struck). Happily all the speakers were polite to such contributions and very open to further discussion over coffee or in the bar. It seems one’s philosophy of education idols do not have feet of clay. Over dinner with fellow teacher scholars - Diana, our friendly mentor and guide had managed to corral us together we discussed - briefly adopting the manner of those grudging sceptics of philosophy since time immemorial - what possible relevance all this word-spinning and stargazing might have for our concrete, classroom-bound realities. We concluded that if no one was thinking hard about how things might and ought to be then they were doomed to remain the same. Inspired by the visions we had been given, we resolved to set up our own school forthwith. Regrettably, over New College after-dinner port some disagreements over ideal performance management structures broke out…

These, and the other myriad quotidian concerns, were soon drowned out as we swelled the ranks of the conference delegates bellowing out songs round a grand piano, troubles forgotten, our united voices raised in (some sort of) harmony to a better educational world.

PESGB Teacher Scholarship - Sonny Johnson

Writing this piece some weeks after attending the PESGB conference highlights that it is still very much within my thought process. Having just finished an intensely busy week, I had not had time to read the articles that corresponded to the scheduled talks at the conference. However, I soon found out that simply attending talks that interested me was a great way of accessing new ideas and perspectives which I had not previously experienced. Some of which have already inspired me to find out more (Kant’s antinomies of pure reason) and others which have directly impacted my planning for lessons (Bonnetts’s talk on ‘Transcendent nature, sustainability, and ‘ecologizing’ education’). Personally, the greatest element of the weekend- and why I shall be returning to the conference next year- was the opportunity to meet and converse with other like minded peers from very different backgrounds, yet all with a passion for education and discussing ideas. In fact, since the conference I am still in contact with some fellow attendees and we plan to maintain a space for continuing the spirit of the conference and therefore developing ourselves as educators through productive discussion.

Conference updates will be posted here and on our Facebook page (

You can also follow the conference on Twitter via @PhilOfEdGB using #pesgb19


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