In theory I can drive a small lorry…

Almost exactly like this

Of the many things I imagined I would get from EuroTLC, I never imagined that would include the discovery that I’ve been legally able to drive a small lorry for the past quarter of a century.

That conversation sprang out of a sharing of national identity papers in the beer hall – yes, we do know how to have fun – which ultimately resulted in me turning over my driving licence to find all the many categories of vehicle I am allowed to drive.

And that’s a good metaphor for one of the bigger themes of the conference for me: getting from theory to practice.

Despite having a bit of plastic that permits me to do these things, I’ve never actually tried to do them. Quite aside from the questions this raises about how driving tests worked in Buckinghamshire in the early 1990s, it also points to the difficulty of turning abstraction into practicality.

As a couple of colleagues noted during the event, we have two bodies of literature that don’t really speak to each other.

On the one hand, we have the ‘show-and-tell’ pieces, where individuals talk through what they have done in their class: very specific, very introspective, but also actual practice.

On the other, we have the pedagogic literature of high theory on learning: very generic, very wide in potential application, but without operationalisation.

The gap comes in translating the latter into the former, and vice-versa. It’s all very well to know about Bloom’s taxonomy, but try to apply it to your practice and it’s a different kettle of fish: everything in the class can be anything in the taxonomy, depending on an arbitrary classification by yourself.

Similarly, while it’s good to know what someone’s done in their class, it’s more useful to have a more abstracted model that can be adapted more simply to your specific needs.

At EuroTLC we did try to bridge that gap. People presented not papers but workshops where participants got to have a more hands-on approach and opportunities to discuss underlying mechanisms. In the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing you several of those ideas in guest posts.

But still the issue remains.

Part of the solution might come in the form of different materials and activities. Over the conference we talked about various event formats and resource provision to try and address such problems: none of them quite hit the nail on the head, but the process itself was a productive one and something that I’ll be returning to in coming posts.

Now I’m off to clear my head with a refreshing drive in my new minibus…