Power to the People; Can Teacher Coaching be viewed as a form of Transformational Leadership?

There is something both alluring and disquieting about theories which can be summed up as a catchy combination of letters and numbers. They create a hook, something which we can engage with, may recall more readily and perhaps therefore start to exploit in our busy professional lives.  Teachers may be familiar with the ‘4 “R”s’ of Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power; Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reciprocity, Reflection, or perhaps with the ‘4 “C”s’ underpinning the pedagogic approach of SAPERE’s Philosophy for Children; Caring, Collaborative, Critical, Creative.  For some these are a powerful shorthand, for others they are overwrought clichés.  Recently I was introduced to another one, this time on an academic leadership programme. Wait for it, yes there are four of them, and this time they are the ‘4 “I”s of Transformational Leadership identified as:

  • Individualised consideration
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Idealised influence
  • Inspirational motivation

We were asked to reflect upon different models of leadership. It was suggested that rather than be ‘transactional’ leaders we should be ‘transformational’ leaders. Transactional leadership was summarised in a way that we recognised as managerial; holding people to account against criteria they were unlikely to feel ownership over and holding fast to hierarchical rules of engagement. Transformational leadership was first coined by Bass, building on the work of Burns. Both men were researching and reflecting on observable qualities of successful leaders in the US political and business contexts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  On the leadership programme it was proposed that ‘transformational’ was something to aspire to, and to nail it as a concept it had the magic formula of the ‘4 “I”s’.   Clearly this was the true path.  And yes – my immediate response was of sly cynicism and I wondered whose eye I might catch amongst my fellow academic leaders.  Then I realised that the ‘4 “I”s’ were begging for my attention, they were the hook and I was dangling on the line. But wait, I was again distracted, not by the alignment of the transformational leadership model with my own ambitions as a leader, but by their resonance with my work on teacher peer coaching.  The ‘4 “I’s’ seemed to offer a frame through which good teacher coaching, and the school culture that supports and is constructed by it, can be viewed. I had recently led a workshop and written a blog post about the relationships between coaching and leadership, perhaps what I had been missing was the concept of transformational leadership.

My work on coaching in schools (both research and practitioner engagement) always throws a spotlight on its limitations and its potential to clash with performative cultures as I illustrated in an earlier BERA blog post. That same work, however, offers an equally powerful narrative of hopeful optimism.  We know that where coaching is working well, often between peers, and frequently supported by a sustained coaching development programme it creates a different sort of collaborative professional space than is often experienced by teachers in episodes of training and performance management. Uncannily the ‘4 I”s’ of transformational leadership describe the characteristics of the best of these spaces.

Coaching conversations have impact when they offer ‘intellectual stimulation’

Coaching can create a genuine opportunity for ‘individualised consideration’. Teachers are invited to share concerns and areas of interest emerging from their own practice and a good coach will work from that platform rather than from an imposed agenda.  This is critical in building and sustaining the buy-in and trust that means that teachers and coaches will work around some of their workload to give time for coaching.  Coaching conversations have impact when they offer ‘intellectual stimulation’.  These are neither cosy chats nor dogmatic instructional transactions.  Within a coaching conversation there are opportunities for both participants to experience challenge, to engage constructively with knowledge from multiple sources and grow their capacity to make decisions appropriate to the complexities of their teaching roles. And then of course there is the crucial question of professional credibility. Few people will accept coaching from someone who they judge unlikely to be able to walk the talk, instead they want a coach who offers ‘idealised influence’. Finally hardworking teachers are looking to share a sense of hopeful enthusiasm (not naïve goal sharing).  Effective coaches can encourage colleagues to raise their game by building optimism and thus providing ‘inspirational motivation’.

So now I am paying more attention to the ‘4 “I”s’ as I think they offer a route to building an experience of professional solidarity, and I think they reinforce how coaching can give ‘power to the people’.

This blog has been taken from BERA.

Dr Rachel Lofthouse is the Head of Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. She is also partnership development director for the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLaT). She has a specific interest in professional learning for teachers and educators, based on innovative pedagogies and curriculum design and practices for coaching and mentoring. These support her learners in building their workplace expertise while developing critical reflection and their ability to contribute to, and draw productively on, the evidence base for teaching and learning. She works with student teachers and their school-based mentors, fulltime teachers as part-time Master’s students, international postgraduate students and school leaders. Rachel has published in peer-reviewed journals on the subjects of coaching and mentoring, the innovative use of video to support practice development, practitioner enquiry and professional learning.

You can find more information at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/staff/profile/rachel.lofthouse.

You can follow Rachel on twitter @DrRLofthouse

CfLaT Newsletter – May 2016 (Issue 24)


Coming soon: a new look for CfLaT. This is the last issue of the Newsletter that will look like this. In the summer, we will be launching our refreshed website and new CfLaT symbol. The Newsletter will be redesigned to match!

Anna Reid has been awarded a £2,000 ULTSEC innovation fund award to promote internationalisation, diversity and academic excellence through an extended induction programme.

Karen Laing recently travelled to Groningen in the Netherlands with NISR colleagues to attend the first meeting – in a usual venue – of the brand new European project ACCOMPLISSH. This project, with Liz Todd and NISR, aims to explore how academia, business, government and society members can work together to co-create research for maximum impact. Watch this space for more information as the project develops!

BERA/BELMAS Leadership SIG was in Newcastle last month. The link to the presentations and information about the event is here.

FaSMEd Consortium meeting in Cape Town, South Africa


It is difficult to believe that the FaSMEd project is now two years in! In February 2016, we held our consortium meeting in Cape Town wonderfully hosted by our South African partners at AIMSSEC.

This was a significant meeting as we reflected on Work Packages and how we take things forward in the final year. In recent months, each partner has completed a huge body of work – our case studies – which are an essential and very fruitful source of data from our interventions. This was our first opportunity to share our case studies and initial findings across all partners. We dedicated significant time to discussing the analysis of our interventions and case studies.

We were also able to present our latest (work in progress) version of the web-based toolkit. This is being designed by a local Newcastle-based graphic design company called Ready Salted. This company has a great deal of experience of working with the University and so the process of producing the website has been very straightforward.

One of the highlights of the programme was our visits to some of the schools that our South African partners have been working with during the FaSMEd project. We visited three contrasting schools in the area. Each visit took place in the morning and then we returned to Muizenburg for our meetings. The school visits were both inspiring and thought-provoking, and illustrated the differences of the schools, and schooling, compared to some of our partner schools. Our inclusion of a South African partner has always been prompted by the fact that there are such obvious differences and that we can learn from them, and our visits really brought this to life for all.


Friday 8th July 2016, 8.45 am-3.30 pm, at the Herschel Learning Lab, Herschel Building, Newcastle University.

Ulrike Thomas and David Leat have been working on a project on Community Curriculum Making. It is being undertaken with six school-community partnerships, focuses on Project Based Learning, and is producing a school guide to the process. Brokerage is emerging as a critical factor. There is a free project event on July 8th at the university.

Click here to book your place

The value of Clubs

New research just released by CfLaT colleagues Liz Todd and Karen Laing explores the link between the activities children take part in outside school time and their attainment.
Findings point to an association between attending after school clubs and increased attainment for disadvantaged children. The research was conducted in collaboration with NatCen and ASK Research and has generated wide interest in the media. The full report can be accessed here

Readable summaries of the research can be accessed here.

For more information about the study, please contact Liz Todd 

New links in China

Issue 24- May 2016

René Koglbauer and Anna Reid were guests of honour at a regional headteacher conference in Baoding, China at the beginning of May.

The conference was attended by approximately 300 Chinese Headteachers and government officials. René signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Baoding Education Bureau and Newcastle University on behalf of Professor Cholerton (PVC for Teaching and Learning). Click here to read the regional press.

University funding for three CfLaT researchers

Simon Gibbs, Pam Woolner and Rachel Lofthouse have each been awarded funds by the Pro-Vice Chancellor to pursue important lines of research over the next year.

Simon has been granted funds to develop his work on the effects on teachers’ beliefs of labels applied to children and their behaviour. The funds will allow him to work with colleagues in Finland and Sweden, build on an earlier study (Gibbs & Elliott, 2015) but with a more sophisticated design to establish if specific labels affect teachers’ perceptions of their efficacy. In the context of current debates about the nature and purpose of education, it is important to consider how are children described, but also to recognise that the effect of such descriptions may vary depending on linguistic, cultural and legislative factors.

This work is highly salient in the context of increasing prevalence of the use of diagnostic labels and major concerns about children’s ‘mental health. Many professionals are now worried that the use of such terminology and the quasi-medical labels will lead to further increases in referrals for psychiatric services and disable or de-skill school staff.

Pam’s funded project will examine how changing the built environment is understood and experienced – as it happens – in a local school that is be-ing rebuilt. The research will investigate the extent and nature of any impacts on attitudes and behaviour through a ‘before and after’ research design. Data from ‘before’ have now been collected and are being analysed. Comparison data will be collected next February. The next stage will centre on feedback to the school as they prepare for their new start in the new building in September. An intention of the research is to assist the school in maximising the benefits and minimising the stresses involved in managing the move.

Rachel is going to use her funding from the Pro-Vice Chancellor to sup-port her research project: ‘Practice development and workplace learning’. The purpose of this is to test the value of a new practice development led model for individual professional learning and institutional growth which recognizes the complex ecology of successful professional learning in and for the workplace. In order to further develop this work Rachel will conduct focus groups in a range of educational settings spanning early years to HE, and at different scales (individual schools or units, school alliances and a local authority).

Focus groups are underway, but Rachel would be keen to hear from colleagues in any educational settings who would like to participate in this research. Please contact her via email Rachel.Lofthouse@ncl.ac.uk

Pam visits school in South Tyrol


In April, Pam Woolner was invited to Bressanone / Brixen in the Italian South Tyrol to talk about, think about and visit school buildings.

Pam spoke about participation methods at a half-day symposium about school design held at the Freie Uni-versität Bozen. The following day, she was part of an interdisciplinary group of academics from Iceland, Portugal and Germany who visited some innovative schools. The schools, within a high mountain region and some with very small rolls, are part of a federation of primary and secondary schools. They follow Italian education policy but are German-medium schools within this bilingual region.


The federation principal, Josef Watschinger, led the tour of four schools and explained his ’pedagogic concept’. This vision, honed over the last 16 years, aims to develop autonomous learners taking responsibility for their learning within a supportive school community, intimately linked with the local community. Mr Watschinger has come to believe that the physical environment has a key part to play: he has been involved with designing a new school, but also with refitting older buildings to fit the federation’s educational values and needs.

Research Tea Timetable (Summer 2016)

Research teas aim to provide an informal forum for discursive examination of emerging research themes and concepts. Tea and cakes will be available from 3.45pm in the Centre base (KGVI 2.50), unless otherwise stated, with the session officially beginning at 4pm.

18th May: David Leat and Ulrike Thomas – Community Curriculum Making
15th June: Rachel Lofthouse – Practice development and workplace learning
13th July: Anna Reid – Supporting the final assessment of NPQ programmes

Further information about the research teas from laura.mazzolismith@newcastle.ac.uk
or from the Centre website.

Publications 2015/16

Chanfreau J, Tanner E, Callanan M, Laing K, Skipp A, and Todd L. (2016) Out
of school activities during primary school and KS2 attainment . ESRC Centre
for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper Series.
Barrow, W. (2015). ‘I think she’s learnt how to sort of let the class speak’:
Children’s perspectives on Philosophy for Children as participatory pedagogy.
Thinking Skills and Creativity, 17, 76-87.
Laing K, Mazzoli Smith L, Todd L. (2016) Educating urban youth: fair or foul?.
In: Davoudi,S; Bell,D, ed. Justice and Fairness in the City: A multidisciplinary
approach to ‘ordinary’ cities. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, pp.231-
Leat D, Lofthouse R, and Reid A.(2015) Does teacher research fit with school
improvement?. Professional Development Today, 17(4), 50-58.
Leat, D., Lofthouse, R. and Thomas, U. (2015) How to … make the case for
Enquiry and Project Based Learning, Professional Development Today 18(2)
Leat D, Lofthouse R, and Thomas U. (2015) Implementing Enquiry and Project
Based Learning – Revolution or Evolution?. Education Today, 65(2), 12-17.
Leat, D. and Thomas, U. (2015) How to …plan Enquiry and Project Based
Learning, Professional Development Today 18(2)
Leat, D. and Lofthouse, R. (2015) How to … lead Enquiry and Project Based
Learning and the professional learning of EPBL teachers, Professional Development
Today, 18(2)
Leat, D. and Thomas, U. (2015) How to … develop brokerage for Enquiry and
Project Based Learning, Professional Development Today, 18(2)
Lofthouse R. (2015) Learning in landscapes of practice: boundaries, identity,
and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. International Journal of
Clinical Legal Education, 22(2).
Lofthouse R, Flanagan J, and Wigley B. (2015) A new model of collaborative
action research; theorising from inter-professional practice development.
Educational Action Research
Mazzoli Smith L, Laing K. (2016) Creating a transformational space through
narrative: Looked after young people tell their life stories. In: Formenti, L;
West, L, ed. Stories that Make a Difference: Exploring the collective, social
and political potential of narratives in adult education research. Milan: Pensa
Multimedia, 2016, pp.247-255.
Mazzoli Smith L and Campbell RJ. (2016) So-called Giftedness and Teacher
Education: Issues of Equity and Inclusion. Teachers and Teaching , 22(2).
Melville, A., Laing, K. and Stephen, F. (2015) Multi-agency approaches to resolving
family law problems: Can lawyers be involved? In: Eekelaar, J. and
Maclean, M. ed. Delivering Family Justice in Late Modern Society, Bloomsbury.
Moxham B, McHanwell S, Plaisant O, Pais D. (2015) A core syllabus for the
teaching of neuroanatomy to medical students. Clinical Anatomy. 28(6):706-
Robson, S. (2015) Internationalisation of the curriculum: meanings, motives
and methods. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. 3 (3)
Smith C, Finn GM, Stewart J, McHanwell S. (2016) Anatomical Society core
regional anatomy syllabus for undergraduate medicine: the Delphi process.
Journal of Anatomy, 228(1), 2-14.
Smith C, Finn GM, Stewart J, Atkinson M, Davies DC, Dyball R, Morris J, Ockleford
C, Parkin I, Standring S, Whiten S, Wilton J, McHanwell S. (2016)The
Anatomical Society core regional anatomy syllabus for undergraduate medicine.
Journal of Anatomy , 228(1), 15-23.
Smith CF, Finn GM, Stewart J, Lee TC, Gillingwater TH, McHanwell S. (2016) A
new core gross anatomy syllabus for medicine. Anatomical Sciences Education,
9(2), 209-210.
Woolner, P. (2016) The school in the city. In S. Davoudi and D. Bell eds. Justice
and Fairness in the City. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 49-68
Woolner, P and Tiplady, L. (2016) Adapting School Premises as Part of a Complex
Pedagogical Change Programme. In: Stadler-Altmann,U, ed. (English)
Learning Environment. Educational and Architectual Views on Schoolbuildings
and Classrooms. (German) Lernumgebungen. Erziehungswissenschaftliche
und architekturkritische Perspektiven auf Schulgebäude und Klassenzimmer.
Opladen/Berlin/Toronto: Barbara Budrich, pp.69-81.
Wright D, Clark J, Tiplady L. (2015) Making learning visible in mathematics with
technology. Mathematics Teaching, 249, 30-36.
Wright D, Clark J, Tiplady L. (2015) Raising achievement through formative
assessment in science and mathematics education (FaSMEd) British Society
for Research into Learning Mathematics 35 (2).

BERA blog update

CfLaT members are continuing to make contributions to the British Educational
Research Association’s multi-authored blog. Follow the links below to read
the latest:

Jill Clark
Simon Gibbs:
Rachel Lofthouse:
Laura Mazzoli Smith:

BERA blog posts are welcomed from practitioners and researchers in education.
If you are interested in writing between 500-750 words contact Rachel.
Lofthouse@ncl.ac.uk as she is one of the blog editors.

An experience of a lifetime: a self-reflective journey to India

Why further education?

Coming to the end of my undergraduate studies in 2015 I had an open mind about where I wanted to go. Was it into a job? Was it further studies? The truth is I didn’t know. Looking at further study I knew I had to choose a course that would challenge me because I have the habit of staying within my comfort zone.  The MA International Development and Education (IDE) course stood out to me because I wanted a course in education from an international developmental perspective and the opportunity to do placement, and see it for myself was important.

The first six months of the course was a real eye opener. IDE brings people together people from all corners of the world where opinions are different and our backgrounds, feelings and stand points have been shaped by our experiences in life. The real difference at Master’s is the level of critical thinking that’s expected from students. The criticality element takes a while to get used to, I think being critical and criticising can get mixed up and there’s a fine line in academia.


My journey to India

Having never been out of Europe, there was really never any doubt that I had to go somewhere far away. India was the perfect choice and I was lucky to be sharing it with other students on our course. Believe it or not, I’m quite the unorganised person, however when it came to planning India I think I organised as much as I could, even though it didn’t always go to plan.

On the 16th February, I set off on my journey from the Newcastle Airport terminal at 6am in the morning. Flying via Paris at -2 degrees I was looking forward to getting to nice warm New Delhi Airport. It was an interesting first journey to my hotel where my driver was literally falling asleep, I was glad to make it alive! I met Celete, Paulina and Steph from my course the next day at the airport and so my journey began. We threw ourselves in the deep end, using the Delhi metro straight away even though we were all jet lagged. We went to Old Delhi during our first weekend, a real eye opener on the sheer amount of people in India.

I started my placement at a school in Lajpat Nagar which is a public private partnership (PPP) between a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the UK and the local government in the district. A lot of time spent in university you’re learning and questioning other people’s experiences through their books or discussions and here I am seeing it for myself. For the first few days, I got used to my surroundings observing classes and talking to teachers moving on to delivering a project for the placement part of my time, part of a wider project involving a school in the UK also. One of favourite parts was the community visit where we got to see where some of the children who attended the school lived.

During my third week, we did so much in terms of visiting different school’s government and low-cost private schools (LCPS). We visited a community organisation and two LCPS in rural Mewat in Haryana, seeing a different side to what we had for most of our time in Delhi. These opportunities gave me a chance to get data for dissertation also giving me first-hand experience of collecting data in unique contexts. We met and spoke with so many different people who were very welcoming and open to helping us.

In between all of this made time to go sightseeing. Every weekend we flew to a different place, Jaipur, Varanasi and Agra however when we came back into New Delhi airport, it always felt like we were home.


A self-reflective Journey

I had expectations of India and it didn’t disappoint. I had so many different experiences in India but what was most enjoyable was going on a journey with Celete, Paulina and Steph. I don’t think it would have been as easy, or I would have done everything I did if I went alone. When the others finally left the same day I was travelling home, I had a little tear.

It took 20 hours all in to travel back to the UK and I thought a lot about the journey I had been on. From my first time on the Delhi Metro, walking up the Amer Fort in Jaipur, seeing sunrise on the Ganges, Varanasi and seeing the beautiful Taj Mahal, Agra to my time spent in schools in Delhi, Gurgaon and our trip to rural low cost private schools in Mewat. I simply have had the best experience of my life.

This time last year I had no idea I would be in India and honestly didn’t know where I wanted to go. I’m so glad I did it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

About the blogger

Darren is studying a postgraduate taught masters in International Development and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.  You can read his blogs at www.darrenirvine.wordpress.com.

Questioning professional learning

There are so many devilish temptations when offered an open brief for an educational blog post in May 2016.  I could try to right some policy wrongs, perhaps by offering a critique of the hastily written and ill-informed White Paper. I could propose a more lucid and coherent approach for organising teacher training because, from where I am standing, it couldn’t get much more chaotic. I could lament the experiences of family and friends whose own children are exposed by the debacle that is this year’s SATs. Alternatively I could celebrate the good stuff. I could reflect on the contact I have had with people interested in our new Lecturer in Education posts, and how each conversation or email opens up another imagined future of what skills, interests and experiences each candidate could bring to our Newcastle University staff and offer our students.  I could share the annual irony of the wonderful weather breaking to coincide with the national season of intense exam revision. The list of potential topics is enough to create writer’s block. On this occasion my decision has been refined because unlike most other blogs I contribute to I do at least have a sense of the readership, so I am able to choose something to write about which I believe is highly relevant to you as school leaders; and in that context I have chosen to write about teachers’ professional learning. It may not be as obviously topical or as politically fraught as any of the possibilities above, but it has a perpetual resonance, and carries the allure of something that school leaders can conceptualise and act upon.

Having left secondary teaching to join the PGCE team at Newcastle University 16 years ago much of the school landscape I now experience feels like unfamiliar territory. My current role as the Head of Education and my family life mean I do not reside in the stereotypical ivory tower and am never more than a few footsteps away from the realities through the school gate.  In our brave new educational world there are certainly an ever expanding range of outcome measures and political ideals that are deemed to need the might of school management applied to them, and as a result there is a burgeoning of new leadership titles and roles.  Despite these changes there remains a constant, perhaps increasingly significant, leadership responsibility of supporting and enabling the professional learning of teachers.  As a university-based teacher educator it would not be unusual for school-based colleagues to assume that I mean professional learning opportunities offered by university provision and qualifications.  I do believe that PGCE, Masters and Doctoral courses offer unique spaces for new and established professional educators to learn about, reflect on and develop their work. Indeed I am humbled by the fact that our programmes continue to attract part-time students many of whom are full-time teachers and school leaders. However as a practitioner and researcher my interests in the last decade have often coalesced around professional learning in and for the workplace. It is that which I want to focus on.  This is also timely because one aspect of the white paper I am trying to believe will make a positive difference is the fact that ‘a new standard for teachers’ professional development.’ My hope (perhaps naïve) is that this will offer a genuine chance for the profession to reframe the opportunities for teacher learning. My fear is that this will simply be a vehicle for more off the shelf, commercially-led, training packages.

In my recently completed PhD I developed a ‘practice development-led model for individual professional learning and institutional growth’. The model itself represents an ideal, but is also a tool through which those responsible for teachers’ learning can reflect on their own workplace practices.   My assertion is that a core role of any Headteacher and senior leadership team is to ensure that their school becomes a productive learning organisation in which their staff have genuine and transformative learning opportunities. I have evidence that many professional learning opportunities can be derived from cycles of practice development, such as offered through structured coaching, lesson study and action enquiry.  The difficulty can be in ensuring that this learning then sustains positive change, that improved practice is embedded (not discarded for the next teaching fad), and that it accumulates into enriched conditions for further professional learning.  So in the spirit of the model here are some questions to ask yourself, your leadership teams and your staff.

Firstly think about how well teachers are supported to learn through practice development:

  • Are both the vehicle for and objective of professional learning the development of educational practices?
  • Does this offer a chance for teachers to deliberately focus on the details, characteristics and outcomes of practice through engagement in cycles of action such as coaching, lesson study or action enquiry?
  • Is collaboration with others encouraged and capitalized on such that educational power can be derived from a genuine sense of solidarity?

Now consider whether your teachers are encouraged to develop democratic (rather than managerial) professionalism and whether their learning allows them to offer you a critical perspective (not the same as being a constant critic).

  • To what extent is teachers’ professional learning through and for practice development based in articulated values and critical enquiry?
  • Does it allows teachers to relate their practice to their values, or does it fall into the trap of expecting them to uncritically adopt new workplace procedures?

Finally think about how productively you are helping create opportunities through linking learning which goes on at both individual and organisational levels.

  • How does your teachers’ learning improve the potential for institutional growth and have you fallen into the trap of assuming that this is automatic?
  • How conscious is the integration of the individual’s growth with the school’s supporting infrastructure?
  • Is the flow of professional learning, from foundations to outcomes, reciprocal and cumulative, in that as professional learning is generated and the conditions supporting it are enhanced more professional learning can be sustained; for wider and deeper impact on practice?

So my challenge to school leaders of the North East (and beyond) is to consider these questions in order to better gauge how successfully you are enabling desirable professional learning that impacts on the quality of practice and thus has positive repercussions on students’ learning outcomes and experiences.  Think about the attributes of your school as a workplace and whether they guarantee an environment in which teachers continue to learn.  And while you do that please remember that ‘training’ is only part of learning, and that not everything that has been learned can be ‘measured’, and sometimes being so busy monitoring our teachers stops us from recognising nuanced and sometimes unpredicted learning and practice development that is so wonderful we should be celebrating it.

Taken from Schools North East

RL Oct 2015

Dr Rachel Lofthouse, Head of Education, Newcastle University. 

Follow @DrRLofthouse on Twitter!

The Three Doctors

According to Wikipedia ‘The Three Doctors’ is the first serial of the tenth season of Doctor Who, first broadcast from 30 December 1972 to 20 January 1973. It featured the first three Doctors which made it the first Doctor Who story in which an earlier incarnation of the Doctor returns to the show.’  Now, 43 years later we offer a new narrative of the Three Doctors, and we are celebrating ‘the power of three’.  In the last twelve months we (three Education colleagues from CfLaT in ECLS) have been successfully completed our PhDs by publication.  Despite the fact that at many times in the past our achievements have felt like remote and impractical goals, we can now proudly add ‘Dr’ to our name.  In universities many academics only start their careers after they have been awarded PhDs, but in schools like ours this is not always the case.  There are legitimate reasons to recruit lecturers and researchers with professional knowledge and skills-sets and allow them to build academic interests and trajectories once in post.  We are pleased to be able to point to each other and share the fact that this can be done!

So what does our work for PhDs for publication consist of?  Well each of us has a unique publication profile, and this is what we drew upon to write the final doctoral statements and to engage in examination by viva.  Collectively our PhDs include 23 publications in total, published over 20 years (if counted back to back).  Of these there are 20 peer-reviewed articles (in 11 different journals), 3 chapters or book contributions, and 3 research reports.  Alongside single-authored publications we have had the privilege of working with 15 co-authors, 11 of whom are (or were) ECLS colleagues and 4 of whom were partners from other universities and professional colleagues. Those numbers are one way to illustrate the range, depth and reach of our work.  What follows are three paragraphs which describe what our work is about.  You can find out more about the publications by accessing our staff profiles.

jill C edited jpeg

Dr Jill Clark – The journey of researching on to researching with – theoretical and methodological challenges with educational research

In my thesis I discussed the structural (and challenging) issues of arranging participatory research whilst recognising the value of it. In practice, as researchers, we are constrained (to a greater or lesser extent) by the needs of funders, and commissioners.

Throughout my work, I have been developing ideas on how visual methods in particular can be participatory and why visual research methods work based on the ideas of participation. In my thesis I suggest that we can manage a research encounter with reference to visual methods and the added value that this can bring to participatory research. I first raised the question of whether certain methods are more appropriate to particular groups of participants and whether there is a benefit to using a range of methods over attempting to identify one successful method. What I have learnt is that participatory research it is not simply a matter of grafting a few new techniques onto a ‘traditional’ research process.

In my thesis I articulated the benefits that visual methods in addition to participatory research can bring. The argument is based on the premise that by being participatory and inclusive we can seek the views of as wide a range of participants as possible. I agree with other researchers that participatory methods can produce ‘better’ knowledge than other techniques. By using visual methods then we are able to ask things in a different way, thus generating a combination of views from many different people. This in turn can generate different types of knowledge, leading to a more complete research process and therefore the research as a whole is better.

RL Oct 2015

Dr Rachel Lofthouse – Metamorphosis and meaning: developing exemplary knowledge for teacher education

I have used my PhD to answer two core questions: 1) How has my practice as a university-based teacher educator shaped my understanding of professional learning? 2) How has my scholarship led to the creation of models of professional learning and how might these models be of value in practice?

During the period of research, and with an accelerating pace, teacher educators have been forced to rapidly adapt to new policy initiatives for teacher ‘training’ and professional development in England. This coincides with a time when schools are dealing with ever-increasing demands to ‘perform’ in relation pupil attainment. This socio-cultural backdrop creates new dependencies, for example raising the demands on those within and joining the teaching profession to create a ‘self-improving school led system’. It opens up opportunities for professional learning, but also creates tensions as activity systems collide.  The publications of this PhD represent a variety of lived experiences of educational practice – either mine or teachers’.  My research and experience has contributed the development of models of professional learning which have evolved through the duration of my critical reflection on my publications and current research and practice.  This leads me to propose a practice development led model for individual professional learning and institutional growth, the metamorphosis of which is articulated through the doctoral statement.


Dr Maria Mroz – Recognition and support of children with speech, language and communication needs: knowledge, policy and practice.

The thesis considers how teachers firstly recognise and then support children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and secondly how specific activities provided by the university might enable mentors to support trainee teachers’ understanding of language development. It discusses how the three elements of: teacher knowledge of language development, the reality of practice and the impact of policy might influence the identification and support of pupils with SLCN. The thesis uses a variety of research methods including interview, questionnaire and desk-based research.

Teachers wish to identify and support children with SLCN but need further training and assistance to do this due to both the heterogeneous nature of the group and the complexity of the teacher role. Teacher knowledge of language development is shaped by their interactions between their personal understanding of teaching and learning, the practice in their environment, the pupils they teach and the policies they work within (Day et al., 2006), all of which can impact upon their capacity to identify and support children with SLCN. Finally University and school partnerships have the potential to develop students’ knowledge language development although a number of factors need to be addressed to ensure greater realisation.

Gifted children in Africa’s urban slums are a precious and untapped resource

We all know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor. You can still be gifted. Opportunity is the key. Through opportunity you can overcome difficulty and reach your full potential. But is this true in the developing world?

Over a number of years a team at Newcastle University has been searching for the most appropriate ways to identify children in poor areas of sub-Saharan Africa’s cities who, given the “opportunity” and additional support, could become catalysts of social change through influencing their peers and communities. If children from very poor areas are to be given a chance to contribute to their societies, and thus to economic development and growth, then identifying these possible “life changers” could be key.

Economic growth is necessary for development. But growth is very reliant on the cognitive skills of the population. This is why human capital is key to a nation’s success. For Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, the modern era is the “age of human capital”. For Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessman,

school policy can, if effective in raising cognitive skills, be an important force in economic development.

For countries to benefit from exceptional human capital the current state of education worldwide needs to be improved. But the focus needs to be on “quality”, not “quantity”. This is because “quality” schooling is what encourages knowledge and cognitive skills that stimulate economic growth.

Why identifying giftedness is important

It is generally agreed that the identification of giftedness should be led by multiple methods, informants and criteria. But with different ideas about what the term means and its measurement, how does one go about identifying children in places such as poor areas of Africa’s cities who could contribute to their nation’s development if given the opportunity?

The research from Newcastle University used a combination of ideas from some of the main exponents in gifted education and multiple intelligences. These included Renzulli’s “three ring concept”, Sternberg’s “triarchic theory of intelligence” and Gardner’s “multiple intelligences”.

The research project took place in 17 government school in a very poor area of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Teachers and parents were interviewed. More than 1,800 children sat tests (including mathematics, Kiswahili, reading and a non-verbal matrix reasoning test) and children and teachers nominated three gifted children in their class. The teachers provided reasons why they’d made their choices.

Children identified as gifted – gaining a very high score and nominated by at least one other method – had their creativity, motivation and commitment investigated. The results indicate that some of the cleverest, most creative and committed children you are ever likely to meet live in these slum areas.

It may seem obvious. Yet some believe that children who are first-generation learners with illiterate parents are simply not capable of greatness. This became evident at the beginning of the research. When the team explained what the research was about, teachers as well as district education officers said:

Why the slums of Dar es Salaam? You won’t find any gifted children there.

When told his daughter had performed really well in all the tasks one parent shook his head in disbelief and said:

She can’t be gifted. We are poor. Only the rich are gifted.

An untapped resource

Too few development experts believe that part of the solution to poverty can come from the poor themselves. Yet in the slums of Dar es Salaam children of high ability wait to be discovered, their contribution to economic growth and development wasted because no-one believes they are there. Children don’t know what they can achieve.

Here lies an untapped resource. Sadly, most of the head teachers reported that the primary school children under their care would not attend government secondary schools. In general, they believed the children would become market sellers and petty traders, just like their parents.

International aid has been flowing into Africa for the past 50 years. Donors from around the world give government schools – including those in Tanzania – desks, chairs, books and other resources. The belief is that all children will benefit. So let that continue.

But how about a small amount of funding heading the way of those children who can be identified as life changers with the tenacity, determination and ability to make a difference for their own countries.

An overview of our research can be seen in the TEDx Newcastle video “Slum Super Stars – African talented children alleviating poverty”. ‪‬‬‬

Taken from theconversation.com

Written by Mathematics Education Primary and Secondary PGCE, Newcastle University

Using visual methods to help us move from researching on to researching with

My recently completed PhD (Clark, 2015) explored my 23-year long (meandering) academic journey through participatory research. I have always been interested in how we can do research differently by working in a more co-productive way. Participatory research in itself is not new, but it is certainly a hot topic. In my thesis I discussed the structural (and challenging) issues of arranging participatory research whilst recognising the value of it. In practice, as researchers, we are constrained (to a greater or lesser extent) by the needs of funders, and commissioners. The reality is that research is often not funded or designed to facilitate suitable methodologies for conducting research in a participatory way.

My early work offered quite a naive view that children and young people should be involved at all times at all levels, and like other researchers, relied on the simplistic ladder-type models of participation which were prevalent at that time. However, now I hold a more refined view that it is not always appropriate to involve participants at all levels and at all times. Throughout my work, I have been developing ideas on how visual methods in particular can be participatory and why visual research methods work based on the ideas of participation. Visual methods work is not new (see for example, Margolis and Pauwels, 2011; Rose, 2012), but is a recent emergence within educational research, with a growth of interest. Data can be created by the researcher, the participants, can be found or berepresentations. Visual methods produce and use a range of data including drawings, photographs, maps, cartoons, sketches, video, graffiti, models and graphical representations, and it is this breadth of choice which inspired me to apply such methods in my research. Much of this involves enhancing the traditional interview and focus groups through using visual items, such as photographs, pictures or diagrams to mediate interviews and discussions.

enhancing the traditional interview and focus groups through using visual items, such as photographs, pictures or diagrams to mediate interviews and discussions

I suggest that we can manage a research encounter with reference to visual methods and the added value that this can bring to participatory research. I first raised the question of whether certain methods are more appropriate to particular groups of participants and whether there is a benefit to using a range of methods over attempting to identify one successful method. What I have learnt is that participatory research it is not simply a matter of grafting a few new techniques onto a ‘traditional’ research process. Technique is not enough (Boyden and Ennew, 1997) but I would argue that the methods do matter, and can make a difference. No research is inherently participatory: it is largely through its application that research becomes participatory. Within education, student voice is understood as being central to this debate and the implication of the term that students are a homogenous group can take us down the wrong path and focus on ‘how to do it’ rather than a reflective review of ‘why we might want to do it.

In my thesis I articulated the benefits that visual methods in addition to participatory research can bring. The argument is based on the premise that by being participatory and inclusive we can seek the views of as wide a range of participants as possible. I agree with other researchers that participatory methods can produce ‘better’ knowledge than other techniques. By using visual methods then we are able to ask things in a different way, thus generating a combination of views from many different people. This in turn can generate different types of knowledge, leading to a more complete research process and therefore the research as a whole is better.

I believe we are not spectators in the world, but are active participants in the evolution of reality and much of my work is about the relationship between the way we interact in and with the physical world. How we do this is challenging, and I suggest that visual methods with participatory research can offer exciting places – and spaces – for knowledge creation and exchange. Participatory research with visual methods, I conclude, is a good vehicle for us to creatively explore lived experiences – and a wide range of subjective viewpoints – in a more collaborative environment than traditional research encounters.


Clark, J. (2015) The journey of researching on to researching with – theoretical and methodological challenges within educational research, PhD Thesis, Newcastle University.

Margolis, E. and Pauwels, L. (2011) (Eds.) The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods. London: Sage.

Rose, G. (2012) Visual Methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials. Sage, CA.

Taken from the BERA website.

Jill Clark is a Senior Research Associate and Business Development Director of CfLaT and has worked as an academic researcher for over 23 years. Although now working in the field of educational research, Jill has a background in Social Sciences research. Jill has extensive experience in the formulation of research design and methodology, and has specialist knowledge and experience of the application of qualitative research methods such as participant observation, and conducting in-depth, sensitive, interviews and focus group discussions. Her research interests have a strong focus on the experiences – and views – of young people and participatory research and visual methods are a growing passion. Projects (among others) include researching thinking and communication skills in prisons, a co-production policing research project and a JRF study of alcohol programmes in Scotland.