Becky’s research looks at creative writing in Key Stage Four, exploring English teachers’ creative writing pedagogies, including how they shape teaching practice.
Name: Mandy French
Role at BCU: Co-Director CSPACE and Associate Professor in School of Education
- Writing for academic purposes
- Participatory research with children
- Feedback innovation
- Perceptions of academic writing practices
- Employment literacies
- Widening participation and social justice
- Post-qualitative methodologies
- Critical pedagogies
- Postgraduate teaching and learning
Research you are currently working on: I am currently working with a number of local primary schools on a participatory research project called Pupils as Research Partners in Primary (PARPP). This has, amongst other projects involved working with pupils to evaluate an exhibition held in the school, refresh a neglected garden area and redesign their playground.
Research methodologies you are using: I am always interested in using interdisciplinary, participatory and collaborative methodologies and enjoy researching with partners across the university and beyond.
In my PhD, which was about lecturers’ perceptions of academic writing I used a post-qualitative methodology that allowed me to play around with my favourite feminist theorists (see below) and French philosophers like Foucault, Bourdieu, Deleuze and Guattari!
Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: We need to be prepared to experiment and take risks with educational research.
Most influential research you have read/seen: The work of Maggie MacLure, Judith Butler, Elizabeth St. Pierre and Patti Lather has blown my mind one way or another over the last 10 years.
Advice for new researchers: Be open to new ideas, always be prepared to share and discuss ideas with your colleagues and never be afraid to ask questions or change your mind!
Mini fact about you: I love vintage and upcycling.
Written by Becky Snape, Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant, PhD student, @
‘The role of government is to enable great culture and creativity to flourish – and to ensure that everyone can have access to it.’
(Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016: 13).
We are at the advent of a new period in education. The English educational landscape is undergoing significant transformation, and over the next few years we’ll see these changes play out. The release of the Department for Education’s White Paper last week frames how it is proposes to achieve these objectives. The paper, entitled ‘Education Excellence Everywhere’, outlines the government’s plans for the education system, including a five year plan for their education strategy. I’ve been following debates about the White Paper on social media. Invariably, these focus on the shift towards full academisation of schools and the changes in teacher recruitment, particularly regarding the scrapping of QTS.
However, I was most interested to consider how creativity tallied with this. A lot of people were talking about school structures and teacher training but I didn’t notice anybody discussing creativity in the context of the White Paper. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as when I looked at the document it appeared that:
the word creativity appeared in the 125 page paper just two times: one in the context of school leadership, and the other when describing a ‘pioneering’ free school in London.
I also looked for other words which are often seen as being synonymous with creativity, such as innovation, originality and imagination. Originality doesn’t appear at all. Imaginative is used once, where they describe the work of many schools across the country. Here, the DfE outline their aims to build on the work of these schools. They also refer to innovation numerous times, although this is largely in the context of restructuring and shaping schools, and leadership development, rather than in learners’ education. To me, it appears as though innovation is used to strengthen the argument for academisation.
Overall, my concern is that the new White Paper does not sufficiently address creativity in its 125 pages. While I haven’t read the entire paper yet, from what I have seen I get the distinct impression that its purpose is to address raising standards in order to place our country on the global stage. For instance, writing is only addressed in terms of how standards have been raised so far and what needs to be improved. This isn’t entirely surprising as writing is largely the medium for learning and assessment in schools, and is therefore often seen as one of the central pillars of not just literacy attainment but education success more generally. The core skill of writing is one which is seen to be integral to a learner’s development and success, not just in school but also beyond in the ‘real world’. In the White Paper itself, the government highlights:
‘preparation for adult life’
as one of the central pillars of their five year plan for education (2016: 124). Good grammar and spelling are seen as valuable in our society, so a confident grasp of Standard English in writing is vital whether you’re writing a CV to get a job or carry out basic tasks like sending an email once you’re in a job. Thus, it makes sense to consider raising standards and to strive for excellence, and very few people would argue that this doesn’t matter at all.
But what about creativity? Isn’t that important for the workplace too? Of course, the act of pulling bits of information together to create something new is often original, so writing in many forms may be seen as creative. However, my concern is that creativity seems to be presented as something that is a convenient by-product of raising standards rather than something which drives how curricular and specification documents are shaped. This certainly seems to be true in creative writing (as part of English), but also seems to relate to other domains of creativity too. If taken at face value, the marginalisation of creativity in the new White Paper would seem to highlight how sometimes raising standards takes precedence over nurturing learners’ creative development. My questions are:
- If the central focus of the paper is ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’, why is this reform not anchored to creativity?
- Why is educational excellence not explicitly underpinned by creativity?
My initial response to this is that this may be in part due to the perception that creativity is not as easy to measure as other areas of a child’s education. Moreover, in my opinion, it seems that globalisation is a central issue to the government, and feeding into that is raising standards in education to match some of the world leaders. However, something to note here is that many of these world leaders still very much value creativity in their school systems!
My contention is that creativity should be something that is central to educational reform rather than a politicised term that is used to pay lip service to those who see it as integral in teaching and learning. For me, this is why it is so important that many of us in CSPACE are challenging this status quo and providing evidence to support the fight to preserve the value of creativity in schools. The quote I began this blog with is taken from the government’s new Culture White Paper, which was released today (as I write this). This notion of access of creativity is one which resonates with the seminal NACCCE report (1999), where democratic creativity is highlighted as a key component of educational reform. It’s important to remember this and ensure that creativity is not simply used as a political sound-bite, but rather something that the government ensures is embedded in teaching and learning. Many teachers appreciate – and, crucially, apply (within their means) – the true value of this, but I’m not entirely convinced that this government does. I can only hope I’m wrong.
How Does One DigiWriMo?
- There are no secrets to doing DigiWriMo, no right way and no wrong way to do it. Some people may write a novel using their computer and call it a day; while others may write hundreds of Twitter haiku. The key to success is your imagination and your love of experimentation, exploration, and fun. Along the way, check out our regular prompts and guest posts for inspiration.
- Prepare to join the fray! Beginning on November 1 at 00:01 UTC, post your goals for the month on our Roster. This will help you connect with others in the DigiWriMo community and keep on track!
- Join in wherever you like: Because digital writing takes place everywhere on the web, so will our discussions. Plan to join our regular Twitter chats using#digiwrimo, head over to our Facebook page, or participate in the DiGiWriMo Google Community, and visit this site often. All the Digital Writing Month writing prompts and special challenges will be posted here.
- Not all digital writing has to be public. But, if you want to share your work with others, do so by posting it on our Facebook page, on Twitter using #digiwrimo, in the Google Community, or tag your blog posts with “digiwrimo”. That way, you’ll have all the audience you deserve for your grueling hours of digital brilliance. We’ll be curating content created on the web via a Flipboard magazine entitled “Along the Edges of Digital Writing.”
Written by Kirsty Devaney, PhD student, School of Education
Some interesting discussions were initiated today after a session about academic writing, lead by Alex Wade. I am fairly new to the word of research but I feel I am starting to fit into this ‘new world’ or ‘field’. For 5 years I trained as a composer at Birmingham Conservatoire – I wrote more music than I did words! I have had to transition from thinking in term of music, to thinking in words, sentences and paragraphs. I had experience of academic writing during my undergraduate studies but my PhD felt like a completely different way of thinking and viewing the world. How would my years of experience as a composer help me get through my 80,000-word thesis?
Upon doing my PhD for over 1 year, I have discovered that there are a lot more similarities between research and composing than I first thought.
- We all have confidence issues
The feeling of ‘not being good enough’ impacts both academics and creatives at various stages in their career. I wrote an article titled ‘Feeling Like a Fraud’ discussing how our preconceptions can increase the pressures we place upon ourselves and how it can impact our own confidence and productivity: https://thesamplerblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/kirsty-devaney-on-feeling-like-a-fraud/
- We have to receive negative feedback
Whether you are having a piece of music performed in front of an audience, or sending your article off for peer review, it can be hard to receive negative feedback. We are placing ourselves in a vulnerable position and it can be hard to take criticism on something personal to you. Having five years of 1-2-1 tuition in composing has definitely helped me during my PhD supervision sessions. It is about being able to stay positive and learning how to take advice and feedback.
- It is personal
Whether we meant to or not, our research and writing reflects what is happening in our lives and this is the case for composing too. It may not be conscious decisions but what we create does reflect what is important to us at that moment in our lives. Often we only realise this when looking back on older work and reflecting.
- We spend hours on the tiny details
We have to have an obsessive quality to spend hours on what may seem very insignificant to other people but sometimes just changing a word in a paragraph or changing a note in the music can make all the difference.
- How we view the world changes
When you are completely involved in something it starts to affect the way you think and perceive the world. When I started composing full-time I started to observe the world in a different way: I would ask myself ‘can I turn that into a composition?’ and I would keep a diary of all my composing thoughts. Now that I have been doing research my question is: ‘how could I research that?’ My diary now has a combination of research questions and compositional ideas.
6. We need space for individual work but we benefit collaboration
Time alone can help to solidify our own thinking but collaboration can help develop our thoughts and allow a space to discuss ideas with broaden our thinking. Collaboration as a composer can take many forms such as working across disciplines and working closely with your musicians. Collaboration in research can benefit from cross disciplinary work, discussions with peers and working with your research participants in methodologies such as action research.
Going into my second year of research I am starting to realise how my compositional training can enrich my research and aid the writing of my PhD. Research and writing are both creative processes and they involve discipline, communication, dedication and putting yourself in a position open to criticism.