Category Archives: Research Clusters

C-SPACE researcher clusters

Open School Doors Project

Mary-Rose Puttick, a PhD student and Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant  for CSPACE, discusses the Open School Doors project. This initiative aims to reduce disparities in learning outcomes for migrant children, and offers support to help these young people succeed in challenging circumstances. 

Project aim

The 2-year (2017-19) Erasmus-funded Open School Doors project spans 5 EU contexts (UK, Germany, Greece, Austria and Trans-European) with the overall aim of reducing disparities in learning outcomes for migrant children, particularly those from refugee, asylum seeker, and Eastern-European Roma backgrounds who have settled in the UK or another EU country in the last 10 years. The focus on new migrants supports the project in addressing the transient population which is increasingly characteristic of EU schools. Open School Doors seeks to inspire and motivate teachers and school managers in cooperating with new migrant parents as well as creating constructive and sustainable partnerships.

Open School Doors Logo

A training framework is currently being developed by the UK team here at BCU to train teachers and head teachers. The framework launches an innovative participatory-action based approach using online tools to address diverse aspects of what we have termed ‘school-languaging’ in a sensitive, positive, and goal-oriented way, including: features of cultural diversity; teacher reflections on their own positionality in the communication process including challenging their own racialized positions as well as pre-conceptions and stereotypes; exploring digital communication / social networking tools to engage with migrant parents; devising action-plans to stimulate parents’ motivation based on localised school contexts; and exploring postcolonial theorist Bhabha’s (1994) notion of ‘third-spaces’, in the case of this project as a neutral space of communication between school and parents.

Data collection

Our UK data collection so far has included focus groups with teaching and management staff at six primary and secondary schools across Birmingham and one focus group with migrant parents.  These six schools are all ‘Schools of Sanctuary’ which is part of the national City of Sanctuary movement and Barbara Forbes from Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary is assisting the BCU team on the project to identify schools which are already taking active steps to make their schools places of sanctuary and welcome for all children and parents. Our data analysis from the six schools, alongside that from the other EU countries, will be used to inform the training framework which will then be rolled out to 50 schools across the 5 project partners.

UK research findings

Our initial research findings indicate what we refer to as a ‘crisis in teacher education’ with teachers coming to the limits of their expertise in teaching children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and in their communication with EAL parents, many of whom are unfamiliar with the principles of the UK education system and have had little experience themselves of formal education. Teachers report feeling unequipped to deal with trauma and high levels of transiency whilst they continue to face pressures of national assessment and lack of external funding and support.

Parent motivations and interactions work well where focus is placed on building transferable capitals of parents as well as where parents have developed self-help groups.  Some of the parents I interviewed have been asylum seekers for several years, still waiting for a decision regarding their residency status, they described their life as like an ‘open prison’ due to the fact they are unable to access paid employment and have restricted access to educational provision in adult, further and higher education contexts. In this regard parents at one school said the community provision the school had provided for parents gave them a purpose in their lives as they were able to use their skills to support other newly arrived parents. One successful project this school has established is a cooking-based social enterprise called ‘Flavours of Winson Green’. This social enterprise is now in high demand with the parents who run it travelling all over the UK to facilitate cooking experience evenings.

Open School Doors - cooking 1 Open School Doors - cooking 2

BCU hosts EU partners’ visit.

Earlier this month BCU hosted the second meeting of the Open School Doors team, involving an evening in which we got to experience the ‘Flavours of Winson Green’. This was a great success as we were taught how to cook two dishes, a Somalian curry and a Pakistani curry, and then enjoyed the food together and heard the migration stories of the women who run the social enterprise.

Overall it was a very memorable experience and the staff from one of the other primary schools who joined us for the evening have since decided that they will work in partnership with the migrant parents in their school to set up a similar enterprise.

As part of the next stage of Open School Doors we will share further inspiring examples such as the ‘Flavours’ project from primary and secondary across the UK and other EU countries with the aim of encouraging schools to become places of welcome, inclusion, and hospitality where schools work in collaboration with migrant parents and the local community.

Promoting children’s well-being, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing

Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, Senior Research Fellow at CSPACE, is currently leading a project funded by Froebel Trust (January 2017 – May 2018) to look at the Singing Medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In this post, she shares some updates from her findings:

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing and Fancourt (2017) highlight a wide range of possible ways in which the arts can support health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and societies in the context of contemporary models of health.  This includes helping with specific identified conditions as well as promoting well-being, healthy behaviours and social engagement.  Included in the broad definition of arts are signing and musical activities as well as performing arts such dance, drama, juggling and visual art such as painting and drawing.  Associated with the concept of social prescribing (which seeks to address health and wellbeing from a holistic perspective using a range of non-clinical interventions), participatory arts projects are growing in number in the UK (APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing 2017).

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Active participation in the visual and performing arts, music and dance can help people facing a lonely old age, depression or mental illness; it can help maintain levels of independence and curiosity and, let’s not forget, it can bring great joy and so improve the quality of life for those engaged“. (Lord Bichard of Nailsworth, 2016 cited in APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017b: 47)

In relation to the benefits of participating in music and singing in health settings, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017) revealed that:

Participatory arts in children’s hospitals provide a pleasurable diversion from the anxiety of treatment and the boredom of long waiting times.”

In terms of children’s rights to engage in playful activities and make choices, the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child Article 31 states that Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities and Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life.

Given the evidence reported above, I have been working on a timely project which focuses one aspect of music and singing in healthcare settings; the benefits of musical games for children with a range of conditions at a Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) in terms of their right to makes choices, engage in playful activities and their overall wellbeing with Ex Cathedra’s Singing Medicine service.

The project has been running since January 2017, and data collection involves interviews with parents and health professionals as well as non-participant researcher observations of singing medicine sessions carried out by myself.

Themes that arose from interviews included:

  • The important characteristics of the Singing Medicine Vocal Tutors;
  • Contribution to children’s emotions;
  • Contribution to child/family experiences of hospital;
  • Contribution to children’s development and learning (including neurodevelopment);
  • Spiritual and moral dimensions;
  • Contribution to medical care (including contribution to the wellbeing of health professionals);
  • Contextual aspects of the service; and
  • Contribution to family life, patterns and structures.
Participants commented that:
“Enables children to take a positive memory away from hospital, rather than remembering only that they had blood samples taken, they might also remember the pleasant experience from the Singing Medicine people”
“Some of the children have unpleasant, intrusive and painful medical interventions for example haemodialysis – the Singing Medicine programme is something they choose rather than something they have to do or have to have done to them”

The potential contribution to children’s neurodevelopment is an important finding since it was mentioned by participants that neurodevelopment is an aspect of healthcare provision often omitted due to the understandable need to focus on acute care and patient survival and recovery.

From observations there was evidence of:

  • Choices for children;
  • Following children’s lead;
  • Facilitating medical care;
  • Building memorable moments for families; and
  • Focussing on children’s holistic development.

These findings demonstrate the benefit of participating in the service for children, their family members and health professionals supporting them. The findings can be considered in light of significant evidence from the APPGAHW on the benefits of the arts more broadly and singing and music specifically in health settings, and also in light of the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Myself and several of the Vocal Tutors from Ex Cathedra presented a workshop at the Annual Health Research Conference at BCU ‘Creative Caring’ in January of this year. The session was well received by colleagues in Health and suggestion was made to embedded the research findings within many of programmes in Nursing. The project’s approach to research with the Vocal Tutors (rather than no them) was commented.

In February, I will also presenting at the BECERA annual conference ‘Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Early Years’.

This project will finish in May 2018. A final project report will become available later in the Spring.

There is a current petition for ‘Singing on Prescription’ to be adopted by the NHS. please sign if you have time.

References:

  • APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017a) Policy Briefing   Arts Engagement and Wellbeing July 2017 [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/ accessed 11.12.17]
  • All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017b) Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/ accessed 12.12.17]
  • Fancourt, D. (2017) Arts in Health, Designing and Researching Interventions. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Carolyn

Carolyn has worked in childcare and education for nearly 20 years mainly in primary education and early years.  She has established a reputation for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. She led a number of national and international projects investigating children, family and education. Her recent work include include a project about young children’s musical interactions called Communicative Musicality and an international project that seeks to explore relationship-based early intervention services for young children with complex needs in collaboration with the world-leading Champion Centre.

Carolyn is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and the ways in which researchers from diverse disciplines can seek a shared understanding of child and family work so that a richer, more diverse research culture can be envisioned. Carolyn believes that when professionals work together and communicate well with each other children and families benefit.

Following Carolyn’s work on ResearchGate.

Parenting in the digital age – what age should children have a smartphone?

In this second post of the series on ‘Parenting in the digital age’, Dr. Jane O’Connor continues  to explore the relationship between children’s rights and digital technology.  

Young people and mobile phones

I recently had the following conversation with my soon to be 7 year old son that I think will sound familiar to many parents with children of a similar age:
‘Mum can I have a smartphone for my birthday?’
‘No’
‘Why not?’
‘Because you’re too young.’
‘When can I have one?’
‘When you’re older,’
‘How old?’
‘Oh I don’t know, twelve, maybe ten.’
‘That’s ages away.’
‘Well you are not allowed to have one until you are ten…it’s the law.’

It isn’t the law of course, but I’m beginning to wish it was.

Limiting our children’s access to digital technology is beginning to feel more and more akin to King Canute trying desperately to hold back the waves, and the ubiquitous presence of smartphones in ever younger hands makes it increasingly difficult to justify resisting the trend. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. According to a recent survey of parents by Internet Matters the vast majority of children aged 8 to 11 in Britain now own a smartphone, with Newcastle and Nottingham having the very highest rates of ownership in this age group at 90.5% and 90% respectively. Many schools now ban smartphones from lessons and playgrounds, but the issue is still a pertinent one for parents to navigate, weighing up the pros and cons of the peace of mind of being able to be in constant contact with their children, with the attention grabbing and potentially disturbing diversions of the phone. The following quote from the US based Common Sense media website summarises why the decision to give your child a phone is not to be taken lightly and deserves careful thought:

when you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully’.

Perhaps it is not about the age of the child after all, but about the kind of child they are and how they want to use their phone? I know my son just wants to play games on it, and so feel no compunction about delaying the acquisition of yet another screen based distraction, but clearly ownership is becoming the norm for children not much older than he is now. As well as protecting children, as parents we also surely have a responsibility to try and ensure that our children are not left out and are socially included. Furthermore, is it not hypocritical in the extreme for adults to use smartphones for ever increasing amounts of time and reasons and yet not want children to emulate that behaviour?

The historian and mythographer Marina Warner takes a broader view of the futility of trying to keep childhood and adulthood separate by restricting children’s access to the adult world. In her essay ‘Little angels little devils: keeping childhood innocent’ she argues that:

Children aren’t separate from adults…they can’t live innocent lives on behalf of adults…Children are our copy in little…in affluent cities of the West, they’ll wail for expensive trainers with the right label like their friends.'(1994: p48)

And today, clearly, they’ll wail for their own smartphones.

This desire to hold on to childhood innocence seems to be at the heart of parental concerns around children owing smartphones, but is that innocence, as Warner claims, simply a myth?

Young person and mobile phone

Related links and publications
https://www.commonsensemedia.org
http://influence-central.com/
https://www.internetmatters.org/
Warner, M (1994) Managing monsters – The Reith Lectures. London: Vintage.

Jane O’Connor

Dr Jane O’Connor is a Reader in Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University and is currently leading ‘Technobabies’, an international research project exploring parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen digital devices by 0-3 year olds. Jane started her professional life as a primary school teacher and moved into research due to her interests in constructions of childhood and children’s relationship with the media. Jane’s research interests include children and technology and children and celebrity.

Creativity: getting it right in a week

Creativity: Getting in right in a week
Creativity: Getting in right in a week

Creativity is often be misunderstood as being for ‘special people’ who have original ideas, or is solely the domain of the arts. We think that creativity is for everyone, in every subject, of all abilities. As teacher educators and researchers we recognised that many professionals working in education, from all phases, face increasing pressures including performance and assessment outputs. This means that time set aside to plan for creativity, to teach for creativity or develop creative learning is not afforded. We think that creativity should be at the heart of teaching and learning and through this book we want to help teachers and educational practitioner recognise it within the classroom.

Teachers and education practitioners play an important role in the development of creativity. Significantly, they have to provide learners with an environment for self-discovery leading to self-actualisation and encourage learners to become more creative individuals. To achieve this, teachers must also be afforded time to explore their own creative teaching approaches. After all, creative learners need creative teachers.

Throughout this book we want to show teachers and education practitioners that creativity is more than just that one original idea, which may have historical importance. It is a process that can be encouraged within the classroom and have significance for lifelong learning. A creative endeavour may begin with a spark of an idea, but through its development can include play, experimentation, critical thinking, exploration, investigation, discussion, collaboration to name but a few. These then lead to new insights, new understandings and new knowledge. Creativity is exciting!

We hope that this book will provided teachers and trainee teachers with practical-led guidance on creative teaching, teaching for creativity and creative learning. It presents key areas of creativity in straightforward, bite-sized chunks, offering time-saving, practical support and ideas. We do not see this book as being an additional workload pressure for teachers or educators, but as a time saving, practical support, offering the opportunity for thought and action. The book is therefore short and straight to the point for that very reason!

Designed to be read over a week, it is divided into seven chapters, each detailing clear strategies and a summary of some relevant underpinning theory. We also offer the reader the opportunity to see the strategies in action and then encourage them to try things out themselves. Sometimes this might take them out of their comfort zones, but this is a creativity book after all and we wouldn’t be doing a very good job if we were not putting theory into practice! Ultimately, we want teachers and educational practitioners to consider new insights, be open to new possibilities, to build their creative confidence which will then be passed onto learners.

We hope that many teachers and educational practitioners enjoy the book, we would love to hear from you. Most importantly we hope that they see that creativity is fun, that it is good for them and good for learners, and that that feel encouraged to leap into the deep end wearing water wings!

Taking risks

Victoria & Martin

Kinsella, V. and Fautley, M (2017). Creativity: Getting it Right in a Week. Critical Publishing.

Dr. Victoria Kinsella is Senior Research Fellow in Education at Birmingham City University. Victoria has researched widely in the field of the arts education and creativity. She has worked on a number of creative arts research projects in various contexts including schools, prisons, galleries, arts centres and with educational agencies. Prior to her academic studies she worked as a teacher in UK secondary schools.

Follow Victoria’s work on ResearchGate.

Professor Martin Fautley is director of research in the school of education and social work at Birmingham City University. He is widely known for his work on researching assessment in the classroom, but also researches understandings of musical learning and progression (especially in the novice stages), composing, and creativity.

Find out more about Martin’s work, follow him on WordPress Blog, @DrFautley on Twitter

Improving Learning and Teaching through Collaborative Observation

In November 2016, Dr. Matt O’Leary and Dr. Vanessa Cui from C-SPACE were successful in their application for HEFCE Catalyst Fund: Innovation in Learning and Teaching. In this blog post, Matt and Vanessa tell us about the project and some of highlights of their recent activities.

Context

Teaching excellence has been at the centre of debates about quality in English Higher Education (HE) in recent years. The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework has ratcheted up this focus even further. Fuelled by critiques of teaching as ‘the weakest aspect’ of English HE (Gill,2015), the government has argued that universities need to adopt a more evidence-based approach to learning and teaching (L & T) akin to that associated with research.

Traditional approaches to capturing and promoting teaching excellence have largely been shaped by a managerialist agenda that conceptualises academic staff as accountable suppliers of a product and students as consumers of that product, with an overreliance on reductive metrics that fail to reflect either the authenticity or complexity of HE learning and teaching. This raises some important questions for the HE sector.

How can we develop a greater understanding and improvement of L & T among academic staff and students? How can we combine scholarly knowledge, practices and our education ideologies to satisfy the demands of policymakers while generating data about L & T that is legitimate and worthwhile? What can we do to create and nurture an approach that sustains and enhances authentic L & T experiences?     

About the project

A HEFCE-funded project at Birmingham City University seeks to use collaborative observation of L & T as a means of harnessing staff and student perspectives. Observation is a common method for staff development in HE, typically through a peer observation model. Some HE institutions have introduced teaching observation as a performance management tool in recent years. However, recent research (e.g. O’Leary & Wood, 2017; O’Leary, 2016) has revealed that assessment-based models of observation can often be a deterrent to developing L & T practice. Our project is built on the belief that improving student learning requires teachers and learners to develop an awareness and understanding about learning collaboratively in the context of their programme.  It is our attempt to answer the questions raised above.

Underpinning this collaborative observation process is the principles of critical reflection (Brookfield, 1998), learning as collective consciousness (Bowden & Marton, 1998) and participatory inquiry. A key feature of our methodology is the reconceptualisation of observation as a method to enhance L & T practices through inquiry rather than as a method of assessment. Pairs of teaching staff and students come together in a collection of subject-specific case studies to co-investigate, co-observe and co-reflect on their own classroom L & T practices. Within our collaborative approach, student identity is reconceptualised from that of ‘consumers’ and ‘evaluators’ of teaching to co-researchers and co-producers of knowledge about L & T.

Our project started in November 2016 and it runs until April 2018. It is led by Dr. Matt O’Leary and Dr. Vanessa Cui from C-SPACE. The project works with five case studies in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences: BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies, BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult), BSc (Hons) Nursing (Child), BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS and BSc (Hons) Radiography. Each case study is made up of two staff members and two first/second year students. On our project website, there is more details about our project, our methodology and each of the case studies: http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/collaborativeobservation/.

Recent activities

During last summer, we were busy sharing our project and some preliminary findings at internal and external events. At our C-SPACE annual conference and the University’s Festival of Teaching, we hosted a symposium and a workshop where four of the case studies shared their experiences with the delegates.

Primary Education participants’ talk on their case study and their Cycle 1 experience at C-SPACE 2017 conference:

Staff from the Child Nursing case study talk about their case study and their Cycle 1 experience at C-SPACE 2017 conference:

Staff from the Early Childhood Studies case study talk about their case study and their Cycle 1 experience at C-SPACE 2017 conference:

We also ran an innovation session at this year’s BERA conference. During the session, we had really engaging and critical discussions with the delegates around issues on Ethics and power dynamics in staff and student collaborations like ours. We also discussed how this could be an opportunity for students and staff’s personal and/or professional development, and how this model could potentially be used in different types of HE educational project on student engagement and student learning experience.

Innovation session delivered by Matt O'Leary and Vanessa Cui at BERA 2017 annual conference.
Innovation session delivered by Matt O’Leary and Vanessa Cui at BERA 2017 annual conference.

To follow our project, please visit our website. You can also get in touch with Vanessa to add your contact detail to our mailing list.

Matt & Vanessa

References:

  • Bowden, J. and Marton, F. (1998). The University of Learning: beyond quality and competence, London: Routledge.
  • Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Gill, J. (2015). David Willetts interview: ‘What I did was in the interests of young people’. Times Higher Education, Article published online June 18, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/david-willetts-what-idid-was-in-the-interests-of-young-people. Accessed on August 28, 2017.
  • O’Leary, M. & Wood, P. (2017) ‘Performance over professional learning and the complexity puzzle: lesson observation in England’s further education sector’, Professional Development in Education, Vol. 43(4), pp. 573-591.
  • O’Leary, M. (Ed) (2016) Reclaiming lesson observation: supporting excellence in teacher learning. Abingdon: Routledge.

Research Snapshot: Communicative musicality – sounds rhythms and pulses in music and language

Researcherspno

Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, and Ian Axtell, Subject Leader for Music Education, Centre for Research in Education.

Findings

Participants in this study appeared to recognise the value and importance of children’s spontaneous musical activities and to encourage it describing the benefit for children’s holistic development and the role of music in attachment and bonding. However, they also appear to have identified benefits for children in attending organised, structured musical activities both within the home, but more substantially outside the home.

Recommendations
  • It is recommended that parents and carers are offered guidance and advice about the importance of acknowledging and valuing young children’s spontaneous musical activities in the home. It is a matter of concern that parents might lack confidence to instigate and encourage young children’s musical activities in the home;
  • It is recommended that an online database of trialled and validated musical resources be made available for parents and carers to use in the home;
  • It is recommended that this study is extended to include particular groups of children and families such as minority ethnic groups and children with disabilities;
  • It is recommended that a study to explore young children’s musical activities in early years settings be conducted to explore the understanding and practices of early childhood practitioners given the importance of young children’s spontaneous musical activities in their overall and holistic development as noted from the literature review in this report.

 

Download the full report here: communicative-musicality-report-130987955021412745

Research Snapshot: Kirsty Devaney

Kirsty’s research is investigating how the assessment of composing in UK secondary school examinations is impacting the teaching and learning of composing within schools.

Research Snapshot: Eddie Hulbert

Eddie’s research is on Family Learning Birmingham, an initiative which aims to provide guidance for parents or carers who are either unemployed, on benefits or have very few qualifications by providing a way for families to learn together.