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.
Martin Fautley (Birmingham City University), Pam Burnard and John Finney (Cambridge University), Pauline Adams (Institute of Education), Jonathan Savage (Manchester Metropolitan University).
- How can composers and teachers be supported to work most effectively together?
- How do professional composers make judgements about the quality of compositions and what are the indicators of progression? What correlation is there between these criteria and those of exam boards?
- What does creative progression look like – for example the difference between a Year 7 and a Year 9 composition – and how can we ensure progression within the secondary curriculum, particularly given the genre-based approach?
- What are the challenges around assessing creativity and how can students be supported to take risks, fail and experiment in a system where assessment is central?
To read more go to: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/stories/listen-imagine-compose
To read full REF report download the pdf: Birmingham City University – 25 – Creativity in Education
PhD student Shannon Ludgate of the School of Education talks about her research on children’s use of touchscreen technology. Shannon describes her research and what she hopes to achieve during the course of her PhD.
Name: Victoria Birmingham
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.
Name: Ian James Axtell
Role at BCU: Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for Music Education
What is the Field of Music Education?
Is the Universe of Discourse in Music Education under threat?
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.
Ian Axtell reflects on the music curriculum and asks: ‘is time for music education in England going to disappear in schools?’
“Classroom music can instill the same sense of motivation and challenge if musical events are a regular part of the curriculum…Where music making is shared there is an opportunity to be positive, to recognise and value individual contributions and to promote meaningful thinking and learning. However, relying on the musical events themselves is not enough. Composing or performing do not just happen. They quickly lose their value if pupils are not provided with the time and space to prepare. Regular recordings can provide a safety net and promote the opportunity reflect, adapt and improve music making prior to an event but time is needed for this to happen.”
“Personal experience suggests that the opportunity for children to experience the buzz of sharing a musical event or magical moment, particularly after their careful planning and preparation, is disappearing because music does not fit into the EBACC or STEM agendas…the emphasis from government is on a narrow perception of academic knowledge that prioritises certain subject domains at the expense of others.”
Music is an academic subject but it is not just theoria, it is also techne and poiesis. Music education goes beyond the academic because it brings together a variety of ways of thinking and doing. It is cognitive but also psycho-motor and affective (Pierce & Gray, 2013).
“If schools are being measured through their engagement with the EBACC then will the time for all pupils to engage with active music making be reduced or even stopped entirely? This appears to be already happening, particularly in the context of Key Stage 4. If there is no Key Stage 4 music then what will happen to music at Key Stage 3 or Key Stage 2?”
Read the full article here: https://ianaxtell.wordpress.com/
On the 6th February the creativity cluster attended the Big Bang Data exhibition in London. You can read more about the exhibit from Becky Snape and Geof Hill in their blog posts. In the creativity cluster meeting this March we were asked to prepare questions which reflected the themes that we felt were highlighted through the exhibition.
Consent and privacy:
George Turvey felt the exhibit raised questions around personal data collection asking about what is happening with the data we create and who owns the data at the end of the day:
- Where are we going with our endless production of data – in colossal and ever-growing quantities?
Apple’s cloud data centres
- How is data being used? – including data that relates to us and is sometimes personal data
- Is the data we produce still ours? – e.g. texts over mobile networks, social media posts crossing the internet and causing interactions in huge, distant data centres, photos stored on our own harddrives, online or in cloud storage
- Does our technology and use of data enhance life or make us ‘better people’?
PhD student Becky Snape asked similar questions around consent:
- To what extent have our private lives become public, and what implications does this have for society and the individuals who negotiate it?
- Do we have to accept that we give up some of our rights to privacy when we use the Internet?
Many in the cluster brought up the work ‘The Others’, from the exhibit, by artists Eva and Franco Mattes:
‘The Others is a slideshow of 10,000 photographs stolen from hacked computers, sound-tracked by songs taken from the same hard-drives. The series provokes ideas about our concept of public and private space, and how it is becoming more and more blurred.’
This work had a significant impact on the group as it raised concerns about the consent of the participants in this piece of art.Alex Wade made an interesting comment that we are ‘selling our lives for convenience‘. Personally, the exhibit made me feel that on the surface social media has its benefits but it can also have a much darker side. It feels like a time-bomb and at some point it could be turned against us if needed.
Redefining the Rules:
Questions around ‘power’ and ‘rules’ in research we raised. Who determines if research is done ethically? Who defines ‘good’ data collection. Becky Snape discussed data collection through social media and the idea of consent from participants. Victoria Kinsella wondered if we, as researchers, can learn from the artists in the in the exhibit – can we can start challenging the norms and ‘rules’ of research – redefining what research and data mean:
- What is the relationship between the knower and the unknown?
- Disrupting ways of seeing
- Foucault – notions of power and the gaze
The exhibit made the group consider how we can communicate data and meaning besides just using the written word. We discussed why we perhaps choose writing as the dominant form of communication and how we may challenge this norm. I thought about two examples of how I use images and music to communicate meaning:
1) The first image is of my Primary PGCSE class – I get the students to draw their route into the uni – we then use their graphic journeys to create music.
2) The second set of images below are pictures of music classrooms for my PhD research. I have been amazed about how one image can stimulate a number of discussions and topics raised in my PhD and how the images link to the interviews and observations. These images are a vital part of the research.
All of these extensive topics have important relevance to the research taking place in CSPACE. The exhibit has made us challenge our own perceptions of data, dissemination, communication, privacy, power, consent and ethics.
The pupil premium policy provides an example of tensions that are at the heart of English education policy at the moment. To start with there are the market structures of competition between different schools. With this marketisation comes a centralised model of governance through data (see for example, Ozga 20
09). Schools are required to produce data so that their “performance” in relation to other schools can be compared. As we know, the consequences of this emphasis on performance data include a narrowing of the curriculum consequent on teaching to the test and the gaming of data. The problem with marketisation is that we may expect schools to be run public-mindedly, in the spirit of meeting all students’ needs, with a public service ethic, but the landscape in which they operate forces them to focus their efforts on being a viable financial institution with a staff drilled in the production of favourable performance data.
The academisation of all schools by 2020 is a further consolidation of the same policy of marketisation. The principle underlying this is that competition “is the rising tide that lifts all boats” (Willetts) – in other words the unfounded notion that competition is a like a force of nature that raises standards in every institution. In my view, this is a wildly one-sided view of the impact of marketisation. But it is important to note that academisation facilitates a more direct funding relationship between schools and central government.
Within this marketised policyscape, the pupil premium policy is a redistributive policy that acknowledges the link between household income and educational attainment (see Lupton and Thomson 2015, here). In other words, the pupil premium policy is designed to address social justice in education. Pupil Premium is an amount of money (around £1000 per student p.a. in secondary) that is paid to schools based on census data they gather about the household income of individual students’ families. The implication is clear: schools with additional financial resources are in a better position to meet the needs of those students and in so doing to address the inequality in attainment that currently seems to exist.
Now here’s the tension:
What happens when a policy that seeks to tackle social injustice is nested within an overall cultural environment of institutional self-interest?
In the last few weeks, we may have been provided with some answers in the Perry Beeches saga.
Perry Beeches was a shining example of the success of Free School and academisation policies. The principle underlying these policies are that academy chains provide a better template for raising student attainment and that local authority governance of schools needs to end. The performance of Perry Beeches 1 and 2 appeared to provide evidence for this claim. It was only with the poor inspection result of Perry Beeches 3 last summer that the success story started to unravel. This was followed in October 2015, by allegations to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) that Perry Beeches the Academy (Perry Beeches 1) “had recorded pupils on the annual census entitled to receive FSM where no entitlement existed” (EFA 2016, 3). This resulted in an investigation and a report.
I think the report speaks for itself. But I think it should also be read in conjunction with the Ofsted report for Perry Beeches 2 that took place in April 2014. In this report the school was deemed outstanding for leadership and management. Pupil premium was mentioned specifically:
“Over half the students are eligible for the pupil premium, which is well above average. This is additional funding for students known to be eligible for free school meals, those in local authority care and any with a parent in the armed services.”
Furthermore, governance was praised in this area:
Governors ensure pupil premium funding is used effectively to provide additional teaching and support staff, for intervention and enrichment support for the students for whom the funding is received.
Since then, the Chief Executive of the Perry Beeches Academy has resigned from his post but intends to continue as a head teacher. The academy chain is to be taken over by another academy chain. The failings of OFSTED to do anything other than affirm the school as a shining example and early adopter of the government’s academisation policy needs to receive greater attention.
As for Pupil Premium, the episode provides yet another example of the worrying effects of the colonisation of educational cultures by a market mentality that is championed by the current government. While bowing to the forces of colonisation may secure funds for schools in the short term, this can lead to a distortion of the truth of the kind we are familiar with in commercial culture.
That can not provide a sound foundation on which to construct a world class education system.
Name: Rebecca (Becky) Snape
Role at BCU: PhD student and Assistant Lecturer.
- 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.
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
Written by By Sam Clements, Birmingham City University HELS PhD Student and Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University. (also read My experiments with Adapted Repertory Grid (ARG) Technique for more info)
This academic year (my first year as a ‘proper’ PhD student!) I have been carrying out my main data collection (using the ‘evolved method’ developed through the control group pilot study) with a group of nested case study participants. Adopting a nested approach to my selection of six case study participants by selecting individual participants who are at different stages in their training and experience will provide the opportunity for a more comprehensive analysis of the data than if they were all at the same stage.
The virtual worlds activity using CC3 gaming software and associated adapted repertory grids are now completed for all participants and my electronic ‘perception survey’ for the wider teaching community is underway. The purpose of this survey is to infer from my nested case study participants to a larger population. Hammersley (1992) argues that such comparisons with a larger population may allow us to establish some of the representativeness of our single cases. In addition, non-participatory observations of classroom music teaching will be carried out with the nested case study participants. The focus of each observed lesson will be Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP) agreed in advance by the participant and myself, the observer. Observation notes will only describe evidence of teaching and children’s learning in relation to the identified MTP. All findings and constructive feedback will be verbally shared with the participant at the time, and subsequently discussed in the form of ongoing blog via a participant Wiki. Observation notes will be coded and analysed using grounded theory.
The schedule for observations will be event driven as I will be bound by the school timetable and the frequency of opportunities to teach music will vary by participant. In addition I am expecting my first baby at the start of May so we shall see how I manage my research schedule with or (hopefully) without too much interruption!
Addressing my Final Research Aim
The final part of my research will utilise the idea of teaching through learning, which means that the lens will be on the participant as a learner as opposed to the university or CPD tutor as a teacher of the learner. This variation on the ‘usual’ lens falls within Folkestad’s summary (1998) of a general relocation of focus from teaching to learning. The focus on the learner necessitates a revision of teaching methods, from ‘How to Teach’ (with the ‘results’ of teaching witnessed from the teacher’s point of view), to ‘How to Learn’, and ‘What to Learn’, so for example in this study how different Music Teaching Phenomena (MTP) are perceived, experienced and expressed in activities by the learner (nested case study participant).
Participants’ planned individualised learning will be informed by the grounded theory, co constructed by the researcher and participant, and will be supported by the participant Wiki.