Monthly Archives: March 2016

Supporting children born prematurely

Full blog written by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, HELS carolyn@blackbu5

“At the Champion Centre in New Zealand children born prematurely attend integrated relationship-based early intervention services with their families where the parent-child relationship is promoted throughout therapy sessions. When I visited the Centre last year, the concepts of relational pedagogy and professional love were observable in therapy sessions”

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“Such research is revealing trends and likelihoods of developmental, educational, mental health and social consequences of prematurity that can, and must, be addressed in early intervention.”

Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen from the Champion Centre in NZ http://www.championcentre.org.nz/ will be visiting Birmingham City University to deliver an International Guest Lecture in June, 2016.  Places can be booked here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bio-psycho-social-consequences-of-premature-birth

Meet the CSPACE Team – Mandy French

Name: Mandy French

Role at BCU: Co-Director CSPACE and Associate Professor in School of Educationmandy

Research Interests:

  • Writing for academic purposes
  • Participatory research with children
  • Feedback innovation
  • Perceptions of academic writing practices
  • Employment literacies
  • Widening participation and social justice
  • Post-qualitative methodologies
  • Critical pedagogies
  • Postgraduate teaching and learning

Research you are currently working on: I am currently working with a number of local primary schools on a participatory research project called Pupils as Research Partners in Primary (PARPP). This has, amongst other projects involved working with pupils to evaluate an exhibition held in the school, refresh a neglected garden area and redesign their playground.

class

Research methodologies you are using: I am always interested in using interdisciplinary, participatory and collaborative methodologies and enjoy researching with partners across the university and beyond.

In my PhD, which was about lecturers’ perceptions of academic writing I used a post-qualitative methodology that allowed me to play around with my favourite feminist theorists (see below) and French philosophers like Foucault, Bourdieu, Deleuze and Guattari!

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: We need to be prepared to experiment and take risks with educational research.

diagram Most influential research you have read/seen: The work of Maggie MacLure, Judith Butler, Elizabeth St. Pierre and Patti Lather has blown my mind one way or another over the last 10 years.

Advice for new researchers: Be open to new ideas, always be prepared to share and discuss ideas with your colleagues and never be afraid to ask questions or change your mind!

Mini fact about you: I love vintage and upcycling.

 

 

My Reflections on Creativity

Written by Becky Snape, Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant, PhD student, @BeckyS1993 

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‘The role of government is to enable great culture and creativity to flourish – and to ensure that everyone can have access to it.’

(Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016: 13).

We are at the advent of a new period in education. The English educational landscape is undergoing significant transformation, and over the next few years we’ll see these changes play out. The release of the Department for Education’s White Paper last week frames how it is proposes to achieve these objectives. The paper, entitled ‘Education Excellence Everywhere’, outlines the government’s plans for the education system, including a five year plan for their education 8strategy. I’ve been following debates about the White Paper on social media. Invariably, these focus on the shift towards full academisation of schools and the changes in teacher recruitment, particularly regarding the scrapping of QTS.

However, I was most interested to consider how creativity tallied with this. A lot of people were talking about school structures and teacher training but I didn’t notice anybody discussing creativity in the context of the White Paper. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as when I looked at the document it appeared that:

the word creativity appeared in the 125 page paper just two times: one in the context of school leadership, and the other when describing a ‘pioneering’ free school in London.

I also looked for other words which are often seen as being synonymous with creativity, such as innovation, originality and imagination. Originality doesn’t appear at all. Imaginative is used once, where they describe the work of many schools across the country. Here, the DfE outline their aims to build on the work of these schools. They also refer to innovation numerous times, although this is largely in the context of restructuring and shaping schools, and leadership development, rather than in learners’ education. To me, it appears as though innovation is used to strengthen the argument for academisation.

rb4816_EducationOverall, my concern is that the new White Paper does not sufficiently address creativity in its 125 pages. While I haven’t read the entire paper yet, from what I have seen I get the distinct impression that its purpose is to address raising standards in order to place our country on the global stage. For instance, writing is only addressed in terms of how standards have been raised so far and what needs to be improved. This isn’t entirely surprising as writing is largely the medium for learning and assessment in schools, and is therefore often seen as one of the central pillars of not just literacy attainment but education success more generally. The core skill of writing is one which is seen to be integral to a learner’s development and success, not just in school but also beyond in the ‘real world’. In the White Paper itself, the government highlights:

‘preparation for adult life’

as one of the central pillars of their five year plan for education (2016: 124). Good grammar and spelling are seen as valuable in our society, so a confident grasp of Standard English in writing is vital whether you’re writing a CV to get a job or carry out basic tasks like sending an email once you’re in a job. Thus, it makes sense to consider raising standards and to strive for excellence, and very few people would argue that this doesn’t matter at all.

But what about creativity? Isn’t that important for the workplace too? Of course, the act of pulling bits of information together to create something new is often original, so writing in many forms may be seen as creative. However, my concern is that creativity seems to be presented as something that is a convenient by-product of raising standards rather than something which drives how curricular and specification documents are shaped. This certainly seems to be true in creative writing (as part of English), but also seems to relate to other domains of creativity too. If taken at face value, the marginalisation of creativity in the new White Paper would seem to highlight how sometimes raising standards takes precedence over nurturing learners’ creative development. My questions are:

  •  If the central focus of the paper is ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’, why is this reform not anchored to creativity?
  • Why is educational excellence not explicitly underpinned by creativity?

My initial response to this is that this may be in part due to the perception that creativity is not as easy to measure as other areas of a child’s education. Moreover, in my opinion, it seems that globalisation is a worldcentral issue to the government, and feeding into that is raising standards in education to match some of the world leaders. However, something to note here is that many of these world leaders still very much value creativity in their school systems!

My contention is that creativity should be something that is central to educational reform rather than a politicised term that is used to pay lip service to those who see it as integral in teaching and learning. For me, this is why it is so important that many of us in CSPACE are challenging this status quo and providing evidence to support the fight to preserve the value of creativity in schools. The quote I began this blog with is taken from the government’s new Culture White Paper, which was released today (as I write this). This notion of access of creativity is one which resonates with the seminal NACCCE report (1999), where democratic creativity is highlighted as a key component of educational reform. It’s important to remember this and ensure that creativity is not simply used as a political sound-bite, but rather something that the government ensures is embedded in teaching and learning. Many teachers appreciate – and, crucially, apply (within their means) – the true value of this, but I’m not entirely convinced that this government does. I can only hope I’m wrong.

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509942/DCMS_The_Culture_White_Paper__1_.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/508447/Educational_Excellence_Everywhere.pdf

http://sirkenrobinson.com/pdf/allourfutures.pdf

Meet the CSPACE Team – Kirsty Devaney

Name: Kirsty DevaneyBlack and white headshot

Role at BCU: Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant in Education. I teach on the Early Years and Primary PGCE courses helping teachers include music into their classrooms. I also lecture and run projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and teach composition and theory at Birmingham Conservatoire Junior Department.

Research Interests:

  • Music Education – composing in classrooms
  • Creativities in education and school
  • The creative & composing processes
  • Assessment of creativity
  • Technology in music education

Research you are currently working on: I am mainly working on my PhD investigating composing in upper secondary schools at examination level. I am looking at how the assessment of composing impacts the teaching and learning of composing in the classroom.Screen shot 2015-01-28 at 23.14.51

Other research includes a composing project with BCU, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) and Sound and Music. My role was assisting with the action research that secondary music teachers were doing with their students. I have also been involved in London scheme ‘Teach Through Music’ conducting interviews for the research on behalf of my supervisor.

I run a number of education projects at Birmingham Conservatoire and always include an element of action research. I am now planning a collaborative cross-disciplinary research project looking at composing and creative writing working working with Amanda French and Becky Snape. 

Research methodologies you are using: For my PhD I am using a mixed methods approach collecting qualitative and quantitative data through:

  • Two online surveys (KS4 & 5)
    • Follow-up telephone interviews
  • Five case studies
    • Semi-structured interviews with music teacher
    • Focus Group interviews with students (KS4 & 5)
    • Classroom Observations
  • Semi-structure interviews with ‘composer-educators’

I have taken a grounded theory approach to my research and each stage of the data collection informs the next.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: With the introduction of the Ebacc music in education in under threat. Many teachers I work with regularly have said they have already seen an impact on what subjects students are deciding to take, with the more ‘academic’ students being pressured even more into taking not just the Ebacc subjects, but doubling up (e.g. 2 languages). This is leaving very little space for students to take other subjects such as music, art or drama. I worry that numbers will start to fall dramatically and that schools will pull GCSE, BTEC and A-Level music along with other subject. My little sister (currently in year 8) is startimusic percng to plan her GCSE options and she wants to do art, music, drama and textiles – why is this set of subjects seen as ‘inferior’ and why should her enjoyment of school, and potential future be decided by someone else who think they know what is best for her?

I also worry that exams are becoming more about ‘assessing what is easily assessable’ rather than assessing what is important. Teachers and students become very aware how to ‘play the game’, and ‘tick the boxes’ for the exams but this wastes time for students to be musicians, composers and having a meaningful musical experience. Teachers are under intense pressure to ‘achieve’ and get high grades with these exams – if they don’t the future of their students, their careers and music in the school is at risk.

Most influential research you have read/seen: Legg, R. (2012) Bach, Beethoven, Bourdieu: ‘Cultural capital’ and the scholastic canon in England’s A-level. The Curriculum Journal 23(2):157-172

Having been struggling with how Bourdieu’s concepts on ‘cultural capital’ & ‘social mobility’ relate to my own research, this article really helped me reflect on the data I have been collecting and how it links to wider social issues.

Advice for new researchers: I studied as a composer for 4 years and wrote more music than I did words; so coming to do a PhD terrified me! What I have come to realise that my background in composing has really helped my research and that is a strength not a weakness. Find your own strengths and don’t compare yourself to others around you. The more I talk to people the more I realise everyone gets ‘imposter syndrome’ at some point.

Kirsty Forwards 2015 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For me the PhD is about tracking how your own thinking has developed and grown over the years. It changes the way you view the world and how you make connections through everyday events.

Mini fact about you: I have a phobia of red jelly!

Culture in action

Written by Christopher Bolton, Senior Lecturer in Drama Education, Birmingham City University@MrCJBolton

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One of the potential outcomes of drama in education is its ability to develop participants’ metaxis. The meaning of this term has been defined by Boal (1995:43-44) as a lens that someone can use to view their simultaneous position in different ‘worlds’ and that this process enables a person to comment upon the two. Similarly, for Bolton (1992:11) metaxis is “the power of the experiences” that “stem from fully recognising that one is in two social contexts at the same time”, and it is with my ‘metaxical’ lenses firmly on that I have been considering the worlds of arts education and cultural education.

Chris

The recent release of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s white paper highlighted the important role of “culture in action” in “rejuvenating our society”. This “evolution” (interesting to note the use of the word ‘evolution’ as opposed to ‘revolution’; the word ‘revolution’ is reserved to describe the government’s devolution of power) discusses the importance of increasing opportunities for children and young people to participate, appreciate, create and contribute to the culture of society. The clearly stated aims include;

  • Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers, no matter where they start in life
  • The riches of culture should benefit communities across the country
  • The power of culture can increase our international standing
  • Cultural investment, resilience and reform

Worthwhile aims, I think, and these are appealing on both a professional and personal level. The idea that “Everyone should have thchris 2e chance to experience culture, participate in it, create it, and see their lives transformed by it” is also worthwhile but interestingly one could substitute the word ‘culture’ for ‘education’ and the two worlds suddenly crash into one another, shattering my rose-tinted ‘metaxical’ lenses; darn it!

Contrast this view with the DfE’s white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere and I am left to glue together my shattered lenses and see things anew. The drive toward full academisation of all schools by 2020; the incessant energy forced into ‘core academic subjects’ through EChris 3Bacc; and the arguably continued further de-professionalisation of teaching through the QTS debacle, means that I should have perhaps left my lenses where they were (or would I then become another contributor to the ever growing number of those leaving the profession, interestingly ignored and denied by ‘those in the know’?). By forcing schools to concentrate on EBacc subjects and enabling them to do so through academisation, the future of arts and culture in education is perilously close to benefitting those who have had a better start in life; in fact it’s just unethical! How will culture benefit the young people of deprived areas if they are consistently forced to concentrate on an ever narrowing curriculum? Where will their opportunities come from? How will pupils from diverse backgrounds have access to cultural and arts education and meet the intention of ‘publicly-funded culture’ reflecting the ‘diversity of our country’?

The DfE have the answer; schools can now extend their day! Is this not the Government’s way of justifying the EBacc? Using my x-ray metaxical lenses I can see that when people start complaining about the lack of arts in education the Government will simply say that the arts can be taught during the extension of the school day. Unfortunately, as many colleagues will know, this happens already! The arts are being trivialised never mind marginalised!

I’ve heard, anecdotally, of many arts organisations facing challenging financial situations; of many drama departments closing; drama, music, dance and art losing time to more ‘academic’ subjects; Ofsted only inspecting EBacc subjects; arts teachers being ‘asked’ to teach other subjects or lose their job, it’s just plain wrong. See here for an interesting take on the state of drama in schools. Worryingly, “the most commonly withdrawn subjects” from UK schools in light of the EBacc “are drama and performing arts, which had been dropped in nearly a quarter of schools” see here (page 36).

Nicky Morgan claims that she “want(s) every single young person to have the opportunity to discover how the arts can enrich their lives. Access to cultural education is a matter of social justice.” How is enforcing the above fair? Young people are being disenfranchised by those in power. Potentially their access to arts and culture is being denied by those who have had a better start in life. Bruner (1996) wrote about education being a system that should help those growing in a culture find their identity and that the aim of education should not only be a transmission of culture but also provide people with alternative views whilst strengthening their will to explore them. How will this happen Nicky?

Chris 4

Professor Jonathon Neelands (2002:122) predicted a “cultural choice” that we now face in British education, 14 years ago, positing that schooling should be “designed to feed, nurture, guide and fulfil the humanising and compassionate potential of the imagination”. I think that the alienation of arts teachers also feeds into the students that they teach potentially leading to an “impoverished and limited sense of ‘self’ and ‘other’” despite the aims of the cultural white paper. This means that learners are often struggling to understand the world they are in and are potentially told what they should be doing, learning and thinking. I support Neelands’ calls for a ‘humanising curriculum’. Perhaps one that places the arts and culture at its core; why not? Interestingly, Neelands (:119) makes the point that “Policy makers have tried to persuade parents, commerce and the powerful constituencies that the greatest challenge we face is not the need to address new cultural work and career identities” or “new economies based on communication rather than manufacturing” or “endemic poverty and the creation of disaffected underclasses” rather we are told that “the real challenge is falling literacy test scores” or could that be PISA rankings, school league-tables, Progress 8 or Ofsted grading?

So what is the culture of our education system? We are told that culture and arts matter but they are increasingly devalued in our education system; schools are increasingly forced to value what is assessed rather than assess what is valued; teachers are leaving the profession and recruiting is increasingly difficult. Maybe we need to look at the world of Canada? Their government are investing $1.9 billion over five years in the arts.

Maybe I need some new glasses?

References:

Boal, A., (1995) Rainbow of Desire, London: Routledge.

Bolton, G., (1992) New Perspectives on Classroom Drama, Hemel Hempsted: Simon & Shuster.

Bruner, J., (1996) The Culture of Education, Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Neelands, J., (2002) 11/09 The space in our hearts. Drama Vol 9 No 2 4-10 in O’Connor, P. (2010) Creating Democratic Citizenship Through Drama Education. London: Trentham Books.

Meet the Team – Jessica Runacres

Name: Jessica Runacres

Role at BCU: Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant pic

Research Interests:

  •  Social prescribing
  • Community Health

Research you are currently working on:

  • A concept analysis of social prescribing
  • An explanatory sequential mixed methods design to understand the concept of social prescribing.

Research methodologies you are using:

  • A concept analysis of all the academic literature which mentions social prescribing and / or social prescription in the title and / or abstract.
  • An explanatory sequential mixed methods design. So, quantitative data analysis of a large data set which will lead to research questions for qualitative investigation through interviews with service users and focus groups with healthcare professionals. A regression analysis will hopefully be used as part of the quantitative analysis but this is dependent on the amount of missing data in the datasets collected.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on research: The NHS digitalisation agenda deadline is fast approaching meaning patient data will need to be stored effectively electronically. Also, the use of medication as the first option for mental health conditions is becoming an important debate, with the emerging use of aspects of social prescribing and the NHS’s efforts to save money social prescribing could reduce the burden on healthcare services.

I have conducted preliminary investigations into the data collected by a social prescribing service and found the data quality to be low. There was a huge amount of missing data, out of 795 rows of patient data only 1 patient had all their information completed. This highlighted the importance of correct data collection to ensure lack of patient information or hard evidence on social prescribing’s effectiveness does not become a barrier to its uptake. After talking to the healthcare professionals who fill in patients’ data I found that they did not understand its importance from a research perspective and considered taking notes on a laptop to be an impersonal approach to healthcare, instead preferring to take notes by hand and then transfer them onto the system at a later date. This leads me to believe that training on the importance of correct data collection may be necessary to ensure patient data is stored correctly and safety meaning research can be carried out on the data to prove social prescribing’s effectiveness ensuring services gain funding in the future.

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Most influential research you have read/seen: Kimberlee (2013) suggested that just 20% of health outcomes are attributable to clinical care whilst socioeconomic factors account for 40% of all influences on health and wellbeing.

Kimberlee, R. (2013) Developing a social prescribing approach for Bristol. Project Report.Bristol Health & Wellbeing Board, UK. Retrieved from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/23221. Accessed on 05/01/2016

Advice for new researchers: Use referencing software such as Endnote and reference as you go. It saves so much time.

In which I worry about Vogons

Martin Fautley, Professor of Education, Birmingham City University
@DrFautleyMF

I have been wondering recently whether we are seeing the beginning of the end of music education as we know it.”

Martin Fautley, our Professor of Education has written about his worries in relation to music education in the UK. With many people in the creative industries apposing the EBacc  (http://www.baccforthefuture.com/) and fighting for music and the arts in schools it has prompted a lot of debates and discussions at Birmingham City University. What are your thoughts or concerns with the reforms happening in education?

To read his full blog please visit: https://drfautley.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/in-which-i-worry-about-vogons/

18 months in to the PhD – reflections

Written by Shannon Ludgate, PhD Student, School of Education – Early Yearsshan
@ShannonLudgate

Shannon Ludgate is researching children’s experiences using touchscreen technologies in different early years settings. She has written a blog about her experiences 18 months in:

“The data collection period has taught me how important it is to be flexible to the needs of the setting and to be adaptable.”

“…it must be acknowledged that at times practitioners are aware of why I am in their setting, so may opt to use technology more”

“Focus-group interviews with children have been interesting; it was great to hear their views and for them to take control and show me what they most liked about touchscreen use, demonstrating their skills during conversations.”

“This (my research) will hopefully empower each setting to develop touchscreen use in ways in which they see fit and appropriate for their children.”

To read the full blog go to: https://shannonludgate.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/18-months-in-to-the-phd-reflections/

Shannon’s 4 months reflections: http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/education/2015/06/22/my-phd-experience-four-months-in/

Shannon’s data collection reflections: http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/education/2015/11/16/data-collection-time/

Meet the CSPACE Team – Alex Wade

Name: Dr. Alex Wade

alex W Role at BCU: Researcher

Research Interests:

  • Technology and Education
  • Young People
  • Digital Media and Relationships
  • History of Technology

Research you are currently working on:

  • Sexting and young people
  • Use of Simulations in Speech and Language Therapy
  • Fundamentals of General Practice Nursing Evaluation
  • Lunch and Brunch Clubs Evaluation
  • British Videogames of the 1980s

Research methodologies you are using: Genealogy; habitus; simulations and simulacra; dromology; cultural histories.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: It continues to amaze me how many areas have so little research undertaken in them. If you can find an emergent, or under-researched area, you can potentially – if you so wish – have a whole life dedicated to research in a topic where it is impossible to exhaust the possibilities. The aphorism, ‘we spend all of our life learning and die stupid’ is never truer than when applied to research – and to education!

Most influential research you have read/seen: Jean Baudrillard’s The Transparency of Evil. In 1993 it appeared to be prescient, now it is prophetic.

Advice for new researchers: Your degree by research is a driving licence that allows you to undertake the real learning that takes place after you pass. You will never have the opportunity to do such an expansive and broad piece of work again (even if you write a book!). So, whether PhD or professional doctorate, it is a reference work and a tool, but most importantly a position that you will return to again and again and is the basis for everything that follows.

Mini fact about you: I can read upside down as proficiently as I can the ‘right way up’, which I understand is one of the pre-requisites for joining MI6. (I may actually be a triple agent . . . . )

 

Meet the CSPACE Team – Carolyn Blackburn

Name: Dr. Carolyn Blackburn

carolynRole at BCU: Research Fellow, Early Childhood Studies. My role involves research, undergraduate teaching and post-graduate research supervision.

Research Interests: I am interested in the influences on children’s learning and development from a bio-psycho-social perspective. In particular I am interested in relationships between caregivers (both in the home and out of home contexts such as early years settings) and children. I am also interested in relationships between professionals and families and the ways in which professionals work together. My PhD was concerned with early intervention and professional response to young children’s speech, language and communication delays and difficulties. Much of my research has focused on vulnerable learners and families.

Research you are currently working on:

  • Young children’s musical experiences in home and out of home settings
  • Relationship-based early intervention services for children with complex needs

Research methodologies you are using: I favour mixed-methods as it feel it offers the best of both worlds in the paradigm wars. However, I’ve also used action research successfully in a number of research projects and this has the potential to be really exciting. I am committed to the notion of inquiry-based practice and see educators as enthusiastic researchers who are always seeking the best pedagogical approaches to supporting and engaging children. Most of my research has been broadly interpretive.

rb2554_HealthStockImages

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: As we learn more and more about the world we live in with increased globalisation, the potential for future educational research projects about diversity and inclusion is significant. The agenda that focuses on children’s rights opens the door for new ways to think about children and families that moves beyond within child characteristics and challenges us to think about the environments and contexts that we offer to support them.

Advice for new researchers: Always follow your passion, it’s the key to insightful and successful research projects, treat your participants with respect and integrity and report your research objectively (as far as possible) with truth and insight.

Mini fact about you: I can’t read maps (at all), I would love to be able to play the drums (but have poor co-ordination and am tone deaf) and I am determined never to grow up.