Tag Archives: researchers

Can Twitter aid your research – Reflections from session 1

Written by Kirsty Devaney, PhD student, School of EducationBlack and white headshot

Session 1: Do you know your #hashtag from your retweet? 5th October 2015

We had a lovely bunch of researchers join us for a workshop all about how to get to grips with twitter. They had a variety of reasons for using twitter from wanting to use it at conferences to connect with other delegates, to promoting written and published work, to using it to collect data and promote their research. Some aspects we covered included:

  • Setting up a profile twitter
  • Writing tweets
  • Linking with other online platforms
  • Finding and getting followers
  • Privacy and safety

The main piece of advice I gave the group was to use Twitter as a “conversation”. Don’t just promote your own work but engage in debates, talk to others in your area of research, and retweet (share) other related posts and tweets. Think about your audience – who will be looking at your tweets and what do they want to see? Do they just want to see you promoting your latest publication all the time?

Join us for session 2: Twitter to aid research and building up your profile, 9th November, 2-4pm, Attwood, City North

We will be looking at the nature of Twitter, how to build a strong public profile, the dangers, how to build a network and engage them. We will also touch upon social media strategies and social media managers.

Contact: Kirsty.Devaney@bcu.ac.uk or HELS_Research@bcu.ac.uk for more information and to book a place.

Connect with other CSPACE Twitter peeps!


Interim reflections on a Travelling Fellowship

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

The report from my Travelling Fellowship to NZ is due by December.  On typing up the interview transcripts I found myself reflecting on my overall impressions of the Champion Centre and the people who had worked so hard to welcome me in New Zealand but also on the usefulness of travelling to the other side of the world.  These are my reflections.

First of all sincere thanks to Dr. Susan Foster-Cohen for organising a comprehensive research programme, to all of the staff for welcoming me and accommodating me, to parents and children for allowing me to observe their sessions.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Champion Centre (and Christchurch) and was really well looked after. Also sincere thanks to Jane Thistlethwaite of Positive Path International for showing me some of the amazing special schools in NZ.


The Champion Centre

The evidence and argument for relational pedagogy is robust internationally, especially in early childhood. The relational approach in the Champion Centre Model is the most consistent thread throughout the programme and observable in therapy sessions, in conversations between professionals, between professionals and families, professionals and children and extends to visiting researchers. Outstanding and distinctive features (that are different to previously observed early childhood education/intervention models and worth travelling to the other side of the world to see) include:

  • The range of therapeutic /educational approaches (the inclusion of music and intensive computer time especially) and the delivery of these all under one roof with parents as full and equal participants, sometimes following therapists, sometimes leading therapists alongside their child;
  • The integration of these different approaches to the extent that sometimes they are jointly delivered where this is perceived to be beneficial for the child/family/particular target, This means that there is a consistent approach whereby there is a common culture/language whilst individual specialisms are respected and maintained;
  • The natural conversations during everyday communications and interactions between staff of different disciplines and with families that are beneficial for consistency of delivery and continuation of the programme within the home setting;
  • The respectful and reflective approaches from professionals towards each other, to children, families;
  • The time given in therapy/education sessions for parents to talk and be listened to, this was especially important in the monitoring programme for children born prematurely where the Psychologist intuitively knew to allow silent moments and time for parents to think about what they wanted to say;
  • Dedication and enthusiasm of staff for the programme that goes beyond a desire to work with young children and extends to caring about the long term sustainability of family structures and processes;
  • Feedback from parents in interview has been extremely positive and reflects all of the above comments as well as respect for the highly skilled professionals who have shared their journey/about to share their journey, the baby programme that helps parents start their journey and the transition programme are especially valued by parents.

Overall, an adventure that I enjoyed, and as many people have said before me, an inspirational experience.

Carolyn Blackburn, 2015, WCMT Travelling Fellow

To read more posts by Carolyn please go to: https://drblackburnblog.wordpress.com/

Re-thinking Creativities Cluster

 Victoria Kinsella – Cluster Meeting 7th October 2015

In the last cluster meeting on the 7th October 2015 the group engaged in thoughtful, reflective and critical conversations about building an abstract and the succinct information needed to explain research to our audience. The main questions explored during this meeting were:

•            What is the problem you are researching?

•            The particular focus of the research?

•            The place in the literature?

•            The methodological approach?

•            The results?

•            The implications and contribution?

Following this, we had Geof Hill, Reader in Education,  introducing the group the concept of an ‘exhibition’ as a way to explore and discuss research. In his presentation Geof described how presenting in exhibition mode is devised around a choice of four images/artefacts that are used as the basis for the presentation. In light of this, we plan our next cluster meeting to be in exhibition mode exploring the question ‘How do you position yourself as a researcher?’

If you are interested in joining us for this meeting please contact Hannah.Shaw@bcu.ac.uk.

Why is investigating research supervision practice important?

This blog written by Reader in Education Geoff Hill is all about supervision. You might find it an interesting insight and full of useful resources (not just for supervisors):

Research supervision practice has for some time emphasised the value of reflective practice. It is a practice filled with rich traditions but as one that is also seen as a private or hidden practice (Manatunga, 2005).

Read the whole blog here: https://supervisorsfriend.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/597/

Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 14.17.38 geof hill

Doubts, Growth and Fog – Mid-Point PhD Reflections

Written by Kirsty Devaney, PhD student, School of Education
@KirstyDevaneyBlack and white headshot

Doubts, Growth and Fog – Mid-Point PhD Reflections

I am 18 months into my PhD and halfway through the 3 years I have been given to complete it by the University. My PhD is researching the teaching, learning and assessment of composing at examination level in UK secondary music classrooms. So far I have conducted a UK survey, interviews with 5 music teachers, focus groups interviews with GCSE and A Level students, and lesson observations. A lot of data!

Reflections on my Methodology:
Before starting my PhD I was working as a freelance music practitioner in schools and teachers regularly told me their stories of teaching composing at examination level. When I started my research wanted to collect these stories from the teachers so decided to interview music teachers. The interviews were semi-structured and they felt relatively informal and comfortable. Teachers talked about a variety of topics and issues related to composing. However upon doing my observations I noticed some aspects were not quite as they said in their interviews when in the classroom. This highlighted the importance of triangulation but also made me consider in more detail why they gave the answers they did to the interview questions. Did they want to appear a certain way, were they under pressure to say certain aspects, did they know that what they were saying was not reflected in the classroom in practice?

I also wanted to capture the ‘student voice’ to get a different perspective and for triangulation of my data. I conducted a number of focus group interviews, however the interviews felt artificial and although students answered the questions I wasn’t always sure I was getting the ‘full picture’ of the complex issues involved.

In both instances I felt the style of data collection felt a little ‘false’.

Was I placing my own perceptions or opinions onto the participants just through the questions I was asking?

Were the teachers and students trying to answer the questions in a way they thought they should answer? Before I started my PhD I would commonly have conversations with the students and teachers I was working with about the topics. These conversations had no other agenda, and had fewer issues around power and confidentiality. As a result of asking questions it may have also felt that both teachers and students felt they had to give a ‘correct’ answer to the questions. During the interviews I felt we touched the surface of the issues but didn’t go any deeper.

When I first my PhD started I selected quite a traditional methodology (interviews) because I felt it was more ‘formally’, more like a ‘PhD’ and in some way it had to look like ‘research’. It had to be more ‘serious’. Reflecting on my first round of data collection I have found that this has got in the way of my true passions, and the reason I got into the PhD in the first place – through creating music and working with young people. I am now considering more alternative methods of collecting data for the future, possibly more practice-based enquiry, and through musical activities. I want to be able to combine my composing and teaching passions with my research.

Reflections on the research process:
One aspect I have found from my PhD so far is that nothing is simple or straightforward. I wonder if organising questions in a more formal interview tried to simplify some issues into separate categories, where in fact they interlink and a complex way that I can’t quite yet see.

I continue to work as a professional composer and have written about how composing and writing are interlinked, but I also think that there are links between conducting research and composing. I often describe how at the start of composing there is the ‘blank page’, but after some discoveries ideas and music becomes clearer but it is still very blurry – the overall structure of the music is there but there is not detail. Over time working with the musical material everything comes into focus and the whole piece is clear. Some aspect may change along the way but there is clarity and it makes sense. The composer Benjamin Britten is reported to feel a similar way about composing. I feel I am at the stage in my research where I can make out the issues and themes but they are blurry. I know they all link but I can’t see how, I can’t see the full picture but I know it will become clear the more I explore and play with the material I have.

I will leave you with these pictures I took at the top on Snowdonia which reflect my feeling.


Whilst at the top there was so much cloud you could barely see a few feet in front of you


The clouds started to clearer and you could see the top of the mountain but the clouds still covered the ground below. It covered all the complexity underneath the main issues.

clear half

Then during the last few minutes at the top the clouds cleared for a few seconds and you could see the base of the mountain in complete detail.

clear 1 Clear 2

I am still working towards this last clarity – will it ever come?

With thanks to Geof Hill, Alex Kendall and Mandy French for our conversations and to my 2 supervisors for your guidance so far.



Reflections on Vietnam Theatre Nurses Association Conference

By Kevin Crimmons and Karen Evans

kevin crimmons profileIn June Kevin Crimmons and Karen Evans travelled to Vietnam to speak at the Vietnam Theatre Nurses Association Conference, at Hue. The theme of their key note lectures was quality, safety and efficiency and how to balance this with care and compassion for the benefit of patients. The conference was attended by 300 perioperative nurses and consultant and junior surgeons from around the country. This is the Associations only national conference, and gives perioperative nurses an opportunity to share best practice, research and discuss potential service development with their colleagues and surgical leads. The visit included visits to Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi and Quang Ninh Provincial Hospital in Halong Bay, where Karen and Kevin were able to observe at first hand and discuss with the nurses and doctors the challenges of clinical care delivery in the Vietnamese acute care setting.

The hospitals contrasted greatly from the inner city, Viet Duc with 500 inpatient beds, and 18 operating theatres. It is one of the leading centres for trauma in the country, particularly head trauma, and specialises in ‘septic’ surgery e.g. patients with TB and other chronic infectious diseases. Whilst 500 beds are not notable in comparison to large UK hospitals, it should be noted that length of stay is significantly shorter, so patient turnover is higher. Although not apparent at Viet Duc, bed-sharing is common in many hospitals, with a recent measles outbreak causing reports of 3-4 children in a bed. This is partly to do with the complex and expensive healthcare funding system within regions, and the chronic lack of hospital beds, approximately 20 beds per 10,000 residents, however hospitals are concentrated in the main cities, and travelling 100’s of kilometres and selling worldly goods to fund treatment is not uncommon.




Whilst in Hue, we were lucky enough to be serenaded on an evening boat trip along the Perfume River during a local River Festival

Quang Ninh, by contrast is a larger DGH delivering care in a beautiful tourist setting; Halong Bay where the population doubles during the holiday season. It is built around an old colonial hospital and is in a beautiful position overlooking the Bay. As well as providing acute care, what was apparent was the primary care function that this hospital fulfilled for its local population. The lasting memory was of visiting the Emergency Department, which was confined and small by western standards for the size of the hospital/population, in contrast with the co-located triage and pharmacy areas which had at least 15 bays each. There is no funded community healthcare system in Vietnam and increased outpatient numbers were notable, and those attending appeared more unwell (and patient) than those we would traditionally see in the local GP surgery; perhaps having delayed travel or treatment due to socio-economic impact.

Most notable throughout despite the different catchments and population demographics was theconstant presence and involvement of families in hands-on patient care, even in Intensive Care where relatives provide all non-technical care.

In both hospitals relatives outnumbered Viet Duc the family room, which sadly we did not photograph, was 600 bunk beds in very cramped and spartan surroundings; for which relatives were charged 1 Vietnamese Dong per night. The relatives stay in this accommodation for the duration of the patients stay, if they cannot afford to rent a fold-out bed to sleep beside their relative, which in some cases can be weeks. Although cheap to us, in households with average income under VND 3,120,000 per year (equivalent UK £ 90) are regarded as poor households.


Nursing Management “Suite” Viet Duc- 1000 nurses are co-ordinated from this office by 4 Nurse Managers, who also arrange and deliver all training and development.

Vietnam has not had the luxury of developing innovation alongside development of its health infrastructure and workforce, unlike those of us in Europe and it was fascinating to observe the advanced surgeries and interventions which are provided in both hospitals without what we may feel are necessary supportive frameworks e.g. physiotherapists. Viet Duc for example performs over 800 open heart surgeries annually. After discussing this with both medics and senior nurses, the challenge is developing a workforce with the expertise to support patients throughout their journey; however, the commitment to this is high and both the medical and nursing workforce actively are seeking to improve care delivery for the benefit of their patients. It was both a stimulating and rewarding experience, the passion and enthusiasm shown by the Vietnamese nurses for learning with and from us, and about our practice was exciting and humbling.



 A VERY early boat trip around Halong Bay (this is about 6 am) with staff from Viet Duc and Quang Ninh plus our very own Joy Notter 



View from Quang Ninh Provincial Hospital

The emphasis on Music Education for All

Written by Ian Axtell, Subject Leader for Music Education, Secondary Partnership Coordinator.Axtell_Ian_main @IanAxtell

The emphasis on Music Education for All is crucial.  Music is powerful, unique and a fundamental right for everyone.

The provision of music education for everyone throughout their compulsory education, promoting “participation, inclusion and diversity” through “democratic engagement and social justice” (Spruce in Harrison & Mullen, 2013: 23), is a shared passion but the politicised discourse surrounding music education has created confusion and uncertainty.  The result is a model of “Progression in Music Education” shared in the NPME (DfE/DCMS, 2011: 18) which is more about achieving excellence for some in the context of instrumental skills rather than providing a rich and inclusive music education for all.

music perc

English education had a very strong vision of music/arts for all developed by The Arts in Schools Project in the 1980’s.  This vision was reflected in the “2000-2010 renaissance in music education” (Spruce in Harrison & Mullen, 2013: 26).  This renaissance focused on the child as an agent in their own musical learning, not devoid of knowledge but active and engaged in music making in terms of performing, composing, listening and evaluating/appraising.

There needs to be a clear articulation of music for all IN ADDITION TO progression routes for those who are particularly talented.  There also needs to be a recognition that “excellence” can be achieved in a rich variety of ways, not just through traditional instrumental routes.   The model shared by Ben Sandbrook (2012: 4) provides an appropriate vision of excellence that includes:

“an array of musical progression journeys”.

However, can everyone achieve the same level of excellence, even if their routes and end points are different?  A utopian glass ceiling perhaps?  I would argue for an open ended vision of music for all.  Not predetermined and limited by closed notions of what “should be” but which provides the potential for what “might be”.


Current politicised education discourse focuses on the acquisition of knowledge.  The argument is to enable social mobility but at what price?  There is a real danger that thinking is closed.  The teacher simply has to transmit a hegemony of predetermined, formalised knowledge.  Learner agency and engagement are neglected or even ignored.  In music education this has resulted in an emphasis on the acquisition of instrumental skills and the formalised theoretical knowledge associated with reading music.  This knowledge is important, particularly when developing excellence in particular areas of music, but a focus on acquiring this knowledge does not recognise that music is also an open, living art form with the potential to build on what has gone before, look forwards and challenge our perceptions.

Music education makes us think.  It has the potential to be transformative.

I would like to see the music education sector value its rich diversity and reclaim the lost ground in terms of music education for all in the context of compulsory education.  Funding to support instrumental teaching is crucial but not the beginning or the end of an inclusive and diverse music education for everyone.


DfE/DCMS, (2011), the Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music Education. London: Crown Copyright.

Harrison, C. & Mullen, P. (2013) (eds.) Reaching Out: music education with ‘hard to reach’ children and young people. Salisbury: Music Mark/Addison Design Ltd.

Sandbrook, B. (2012): http://www.bensandbrook.com/sites/default/files/A%20skeleton%20strategy%20for%20progression%20v4.pdf Accessed: 18/08/2015.


Supporting Effective HE Transitions

This one-day symposium at Birmingham City University brings together findings from three QAA funded projects and the longitudinal Leverhulme ‘Paired Peers’ project to explore the factors that make the transition experiences of non-traditional HE entrants successful. The event is relevant to practitioners across the disciplines who are either preparing students for HE or supporting students in the early stages of HE progression. The day will provide practical opportunities to review and evaluate your current practice (individual, departmental, institutional) and to design take away actions for development.

Keynote: The Paired-Peers Project – Richard Waller University of Western England

Click here: QAA Transitions Event Birmingham to download the full information.

Tuesday 1st December
Birmingham City University
Curzon Building C502/503

To reserve your place please contact Wendy.Ross@bcu.ac.uk


Relationship-based early intervention services: lessons from New Zealand

Written by Dr Carolyn Blackburn, Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies, Centre carfor Research in Education.

Early Intervention (EI) has the potential to improve children’s long term outcomes socially, emotionally and educationally as noted by recent English policy reports. However, there is a paucity of specialist EI services and educator training for children with complex disabilities, such as those with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or children born extremely prematurely (Carpenter et al., 2011).

The Champion Centre (picture above) provides relationship-based EI services to infants and young children with complex disabilities. Parents and children visit the Centre each week and have one-on-one individualised sessions with each of the members of a multi-disciplinary team. Children who attend the Champion Centre in their early years are more likely to subsequently attend mainstream primary education than children who have not received comparable EI services.

The project ord
The aim of this project is to capture effective and best practice by talking to practitioners and parents at the Champion Centre and observing children’s therapeutic sessions. An additional aim is to build international relationships within an interdisciplinary context that could be mutually beneficial for all stakeholders concerned with children with complex disabilities in the UK.

During her visit Carolyn will also work with Positive Path International to identify further educational settings that support children with complex disabilities to enrich her data and deliver CPD to educators in New Zealand.

The project is the outcome of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust 2015 Fellowships that will provide the funds for Carolyn to visit New Zealand for one month with the aim of “travelling to learn and returning to inspire.”

Follow the project on Carolyn’s blog


My HE ‘Double Life’

Written by Ian McDonald, Research Officer, Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE) and ‘dabbling’ educational researcher

ianI’m not sure if such thing as a ‘normal’ researcher exists, but if such a thing does exist I’m certainly not one – I don’t have an ‘academic’ contract and am employed in research support in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE). I tend to describe myself as a ‘hobby’ researcher, a ‘twilight’ researcher or an ‘accidental’ researcher.

Firstly I should explain how I got into dabbling in academia. Whilst I was the Undergraduate Course Administrator in the (then) School of Property, Construction and Planning, a colleague who led a module about ‘society’ on the MSc Construction Project Management course, asked me, as a Social Policy graduate, to give a lecture to his students on political ideology. I survived (!) and enrolled on the Postgraduate Certificate – Learning and Teaching course which I passed. I then moved to my current job as Research Officer in CEBE and continued to study the remainder of the M.Ed. A combination of these factors resulted in the research ‘bug’ biting, but initially I wasn’t sure how to take the interest further and develop it. I saw an advert for a new pedagogical journal, based at a little known university in North Carolina which asked for papers and book reviewers. I contacted the editor and ended up writing a review of Stefan Collini’s ‘What are Universities for?’ for them. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write an M.Ed assignment in the style of a journal paper which, after some kind guidance from the editor and one of my colleagues, was published in an higher educational research journal. Following on from this, I’ve been fortunate enough to recently have a second journal paper published, be involved in some conference papers and a current project with two academics in CEBE, which is examining the state of the Faculty’s ‘research culture’. However, my most prolific form of writing is in the form of book reviews which I churn out quite a number of, for higher education journals, but more often for church history/theology journals – another academic interest of mine.

So, what would be my advice to support staff who are interested in experimenting with research?

  1. Book Reviews. These are a great place to start and to experiment. Many journals are crying out for book reviewers, especially young keen ones who can complete reviews on time. As well as getting published you’ll also get free books, which is a bonus too.
  2. Don’t say “I’m just an administrator”. We have as much to say about education as academics and it can be just as useful – some would say more so at time! In an era of greater professionalism in higher education administration, we are often as educated and intellectually capable as those in learning/teaching and research roles, so please don’t feel inferior. There are journals (such as Perspectives –Policy and Practice in Higher Education) which are specifically aimed at administrators/managers and want papers based on their practice and research.
  3. Find helpful and supportive academic colleagues. I’ve been fortunate enough to be actively encouraged by ‘sympathetic’ academics. There are lots out there who will be more than happy to encourage you.
  4. Remember what you’re paid to do. A slightly cautionary word – I believe it’s important to remember what you are actually employed to do and not to take advantage of people’s support and encouragement.