Tag Archives: creative writing

Conference Report: BERA 2017

Becky Snape, a PhD student and Assistant Lecturer working with CSPACE, reflects on her recent experience of the 2017 BERA Conference.

I’m Becky Snape and I work in CSPACE as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD researcher. I’m just about to go into my third year of my PhD programme. On 4th September 2017, I travelled down to Brighton for the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference. BERA is one of the largest conferences in the educational research world – I was one of 996 attendees – so I was keen to attend and disseminate my research at this event. In this blog, I will share some of my experiences of the conference.

About BERA

Unlike more specialist conferences, BERA hosts a broad range of topics about education. It has 33 Special Interest Groups (SIGs):

When you submit an abstract to the conference committee, you can choose to affiliate your research with a particular SIG. I aligned my work with the ‘Creativities in Education’ cluster. However, two new SIGs caught my attention at the conference – ‘English in Education’ and ‘Language and Literacy’. My research looks at teachers’ perspectives of creative writing in GCSE English Language. Within that subject area, my research encompasses pedagogy, policy and philosophy (teachers’ conceptualisations of CW). Therefore, like me, you may find that your research aligns with different SIGs.

In order to present your research at BERA, you need to submit a 750 word abstract to the conference committee. The deadline is very early, so watch out for it (31st January). The abstract is then marked using a points system by experts in your selected SIG. The abstract is marked on its clarity, contribution, quality, and relevance. For an Early Career Researcher, this was a useful and gentle introduction to peer review.

My presentation

My presentation was scheduled at 1:40pm on 5th September. I arrived at the room early so that I could get set up.

Becky 1Before my presentation started, I took the opportunity to speak to the other presenters and delegates who had arrived early. The delegates were from a range of backgrounds, including teachers from Singapore and someone who worked in a research company. There was also a representative from one of the GCSE exam boards in the audience too, which was quite surreal!

Becky 2My presentation ran fairly smoothly. Rather than focusing on one aspect of the research, I presented a whistle-stop tour of my project. Some people like to take one part of their work and look at it in-depth but I decided to present an overview of the context, literature review, methodology, and emerging findings. I felt that this was the best format as BERA is an international conference, so some of the delegates would not have an in-depth understanding of the English school curriculum.

 

Following my twenty-minute presentation, delegates were keen to know more about my perspectives on creative writing: how do I define creative writing? Do I have any recommendations for teaching creative writing? It was really nice to hear those sorts of questions, and to be able to share the insights I have gleaned from my research.

Looking ahead

I returned from BERA enthused, having presented successfully and encountered some of the most prominent names in my field, including Professors Teresa Cremin and Dominic Wyse. On the final day, we were also treated to a fascinating keynote lecture from Gert Biesta.

Becky 3

I hope to attend BERA again next year (11th-13th September 2018, Northumbria University), when my PhD is at a more advanced stage. I would definitely encourage my BCU colleagues to attend BERA. It’s a great opportunity to present your research to a wider audience, and find out about cutting edge research in the field. You can find out more details about next year’s conference here: https://www.bera.ac.uk/event/bera-conference-2018.

 

Meet the CSPACE Team – Becky Snape

Name: Rebecca (Becky) Snapebecky snape

Role at BCU: PhD student and Assistant Lecturer.

Research Interests:

  • Creativity and Creative Writing in schools
  • Widening Participation in Higher Education
  • Special Educational Needs and Inclusion

Research you are currently working on: My PhD explores teachers’ perceptions of teaching and assessing Creative Writing at Key Stage Four.

Research methodologies you are using: I’m hoping to collect qualitative data to build on a quantitative study that has been conducted in my area recently. I’m looking to use semi-structured interviews, lesson observations and discourse analysis for my study.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: I have too many thoughts to mention here! But I think it’s incredible the impact some research can have on education. Teachers and pupils alike have so many fascinating stories and ideas to share and I think it’s really important to have their voices heard in research.

rb4817_Education-PrimaryQTS

Most influential research you have read/seen: I particularly like to follow research that has been conducted for The National Literacy Trust. Even though these tend to be quantitative surveys (I see myself as more of a qualitative enthusiast), I find these reports to be incredibly insightful and useful for my research. I also enjoy the work of Ken Robinson, Debra Myhill, Graeme Harper, Teresa Cremin, and Anna Craft. When I was doing my Masters dissertation I was really interested in the sociological side of education, so I was looking at the likes of Stephen Ball and Diane Reay.

Advice for new researchers: Set mini goals for yourself that you can work towards. What works best for me is to break everything down into more manageable chunks rather than getting too overwhelmed by thinking of everything I have to do for the PhD. I’d also recommend taking advantage of any opportunities and advice available when you first start your research project. There are lots of enthusiastic and forthcoming academics at BCU who you can reach out to for their thoughts about your area. There are also lots of extra research seminars and workshops put on, such as those delivered by the Centre for Academic Success, and I’ve found these to be really useful for developing my understanding of research.

Mini fact about you: Before I came to BCU I was involved with all sorts of things at my previous uni, from student support to classroom delivery. I was most involved with Widening Participation work, though, and am hoping I can get involved with WP here too at some point. I’m ‘first-generation’ myself, having been targeted and supported by an AimHigher programme when I was in Sixth Form, so I feel that it’s important to show those from non-traditional backgrounds that they can access HE. I’m particularly interested to see how creative approaches to WP can help to improve access. One exciting project I’ve been involved with is the ‘White Water Writers’ project, which works with many groups of learners who are from backgrounds of low participation in HE. I’m always fascinated to see how Widening Participation and Creative Writing can be brought together in innovative ways to raise confidence and ambition

Reflecting on the first two months

Written by Rebecca Snape, Graducate Teaching and Research Assistant, Birmingham City University.

becky snapeHi, I’m Becky, and I’m new (ish) to BCU! It’s been two months since I started my PhD, so I thought that writing a blog would be a good idea to reflect on my experiences so far. I should probably start by introducing myself. I’m 22 and am originally from Staffordshire. I previously studied at Keele University, where I completed my undergraduate in English and Education Studies, and also studied for a Masters in Education Research. I handed in my Masters dissertation at the start of September and, two weeks later, moved to Birmingham to start the PhD ‘journey’.

I’m currently in the process of formulating my research questions but, broadly speaking, I’m hoping to look at teachers’ perceptions and experiences of creative writing pedagogy at Key Stage Four. I’ve delivered various Creative Writing workshops in schools for the past few years alongside my studies, and Creative Writing also formed a substantial part of my degree, but I now want to examine some of the issues I have encountered through an ‘academic’ lens. In the initial stages of formulating a research proposal for my PhD, I outlined that I wanted to look at the Creative Writing A-Level, but I ended up moving away from that, which is good because a decision has (unfortunately) since been made to withdraw it. So, at a time when creative writing is still struggling for the recognition I feel it deserves at policy level, I’m keen to hear teachers’ thoughts about its place within GCSE English and even other subjects.

My first two months at BCU have been very enjoyable, and I’ve found my supervisors and everybody in the department to be incredibly supportive and welcoming. So far, I’ve mostly spent my time reading and writing about my area to develop my knowledge. My Masters research examined Higher Education policy and Widening Participation, whereas my PhD topic is really rather different, so I’m still adjusting to the new area at the minute. Having said that, I’m slowly but surely getting to the point now where I’m considering my potential methodological and theoretical approaches to the research. It’s exciting to see my thoughts developing!

Other than the research, I’ve spent my time working towards the PGCert in Research Practice, which PhD students undertake when they start their course. I’ve also attended research cafes, conferences and clusters to get to know the faculty a little better and hear about other research going on. There’s so much going on in the faculty to get involved with, which provides a lot of opportunities for development. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can contribute to the department as my PhD progresses. Here’s to the next three years!