Reflections on the HA Conference 2020

Thanks to Gemma Hargraves (@History_Girls) for writing here about here takeaways from the HA Conference. The conference sessions will be online until 4th January 2021, so there is still time to catch-up on other sessions once the rush of term is ended.

Now is actually a great time to learn

We’re all tired, busy adapting to blended learning, and facing various COVID related challenges… but I was delighted that, despite all this, my Head of Department decided to show some of the workshops in department meetings this term. What a perfect use of department time, to learn and discuss together. Spending department time in this way makes me so happy.

We watched Sharon Aninakwa and Robin Whitburn outline how African History is a great way in to teaching History to year 7, and I absolutely agree. Their points were compelling, and the use of a slow-reveal starter image would appeal to pupils across the ability range, fuelling their intellectual curiosity. We saw Paula Lobo and Polly Simson showcase a fantastic way to include scholarship (David Olusoga’s The World’s War) and we’re planning to use and adapt the shared resources to develop our year 9 scheme of work. The ‘Most… but some…’ idea is fabulous and builds on the simplicity of ‘Meanwhile, Elsewhere…’ and ‘Slot ins’ with which many History teachers will be familiar. This week we’ll be watching Paige Richardson give her hints and tips on revision and I am confident there will be several effective active revision techniques that will directly benefit our pupils.

This is a real bonus of the virtual conference – the availability of resources to use and adapt to suit your setting. We are so grateful to all contributors for giving up their time and sharing their hard work for the greater benefit of the community.

The History Teacher community is thriving

Despite all the challenge 2020 has thrown at us, it is clear that the History teacher community is going from strength to strength. The HA Conference is, for me, the pinnacle of my annual subject specific CPD and a time to celebrate each other and reflect. It really energises me and re-centres me in my purpose.

Don’t dismiss the ‘general’ strand

Every year when I receive the HA Conference timetable I look longingly at the ‘General’ talks and think “if only I had time…” and then swiftly return to focus on workshops about enquiry questions, or writing better explanations, or curriculum planning. Feeling like I should focus on teaching specific sessions rather than general interest History. After all, if my school is paying I reason that I should focus on sessions with the most direct impact on student outcomes. But this year, with the sessions available to watch online, I ventured to the dark side…

I loved being part of Arthur Burns’ talk: Reassessing the ‘mad’ king: George III as revealed in the Georgian Papers at Windsor Castle. It resulted in me adding colour and new anecdotes to my French Revolution A Level lessons, and I gained a wider European context that I just hadn’t considered, despite teaching this period from a French perspective for some years. Importantly, it also led me to reconsider how to stretch my most able A Level students with fulfilling and useful extra-curricular projects.

Future festive plans

For this first week of December I’m trying to access another session or resource each day, like my personal CPD advent calendar! Next up for me is Claire Hollis’ talk on LGBT+ History, and a fitting end to 2020 as it is 70 years since the first British transgender person transitioned; Roberta Cowell. I am so pleased that the talks are now available all the way up to December 24th – like my chocolate calendar. Now I just need to find time to include all these topics and ideas in the curriculum! And once again, thank you to the HA and all the contributors, and I look forward to catching up in real life in Bristol in May 2021.

Having a different sort of Christmas? Why not delve into the HA’s range of podcasts made by historians for a Christmas feast? A great accompaniment for the Christmas run! Follow @histassoc and on Facebook too.

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