Tag Archives: Birmingham

Meet the Team – Mary-Rose Puttick

Name: Mary-Rose Puttick

MR

Role at BCU: PhD Student / Assistant Lecturer

Research Interests:

  • Issues faced by refugees / asylum seekers which influence marginalization / integration
  • Inter-cultural communication with second-language parents around U.K. legislation such as Safeguarding, FGM, and Prevent
  • Complex identities of culturally-diverse migrant mothers attending Family Learning classes
  • Empowering second-language parents with low-literacy skills in their first language by drawing on alternative cultural ‘literacies’

Research you are currently working on: I am currently working on my PhD in which I am exploring the concepts of identity and community from the perspective of culturally-diverse, second-language mothers in Birmingham Family Learning classes. Within this I’m also looking at the impact that the government’s Prevent strategy has had on these women. I am aiming to volunteer with some of these groups and to explore creative methods to represent their voices, drawing upon their trajectories and cultural histories.

Research methodologies you are using: At the moment I’m exploring some creative methodologies such as Laurel Richardson’s crystallization process as a way to incorporate the voices of parents from different countries in diverse ways which may be more fitting to their cultural traditions and histories such as oral testimonies, poetry, as well as other art forms

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Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: The experiences I have gained in teaching ESOL/Family Literacy in adult/community education for the past 12 years has really stimulated my interest in the complex identities of individuals from diasporic communities and how these can be influenced by wide-ranging social, political and cultural factors from the different countries in which they have lived. These factors can create inclusion and exclusion within and between cultural groups. I’m hoping that by carrying out research into this area, it will help to produce some practical outcomes in different educational contexts, such as improving communication strategies between schools and second-language parents, and providing Family Learning classes which are more tailored to the specific needs of different cultural groups.

Most influential research you have read/seen: I’ve recently read two books by Irene Gedalof and Fatema Mernissi which both originated from their PhD theses and which have been really inspiring in directing me with my current research. Gedalof’s ‘Against Purity’ focuses on the imbalances of white Western feminism in terms of gender with other forms of difference such as race, ethnicity, and nation and points to the consideration of multiple factors by Indian feminists in considering the identities of women from diasporic communities. Fatema Mernissi was a Moroccan feminist and sociologist. I’ve read one of her books so far ‘Beyond the Veil’ which questions predominant discourses of Islam being the main cause of oppression for Muslim women and focuses instead on the political manipulation of religion.

Advice for new researchers: One of my supervisors advised me to write regularly, even very rough drafts. I have found this really useful in helping me to keep track of what I’ve been reading and to get into the habit of frequent critical/analytical writing.

Mini fact about you: Some of my favourite things to do are: cycling, yoga, charity shopping, art galleries, and visiting my family in San Diego.

Born early: early care and education experiences of young children born prematurely

Dr. Carolyn Blackburn and Dr. Merryl Harvey (supported by BLISS http://www.bliss.org.uk)

Each year in England, around 10,000 children are born very preterm (at less than 32 weeks gestation) and a further 60,000 are born moderately preterm (at 32-36 weeks gestation). The number of preterm births has increased in the last two decades, and more preterm children are surviving due to improved neonatal care (National Neonatal Audit Programme, 2015). However, the prevalence of cognitive, behavioural and emotional problems in preterm populations has not changed. In particular, children born preterm have been found to experience specific learning problems including difficulties with mathematics, visual-spatial skills, memory and attention.

There is still much we do not know about the nature and spectrum of these learning difficulties, their long term consequences, and how to deal with them. In particular, there is controversy about whether moderately preterm children experience similar but milder learning problems than children born very preterm. Teachers and educational psychologists receive little formal training about preterm birth and are often not aware of appropriate strategies to support preterm children in the classroom. Informing teachers about the special constellation of problems following preterm birth is crucial in preparing them to support the growing number of preterms entering schools in the coming years (Campbell, 2015; Carpenter et al., 2015).

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Studies have explored parents’ experiences of having a child born prematurely. However, these studies have generally focused on the months immediately following the birth and have taken a health and social care perspective (Harvey el al, 2013; Garfield et al, 2014; Gray et al, 2013). Quantitative studies have also examined the development of children who were born prematurely and have identified the learning difficulties that they face during early childhood (Marlow, 2004; Johnson et al, 2010; Costeloe 2012). Parents’ experiences of early years education is an under-researched area.

The benefits of early care and education early intervention (EI) have been well documented in policy and research in terms of improving outcomes for children at risk of or identified with SEN. Whilst not all children born prematurely will be identified with Special Educational Needs, ongoing monitoring of their learning and development (as is evident from Carolyn’s work at the Champion Centre, NZ) has the potential to ameliorate any future delays or difficulties.

This study aims to explore the early care and education experiences of children born prematurely through reports from parents in order to identify best practice in early care and education and provide advice and guidance for policy-makers and early educators. Research questions include:

  1.  What are the early social experiences of young children born prematurely (as reported by parents)?
  1. What are parents’ memories of their children’s developmental milestones?
  1. Where children are attending early years settings, what are parents experiences of this, were there any difficulties/problems in finding suitable childcare provision?
  1. What advice/support do early years workers need to support children born prematurely and their families?

The first phase of the research will be a family survey. More details to follow.

References:

Campbell, D. Premature babies more likely to end up in lower- paid jobs. The Guardian 1st September 2015

Carpenter, B., Egerton, J. Cockbill, B., Brooks, C., Fotheringham, J., Rawson, H. And Thisthtlethwaite, J. Engaging learning with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. London: Routledge

Costeloe KL, Hennessy EM, Haider S, Stacey F, Marlow N, Draper ES. Short term outcomes after extreme preterm birth in England: comparison of two birth cohorts in 1995 and 2006 (the EPICure studies). BMJ, 2012;345:e7976

Garfield CF, Lee Y, Kim HN (2014) Paternal and maternal concerns for their very low-birth-weight infants transitioning from NICU to home. Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing; 28 4 305-312

Gray PH, Edwards DM, O’Callaghan MJ, Cuskelly M, Gibbons K. (2013) Parenting stress in mothers of very preterm infants – influence of development, temperament and maternal depression. Early Human Development; 89 9 6250629

Harvey, M.E. Nongena, P. Gonzalez-Cinca, N. Edwards, A.D. and Redshaw, M.E. (2013) Parents’ experiences of information and communication in the neonatal unit about brain imaging and neurological prognosis: a qualitative study, Acta Paediatrica, 102(4): 360-365.

Johnson S, Hollis C, Kochhar P, Hennessy EM, Wolke D, Marlow N. Autism spectrum disorders in extremely preterm children. J Pediatrics2010;156:525-31

Marlow N. Neurocognitive outcome after very preterm birth. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2004;89:F224-8

National Neonatal Audit Programme (2015) Annual Report on 2014 data. http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/improving-child-health/qualityimprovement-and-clinical-audit/national-neonatal-audit-programme-nnap (accessed 11/04/2016).

Winston Churchill Fellowship Medallion

Written by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, HELS carolyn@blackbu5

Carolyn Blackburn attended a prestigious Award Ceremony for her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship recently. In this blog entry she reflects on the ceremony.

On Wednesday 18th May, I travelled to London with 128 other Fellows to receive my Winston Churchill Fellowship Medallion from Professor Brian Clarke at a prestigious biennial award ceremony.  The event was held at Church House near Westminster.

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Church House has significant Churchillian associations as during the Blitz, Winston Churchill requisitioned Church House as a makeshift Houses of Parliament after the originals had been damaged by bombing. It was also from Church House that he made his famous speech announcing the sinking of the Bismarck on 24th May 1941. It was an ideal venue to hold the event.

The Agenda for the event included a talk from Brian about his own Fellowship following an introduction from the Chair of the Advisory Council, Anne Boyd and a presentation from the Chief Executive Julia Weston.  The Hon Jeremy Soames made the concludinew medallionng remarks before Afternoon Tea was served for Fellows and guests.

The Travelling Fellowships provide opportunities for UK citizens to go abroad on a worthwhile project of their own choosing, with the aim of enriching their lives through their global experiences – and to bring back the benefit to others in their UK profession or community through sharing the results of their new knowledge.

20160518_132921Twenty two Fellows received awards in the Children and Young People category of which I was proud to be one of them.  It was inspiring to hear about Fellows travels across the Globe with projects ranging from child exploitation to mental health interventions to FGM and everything inbetween. My own Fellowship was about Relationship Based Early Intervention Services for Children with Complex Disabilities and I’m delighted to say that since returning to the UK, I’ve been elected as Board Member of Eurlyaid, had an article published in the International Journal of Birth and Parenting Education, presented my findings at EASPD’s conference in Moldova – entitled Growing Together in Early Childhood Intervention, had a paper accepted at BCU Wellbeing conference and been granted funding from BCU to explore Early Care and Education for Young Children Born Prematurely.

Professor Brian Clarke praised all the Fellows for their outstanding achievements, and said that:

“I know from personal experience that the Fellowship represents a wonderful opportunity. I am continually amazed and inspired by the Churchill Fellows dedication and commitment to making a difference in so many areas affecting today’s society.”

You can read more about Carolyn’s journey to New Zealand on her personal blog https://drblackburnblog.wordpress.com/

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Five burning issues: time to reimagine Further Education

By Suzanne Savage, Assistant Lecturer and Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences. Full article on http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/views/2016/05/19/five-burning-issues-time-to-reimagine-further-education/

As we eagerly await the first White Paper in a decade to address Further Education and Skills, I wanted to take a look at areas of concern for the sector. I asked facilitators of the upcoming Reimagining Further Education conference to be held on 29 June here at BCU, to share some of the burning issues they will explore.

  1. Leadership in Further Education: As we face a period of unprecedented change in the sector, do FE leaders need a new vision of their role? Dr Lynne Sedgmore, former leader of the 157 Group of Colleges, says: “Senior leaders and governors need to consider how they use their power and act on new ways of collaborative leadership in true partnership — beyond current formal hierarchy and tokenism — to liberate, engage, support and facilitate practitioners, and the professional power they bring, in much more innovative and radical ways.” What do you think? This and more will be discussed in the Leadership in FE strand of our conference.
  2. Accountability is often seen as the solution to quality in education, but Professor Ewart Keep of Oxford University warns that the current “low trust, high stakes inspection regime has a weak grasp of what vocational learning could and/or should look like. There is no widely accepted consensus about what the over-arching aims are that the FE system and individual institutions therein should be held accountable for.” This is compounded by new government initiatives towards local commissioning. Ann Hodgson of UCL Institute of Education asks “What are the respective roles of local, regional and national government in the governance of FE colleges and what should they be? What impact is the area review process having on the FE system in England?” If you would like to contribute towards answering these questions, join the Accountability, Governance and Area Reviews strand of our conference.
  3. Higher Education in FE: The release of the Higher Education White Paper this month has implications for colleges delivering HE courses because that provision will now be subject to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). How will colleges juggle the requirements of both Ofsted and the TEF? Dr Karima Kadi-Hanifi, University of Worcester, says: “When evaluated from an exclusively HE perspective, FE is often seen as the inferior partner. But FE provision is very good, student-centred, inspiring and resilient.” To formulate the FE response to TEF requirements, sign up for the HE in FE strand of our conference.
  4. The introduction of the Apprenticeship levy in April 2017 creates unique dilemmas for colleges, and many of those who have historically focussed on classroom-based provision are not sure how to develop successful apprenticeship delivery. While fierce competition amongst potential providers is anticipated, can colleges harness some of the energy from the Area Review process to develop a more regional, coordinated approach to apprenticeship provision? Are employers ready for the introduction of the levy and resultant change to hiring practices, or do apprenticeship providers need to find new ways to work together with them? To join this discussion, sign up to the Apprenticeship strand of our conference, facilitated by Professor Chris Winch of King’s College London.
  5. Professionalism: In a deregulated sector, “how can we foster a more critical, dialogic and democratic professionalism at this time of great challenge?” asks Lou Mycroft, teacher educator at Northern College and co-founder of Tutor Voices. And despite deregulation, Tim Weiss, Membership Director for the Society of Education and Training Professionals, wonders “In a sector celebrated for diversity of delivery, subject area, learner and teaching staff alike, do we run the risk of losing this breadth and depth as we focus ever closer on “core metrics” such as maths and English, or does this underlying drive to improve the essentials enhance our diversity of delivery even further?” Help develop a vision by joining the Professionalism in FE strand of our conference.

    The Reimagining Further Education conference will be held on 29 June, 2016 in the Curzon Building of Birmingham City University. Join the discussion on Twitter using #ReimagineFE

    With an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the United States, Suzanne Savage has spent the last 30 years in a wide variety of teaching positions in Nicaragua, the Netherlands and the UK. Most recently she has been a teacher training manager and teaching/learning coach in UK Further Education colleges. She’s very interested in the relationship between education policy, teacher professional practice, and the lived experience of students in the classroom. Her current PhD research at Birmingham City University is on the use of video recordings in the observation of classroom practice.

Meet the CSPACE Team – Victoria Birmingham

Name: Victoria Birmingham

Role at BCU: Full time PhD student and Graduate Reasearch and Teaching Assistant Vicky B

Research Interests: Primary School Education

Research you are currently working on: Assessment without levels in Primary Schools.

Research methodologies you are using: Mixed methods case study or how primary schools are assessing without levels. This will involve teacher interviews as the primary data which will be used with a comparison of teacher assessment and test assessment.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: There’s a very broad range of literature on assessment. It’s been both enjoyable and daunting to immerse myself into it. A very interesting area I’ve found is the research around the validity and reliability of teachers’ assessments, formative and summative. The over whelming influence on this is how the assessments are used and the matter of league tables is never far from the discussion. A number of reviews over the years have been commissioned by the government to advise on assessment. The two main reports from TGAT (Task Group on Assessment and Testing, 1988) and The Bew Report (2011). Both reports, years apart, do not recommend assessment data being used to rank and judge schools. The TGAT Report (1988) discusses concerns about using the suggested external test in league tables. The question I have in my head when reading these reports is what do we have these external tests and league tables for?

Coming into the PhD fresh out of teaching myself, I’d expected a lot of the research to be quantitative because quantitative data was predominant in schools. However, a vast majority of research on assessment is qualitative. This took some getting used to and was confusing at first. I didn’t understand why the research is mostly qualitative but schools are judged on quantitative data. The recommendations from the government are also based on quantitative data. Now I’m thinking a lot about whether learning can be measured quantitatively because of how many factors are involved. This is certainly something I’m going to delve deeper into.

Most influential research you have read/seen: It’s not one piece in particular. There are a number of key author in the field (Black, P; Wiliam, D; Harlen, J; Stobart, G) that I find the most useful but the biggest influence is when I find a completely different point of view and it really makes me think. That makes me question the conclusion I have come to and the context I’m seeing assessment in compared to someone who thinks differently.

Advice for new researchers: Have a system to record your reading including quotes you find useful and what you think about the article/book/report. I’ve also found that when I started reading things I didn’t particular know what I was looking for but as I got into it themes and reflections came to me a lot easier. So, don’t expect to get everything out of a piece of literature when reading it for the first time, it’s when you read other things and read it that you get the most out it.

Mini fact about you: I can sew pretty well and make all sort things.

 

Meet the CSPACE Team – Ian Axtell

Name: Ian James AxtellAxtell_Ian_main

Role at BCU: Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for Music Education

Research Interests:
Bourdieu inspired:
What is the Field of Music Education?
Is the Universe of Discourse in Music Education under threat?

Shulman inspired:
How can Signature Pedagogy in Music Education be defined?

Research you are currently working on: How can Signature Pedagogy in Music Education be defined?

Research methodologies you are using: Humanistic and interpretivist phenomenography underpinned by Bourdieu’s perception of epistemic reflexivity.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: This is a fascinating time to be involved in education research since we are in an anti-intellectual turn in education policy discourse. There is an urgent need for genuine critical education research. The place of theory in education has been questioned but education research is responded by creating strong links between theory and practice through critical practice-based enquiry. The question remains whether genuine critical education research can save the education system from collapse under the false gods of knowledge-led curricular and evidence based research (or research that proves what policy makers have already decided).

Most influential research you have read/seen: Bourdieu, P (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Advice for new researchers: Join a community of thinking.

Mini fact about you: I am passionate about music education for all and how music can change people’s perception of the world around them.

EDUCATIONAL ACTIVISIM IN BRAZIL

Birmingham City University and the University of East Anglia are currently engaged in a collaborative research project with Brazilian education activists for whom critical pedagogy and popular education pedagogy are harnessed to facilitate a critical, politically engaged education processes for social change.

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CSPACE recently held a Research Seminar, Wednesday , 11 May 2016 : which showcased the work of Brazilian educators visiting from Fortaleza in the state of Ceara, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

  • Dra Maria das Dores and Dra. Jackline:Rabelo: ‘The World Bank and its consequences for Education in Brail and Latin America.
  • Dra Sandra Maria y Dr Luís TavoraFurtado Ribeiro: ‘Universities, Social Movements and Social Transformation’.
  • Dr Paolo Vittoria: ‘The implications for education of the threatened parliamentary coup in Brazil today

We welcomed our Brazilian colleagues back to continue the face-to-face dialogue begun last year. This dialogue explores possibilities and constraints for alternative education processes in, against and beyond the neoliberal university in the current challenging context where the governing Brazilian Workers’ Party faces a ‘parliamentary coup’ whilst, at the same time, progressive social movements like the Landless Movement (The Movement of Rural Landless People or MST—Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) have developed impressively well organised bottom up processes of educational change that seeks to build social movements to improve the lives of, amongst others, the rural landless people.

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For more information about the Landless movement click this link: Brazil’s Landless Movement

Our thanks to Tessa Burswood who did such a brilliant job of translating !!

I’ll leave the last word to one of the participants who wrote:

I wanted to thank you both very much first for inviting me to the seminar and then for the seminar itself. Collectivity, solidarity and dialogue… wonderful!

 

Reimagining Further Education Conference – Book now

The conference will bring together practitioners, researchers and key figures in the field of Further Education (FE) and will cover a range of themes from apprenticeships and work-based learning to accountability and governance in FE.
FEInstead of the conventional ‘stand and deliver’ format of many conferences, ‘Reimagining Further Education’ will be organised as group conversations framed and facilitated by a discussant and chair for each of the 6 thematic strands included. By exploring positive, imaginative and creative ways forward that enhance agency, workforce development and the professional ethos of all FE practitioners, this conference aims to put the ‘confer’ back into conference!
Dates:
29 Jun 2016 (9:00am – 4:00pm)
Venue:
Curzon Building , 4 Cardigan Street Birmingham B4 7BD United Kingdom (Map and Directions)
Price:
£50
Download the programme here: a5-reimagining-fe-programme-131074510792152821

If you are interested in attending the conference and/or would like to know more about it, please contact: suzanne.savage@bcu.ac.uk 

OR go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reimagining-further-education-conference-reimaginefe-tickets-21208624567 to book tickets 
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Meet the CSPACE Team – Dr Tony Armstrong

Name: Dr Tony Armstrong

Role at BCU: Director of PGR Studies in Education

Research Interests:

  • Professional Doctorates
  • Research supervision and developing supervisors
  • The austerity of theory in education
  • The PGR student experience
  • Historical research in education

Research you are currently working on: I am currently looking at the whole area of Professional Doctorates with a particular interest in EdD provision. Undertaking a Doctorate as an established working professional, often in mid-life and mid-career, has its own challenges and this is an area of research that is much under appreciated. Perhaps it’s my main contention that, as a consequence, in many ways Professional Doctorates invite a different approach to the process of supervision and the discussion of the impact of the Doctoral experience itself.

Research methodologies you are using: I am currently starting to look outside of what may be regarded as the well-established canon of research methodologies in education and drawing tentatively on ideas and arguments that have emerged within the arts and humanities. For example, more creative and active approaches to interviewing, participatory research and the mapping of alternative impact. In addition, I am also fascinated by the notion of history as practice and the wider public history movement that has grown in recent years. What can we learn from these new methodologies for educational research?

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: What we often define in professional discussions as educational research tends to have rather rigid and conventional boundaries and practices. Arguably, these boundaries and practices need periodically to be challenged in order to reinvigorate the field. The whole educational environment in which we currently work and operate is changing all around us with accepted nostrums in noticeable decline, yet this has still to impact fully on educational research itself.

Most influential research you have read/seen: I tend to use a constellation of ideas in my own teaching and research drawn broadly from the sociologist, philosopher and educationalist Pierre Bourdieu. Undoubtedly, his most influential writing for me over the years is often rather ignored by others: The Rules of Art published in 1996 and inspired by his study of Flaubert,

Advice for new researchers: Make a start and keep going. Dig where you stand and dance where you dig.

Mini fact about you: I attended a lecture by Pierre Bourdieu in Oxford but could hardly understand a word of it as he spoke in French for the whole hour.

24th EAS Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania

Written by Kirsty Devaney, graduate teaching and research assistant, PhD student
@KirstyDevaneyBlack and white headshot

‘Looking for the unexpected – Creativity and Innovation in Music Education’

On March 16th-19th a team of BCU music educators & researchers flew all the way to Lithuania to attend the European Association of Music in Schools (EAS). The title of the conference was ‘Looking for the Unexpected – Creativity and innovation in music education’, a hot topic for us in the UK with the uncertainty of creative subjects within schools due to the impending EBacc and forced acadamisation knocking at the door.

FullSizeRender-17So Prof. Martin Fautley, Dr. Victoria Kinsella, fellow PhD student Samantha Clements, and I packed our warm winter clothes to prepare for snow and produced our presentations about our own research into creativity in music education. Director of learning and participation at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group Nancy Evans also joined us at the conference to present alongside Victoria and Martin on their action research project with ‘Music Maze’.

 

 

How is ‘creativity’ defined in other countries?

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Pamela Burnard talking about ‘diverse musical creativities’, an interesting terminology. In her keynote, Burnard discussed the links between ‘real world practice and industry’ and what is happening within schools and out of school. She also mentioned important aspects of being creative including risk taking, autonomy and enjoyment. Burnard explores musical creativity further in her book ‘Musical Creativities in Practice’ and talks about how some may view musical creativity as:

‘a particular type of practice, perhaps that of the Great Composers, rather than to multiple possibilities’ (p.7, 2012).

There were many incredibly polished vocal performances during the conference covering vast amounts of repertoire, including a lot of traditional Lithuanian folk music. Burnard asked if one of the performances that morning was ‘creative’. Many automatically nodded and said yes. It was a striking piece of musical theatre, they varied how they used the space on the stage and use of props, and the combination between traditional folk music with modern day themes was striking. The students were engaged throughout and the experience was immersive. However, had the students been creative? There is no way of telling just from the performance. Creativity is a process (Wallas, 1926) and we could not know if the students had co-created the piece, made decisions, rejected ideas, improvised, or if they had just followed a strict set of orders from the choreographer or music leader. How did the audience define creativity? What made a ‘creative performance’?

4 stages

Wallas: 4 stages of the creative process  

Whilst attending other presentations I was surprised by the diversity of practice happening in Europe, differences in what they valued in music education and how they defined ‘creativity’ in practice.

Is composing inherently creative?

My own research focuses on composing within schools and I have witnessed many music educators that believe composing is inherently creative because it is ‘creating something new’. However in practice composing can be a very uncreative activity, guided by stylistic rules, criteria driven direction. The assessment can lead to creating pieces of music with a set number of techniques thus creating very ‘unmusical’ works – a kind of ‘composing by numbers’. The three aspects Burnard spoke about in the keynote (risk taking, autonomy and enjoyment) are not always found when students are composing in the classroom or for exams. In other presentations focusing on composing there were interesting approaches to how people approached teaching composing. This made me consider the ‘skills vs creative’ debate:

Should you learn the ‘rules’ first before you can break them?

In one particular presentation the teacher had developed a step-by-step approach to teaching melody writing with young recorder players. The music was rooted in folk tradition but focused on limiting the students’ choice in pitch and using grids to develop a rhythmic pattern. It was also based in western classical notation. The presenter  commented that it was a way for students to learn about specific folk music traditions and techniques as well as improving notation reading. His approach to introducing composing to young students was quite radically different to my own but there were some similarities in that we both were aiming to introduce stages and steps for students. For me, instead of choosing which of the two pitches to use I ask students to decide when there should be sound and when there should be silence, referring back to John Cage’s quote:

‘The material of music is sound and silence integrating these is composing’ (1949)

We would then move onto the next step asking them for either high and low, or loud or quiet sounds. For this teacher it would be the next pitch or rhythm. I would initially see my own approach as more ‘creative’ but on reflection we were both still asking our students to make a decision and go along a process, but it was framed very differently. This leads back to one of the fundamental questions of ‘how DO we teach composing?’ Both of our approaches in rooted in a cultural and musical background, and we are both limiting students decisions initially, however one was focused on melody and the other on timbre and texture.

An aspect of composing that was present in this presentation, and one that I see regularly in the UK, was an obsession around pitch as a starting pointScreen shot 2016-04-22 at 18.13.34for composing. Why is it that deciding on what key a piece of music should be, or what pitch to start with, the most important thing for music? Why not the title, the mood, the structure, the timbral quality of the instruments, the way it looks when performed, the rhythmic quality or the ‘feel’. I am not suggesting every young musician or teacher starts with pitch when composing but it seems more common than other areas of music. This focus on pitch may also impact on what a young person might think composing is about – I remember telling myself at the age of 16:

‘once I know how to do harmony, I will be able to compose’

For a start that phrase doesn’t even make sense, but I felt at that time there were inherent rules that I just needed to learn in order to be a composer. The more rules I learnt, the better I would be. But who dictates these rules – Society? Examination boards? Culture? The teacher? In music and composing there are rules we can learn, but the act of being creative is deciding how and when to use them, when to not use them, and when to change them, do something new and make them our own.

Reflections on my presentation:

On the 3rd day I gave my presentation titled: ‘Loosing Faith in the System: The implications of inconsistent marking, of AS and A level composing, on creativity.’ My talk used the results collected from my KS5 composing survey on teachers’ experiences of marking in A level. Results Screen shot 2016-04-10 at 17.43.34from 71 teachers found that over 90% of them had been surprised by an examination grade and many did not feel confident with predicting grades. The first aspect of my presentation involved delegates looking through the raw data from the survey and talking about what they felt the data told them. I enjoyed this aspect of my talk as it allowed them to ask questions and open up a dialogue with the audience early on in the presentation. It engaged them in the research from the start. I was also keen to see how other researchers in the audience would react to the data; one even commented saying how the research was ‘gold dust’ and examination boards would be very keen to see the full research.

In addition to the qualitative data, my research used the free text answers on the survey and 9 telephone interviews. In this section of the presentation I presented some emerging themes into what impact inconstant making has in the school:

1) Downward Spiral:

Downward spiral

This is when, due to unexpected poor grades, teachers restrict what students can compose so that it is closer to the marking criteria. However as a result of trying to second-guess the exam board requirements the students do not enjoy the experience as much and therefore do less well in the exam.

2) Trail of interpretation:

Interp trail

As mentioned before, there is a danger of trying to second-guess what the exam board of examiner wants to see in the composition. As a result a trail of interpretation of what people think ‘good’ composing looks and sounds like is developed, leaving the student at the end of this line trying to compose what they think others want.

3) Ripple effect:

ripple effect

The final emerging theme is this idea of a ‘ripple effect’ – that inconsistent marking has an impact on the teacher’s confidence, which effects their teaching of composing (potentially limiting creativity), which in turn effects the students’ learning and experience of composing. The wider implications are that students decide not to take music as a subject at this level which endangers music as a subject in the school and therefore threatens jobs. At the end of this it could have a negative impact on the music industry in the UK as a whole.

I enjoyed presenting my early findings at EAS. It has given me confidence to present at future conferences including ISME and BERA, and practice into how to present to a wider audience from across Europe where there are diverse practices in music education.

BCU team presentations overviews:

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The BCU team covered a wide range of topics at the conference. Martin Fautley focused on creativity within lower secondary schools. His results from a survey of over 100 secondary music teachers from Birmingham and London found that assessment was based on matching school expectations of predicted grades. It was also noted that that assessment was reducing creative opportunities in the classroom.

Samantha Clements presented her PhD research methodology involving gaming software as a tool for critical incident charting. This experimental way of collecting data was used in her pilot study with 4 trainee music teachers. She asked them to create ‘fantasy worlds’ which charted each of their ‘critical incidents’ in their life influencing their aptitude for different aspects of music education.

FullSizeRender-15Victoria Kinsella has been working alongside ‘The National Foundations for Youth Music’ on their ‘Exchanging Notes’ projects across England. Victoria reported, from the first year findings, on the importance of multi-agency working for increased creative engagement and intrinsic motivation of young people.

On the final morning Nancy Evans from BCMG, Martin and Victoria presented research from an action research project with BCMG’s composing group ‘music maze’ from 8-11 year olds. The research focused on how the students responded to open-ended composing tasks. Some of the finding included that the children’s starting points were very diverse, and the way they composed and how much adult support and scaffolding was needed, varied.

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We all enjoyed attending the conference as it helped stimulated discussions and debates with each other and with other delegates from outside the UK. Lithuania has a rich musical and cultural background and a country none of us had thought to visit before but would be excited to go back to.