“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends” (part 2). A different type of ‘safe space’; creating collaborative learning experiences for PGCE students.

Over the last few months there has been considerable debate regarding the establishment of ‘safe-space’ on university campuses around the world, with the anxiety expressed that they act to shut down free speech.  In a world apparently dominated by post-factual political rhetoric the need for debate and the interrogation of diverse views seems more important than ever.  This is well exemplified by the columnist Timothy Garton Ash.  So, I guess putting the phrase ‘safe space’ in a blog post could be considered attention seeking. Actually it is not. It is a phrase which has emerged from a series of research projects in which I have been capturing views of a new and established teachers and lecturers, from primary, secondary, Further and Higher Education settings about practices and environments in which they experience professional learning.

The significance of ‘safe-space’ is evident in my last blog post, in which I concluded with the question, How do we create modern day collaborative learning experiences in which our student teachers will experience solidarity with each other and with the learners, will be given permission to be productively creative and do so in a safe space in which each of them can become the best teacher they can be?   This post picks up the theme where I left off, and also draws on the keynote I gave at the UCET annual conference.


The focus for this second post is the link between opportunities to learn collaboratively and learning as ‘conceptual change’.  Whilst I have frequently in the last 15 or so years described learning as change to my PGCE and Masters students it is only recently that I have come across the idea of conceptual change. For this I thank Peter Davies at Birmingham University for creating a team of researchers from three universities. So Peter and I, along with Celia Greenway (also of Birmingham University) and Dan Davis and several of his colleagues (of Cardiff Metropolitan University) are exploring student teachers experiences’ of their own learning to teach using ‘conceptual change’ as our theoretical basis. In essence conceptual change is the experience which we go through when we have to consciously rework and reframe an idea or understanding that we have previously accepted. This idea has been particularly well demonstrated in children’s learning of scientific phenomena. Take for example the fact that typically children conceptualise the world as flat because that corresponds with their early experience of it. Developing an understanding that the world is actually a globe requires a reworking of the flat earth construct. This is known as conceptual change.

In our current recent research we are trying to determine the nature of conceptual change in learning to teach and some of the factors that might promote this change. Without attending to the entire research findings there are some key aspects to note and one of those is that the phenomena of learning to teach is essentially a complicated one. Part of the complication is that student teachers are not inexperienced in the phenomenon of teaching, indeed they have had years of experiencing teachers and teaching through being taught. For many this leads to a naïve, but possibly strongly held, conception of what it means to learn and act as a teacher. Because it is a strongly held conception student teachers may be resistant to more systematic scrutiny of the phenomenon of themselves learning to teach.  And of course this is doubly complicated because the phenomena in which they are immersed, rather than being something which they can simply be instructed in from neutral territory, is an experiential learning phenomena in which they participate. So whilst we may understand the need for a conceptual shift or change during a period of training or education for student teachers this may be a difficult thing to make happen.

This is where collaboration comes in.  In our research we have been interviewing students at different stages of their initial teacher education to try to reveal the dimensions of learning that they experience in learning to teach. Using analytical methods appropriate to conceptual change theory it has been possible to identify several key dimensions of learning to teach. Amongst others these include the contexts in which learning happens and the various modes of learning as described by the student teachers. And what we find in analysis of their interviews is that the student teachers highlight interactions with others, but just like other identifiable dimension there is variance evident in in these descriptions.  So learning to teach from and with others is evident and this typically include one or more of the school mentors, other colleagues in school, the University tutor and their peers.  These ‘others’ have the potential to create a social context for learning.  Our analysis of these descriptions has resulted in three broad categories:

  • that of recipient of learning from another
  • that of a lone enquirer capable of seeking out opportunities evidence and advice but typically doing it individually
  • and finally that of co-constructor.

It is this latter group who talk about their learning as a collaborative process. Our analysis of the interviews and combination of the dimensions of learning is leading us to conceptualise patterns of conceptual change experienced by student teachers and to recognise affordances and constraints in this learning. So, for example it is clear, for those people who we describe as co-constructors that they link collaboration and their own learning. It is also clear in the ways that they describe these experiences that sometimes collaboration happens by chance and sometimes it happens by design.  This research is ongoing, but even at this early stage it is worth reflecting on.

I am going to do so by focusing on one aspect of my role, as a teacher educator in initial teacher education, through which I and my colleagues apply curriculum and pedagogic decision-making. Sometimes a core aim is to enable student teachers the chance to learn through collaboration by our design. While this might seem an entirely logical approach, it is clear that for many student teachers now genuine opportunities to work collaboratively on real workplace related tasks has become limited. In other words they are not there by design.  At this point I think I should re-iterate my view of collaboration (rather than co-operation), as highlighted in the first blog post. I am drawing on the definition of collaboration which was used in a piece of research that Ulrike Thomas and I undertook a couple of years ago.

‘Collaboration is an action noun describing the act of working with one or more other people on a joint project. It can be conceptualised as ‘united labour’ and might result in something which has been created or enabled by the participants’ combined effort.’

To briefly illustrate this here are two such ITE design decisions that we have made over the years at Newcastle University.

Enhancing mentoring through the use of video

We have been interested in mechanisms through which to enhance the mentoring experience and whilst we know from the research cited above that mentoring is not necessarily experienced as collaboration there are some means by which this can be promoted. Altering some of the power structures within a student and mentor relationship can aid the experience of collaboration, and this can be altered through the use of appropriate tools, such as video. As we demonstrated in earlier research this can help the mentor and student teacher work in more co- constructive fashion as the student teachers gain insight into themselves as teachers rather than simply await feedback from others.  As a result video can help them to build more open and confident relationship, thus supporting collaboration. Our current cohort of secondary PGCE students (including School Direct) and Employment-based PGCE students (whose QTS training provider is Newcastle SCITT) are being introduced to VEO as one possible tool for enabling video to enhance mentoring as a more collaborative learning experience.

Embedding Lesson Study in the curriculum

As part of our Secondary and Employer-based PGCEs we also use lesson study as a means to ensure that all student teachers experiences peer-collaboration.  Lesson study is the practice-based learning element of an M.level module which invites students to develop critical perspectives on teaching thinking skills.  During a two day conference they are introduced to thinking skills, metacognitive talk & lesson study.  They use Lesson Study to co-plan, teach, observe and co-enquire into this pedagogic approach in their placement schools.  This is frequently conducted between subject areas.   Students then jointly present their learning outcomes to peers & individually write a reflective commentary. Last year James Rivett, an MFL PGCE student who had worked in partnership with a science student went on to publish a blog post in which he described the experience as one which went beyond ticking boxes to something which felt real and enabled a deeper process of learning. We are looking forward to our 140 students having similar experiences in January and February next year.

In the evidence of student teachers and mentors experiences related to the above examples there is a resonance with the definition of collaboration as an experience of united labour from which something of value is created or enabled by combined effort.  They bring me back to the concept of ‘safe space’. For me it is critical that university teacher educators are proactive in answering the question, How do we create modern day collaborative learning experiences in which our student teachers will experience solidarity with each other and with the learners, will be given permission to be productively creative and do so in a safe space in which each of them can become the best teacher they can be?  This is because it seems that for some student teachers, at least, collaboration enables them to experience learning as change. At Newcastle University we hope to continue to design experiences that allow this to happen.  It is only by achieving this that we will achieve our goal of ‘Inspiring teachers; changing lives and building futures’.

Written by Dr Rachel LofthouseHead of Education, Newcastle University.

Pedagogic research methods: An analysis of the methodological traditions in the UK and Netherlands

This study was inspired as a response to an Erasmus Mobility Grant to the Netherlands. Anecdotal conversations with colleagues there led to a discussion about the different approaches being taken in conducting pedagogical research in the UK and the Netherlands. In order to ascertain if these impressions of different epistemological and ontological stances were borne out by evidence, a content analysis of three higher education pedagogic journals was undertaken. The analysis addressed the main research question: ‘To what extent are the methodological positions in pedagogic research different in the UK and Netherlands?’ The initial focus was on assessment research in Higher Education, but this was extended to pedagogic research in Higher Education to obtain enough studies to draw inferences from. The journals analysed were ‘Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education’ (2014-2016), ‘Studies in Higher Education’ (2012-2016) and ‘European Journal of Teacher Education’ (2006 – 2016). The journals chosen all had an international scope and were happy to accept both empirical qualitative and quantitative research. The research reported was then categorised as using qualitative, quantitative or mixed- methods. The type/s of data analysis were also used to indicate the approach that had been taken. Studies that compared a number of countries including the UK or the Netherlands were also counted. The analysis could have been strengthened with the use of peer-debriefing (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Arguably the type of data collected and reported shaped the interpretations of reliability and validity and can therefore be used as a shorthand for understanding how reality is understood.

The findings (see Table 1 below) indicated that social reality is interpreted in different ways by pedagogic researchers in the Netherlands and the UK.

Table 1: Analysis of research methods and data collection in the UK and Netherlands

Journal Qualitative Quantitative Mixed methods
  UK Nlands UK Nlands UK Nlands
Assessment and

Evaluation in

Higher Education

17 0 8 1 13 1
Studies in Higher


6 0 8 12 5 3
European Journal of

Teacher Education

30 11 4 11 9 13
Total 53 11 20 24 27 17

Table 1 indicates that the UK conducts more qualitative research than the Netherlands. The findings may also suggest that qualitative research is more likely to be conducted in the Netherlands alongside quantitative research in mixed methods studies. The findings although preliminary and relatively small in scope do suggest that there are methodological differences in the types of approaches that are used by the two countries. A more in-depth analysis of the articles indicates differences in approaches to reliability and validity, for example the emphasis in many Dutch articles was on inter-rater reliability, whereas UK articles may have focused on validity in terms of credibility and transferability.

A comparison of the two countries in terms of the history of the development of pedagogical research, political drivers and differences in culture with regards to research by and with practitioners may be useful avenues to explore in explaining these differences. This is supported by the work of Dutch researchers such as Luneberg et al., (2007) and Ten Dam & Volman (2001). However, perhaps most significantly the findings show that the two countries have much to learn from each other. The different strengths that the two countries bring in terms of data analysis could be utilised in building very strong, comparative pedagogical research. It is also an exciting opportunity to collaborate and engage in dialogue about our understanding of validity and reliability and creating new interpretations of these.


Lincoln, Y.S. & Guba, E.G. (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry, Beverley Hills, CA: Sage.

Lunenberg, M., Ponte, P. & Van de ven, P-H. (2007) Why Shouldn’t Teachers and Teacher Educators Conduct Research on their Own Practices?  An Epistemological Exploration, European Educational Research Journal, Vol 6, (1) pp. 13-24

Ten Dam, G. & Volman, M (2001) The leeway of qualitative educational research: A case study, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol 14 (6), pp. 757-769

Written by:


Sam Shields is a Lecturer in Education in Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. She is interested in pedagogic research particularly focusing on assessment, research methods and research cultures.

Taken from the BERA blogs.

“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”: Learning from the past to understand the significance of opportunities for collaborative teacher learning in ITE

This blog post is drawn from part of a key note that I gave at the UCET (University Council for the Education of Teachers) Annual Conference in November 2016.  I chose to draw on the lyrics of John Lennon for my theme, because while each student teacher has to demonstrate individual competence against Teacher Standards (thus gaining QTS) and submits their own work for Masters level assessment (for the award of PGCE), we know that for many of them the opportunities to learn from and with others is critical in their professional and academic development.  In my keynote I considered the significance of learning through collaboration from initial teacher education, through to career long learning, and indeed our own opportunity as teacher educators for learning through collaboration.

I am drawing on the definition of collaboration which was used in a piece of research that Ulrike Thomas and I undertook a couple of years ago.

‘Collaboration is an action noun describing the act of working with one or more other people on a joint project. It can be conceptualised as ‘united labour’ and might result in something which has been created or enabled by the participants’ combined effort.’

In this blog post I will focus on Initial Teacher Education but with a twist. I am interested in what we can learn from the past, and I will draw on three narrative accounts to illustrate this.  We go back several decades in each case.

In the first story there was a young enthusiastic secondary history student teacher. She was studying at Sheffield University. One day at the start of the session her tutor arrives and tells the PGCE group that they have two hours before a minibus is collecting them to go to school to teach a large group of pupils about the Crimean war. By the time they had been dropped off at the school they were armed and ready. There was history, there was drama and of course some imaginary horses. A couple of decades later this was recounted as a particularly memorable early professional learning experience.

Our second story stars an equally young and enthusiastic PGCE primary student teacher. She attended Charlotte Mason College and on this occasion she was taken out of the Lake District to Manchester alongside her peers. On arrival they staged a school take-over. The student teachers were now in charge. They had to quickly orientate themselves to a new and unknown school and then in groups of five or six they had to work as a team to teach a primary class for three days. What this student teacher remembers are the resulting role-plays, simulations and debates about local issues.  Pupils and student teachers were engaged in an immersive learning scenario and there wasn’t a text book or standardised summative assessment that could help them. Twenty-five years later this school take-over is considered to have been a high impact experience for professional learning.

Both of these stories were shared during a small focus group I was conducting for a piece of research on the relationships between developing educational practices and professional learning. Both of the focus group participants are now teacher educators, and indeed hold senior roles in their respective institutions.  With their permission I can share their identities. It was Kerry Jordan-Daus, now of Canterbury Christ Church University who led the charge in the Crimean War episode, and Sam Twisleton of Sheffield Hallam University who was jointly responsible for the school take-over.  They have clearly never looked back.

Kerry Jordan-Daus

During our focus group we analysed what had made these events stand out in long careers of professional learning.  Kerry believed that there was significance in the “Safety in numbers, which allowed [the student teachers] to be creative, to take risks.” She stated that “Collectively we were experts;

some of us knew something about the Crimean War, some of us were drama queens.  We pooled our knowledge and did something incredibly exciting.” Sam reflected on how “We were working intensively together, we were all in there”.  She went on talk about the importance of “observing each other informally, stopping to talk about what we were doing as the learning unfolded.  This allowed us to get inside the teachable moments, creating a dialogic creative context based on a lot of peer constructed learning.” 

Sam Twisleton

So, what about my memories of PGCE? Well, I am sure it would no longer be the ‘done thing’ for my tutor (then David Leat) to arrive at a school with a spiral notebook to observe my lesson and ask afterwards if I’d like the notes ripped out for their later reference. I have a folder in my attic with these and other artefacts from my PGCE and there are no tracking documents, no standards referenced reports and no action plans.  I do however have very strong memories of problem solving lessons with David, indeed at one point a piece of turf from his garden was drying out on his log burner to simulate desertification for a lesson I was due to teach. Some of my most lasting memories of learning during my PGCE, like Sam and Kerry’s, include those associated with collaboration, with tutors, mentors and peers.

The Geography PGCE cohort of 1990-1, Newcastle University, with our tutor David Leat.

So, by luck, design and desire people like Sam, Kerry and I now have a responsibility for today’s student teachers. Unlike us they are exposed to QTS standards, target setting, the implications of OFSTED, new and not fully tested routes into teaching, and other controls on the ITE system.  Add to that the fact that in any mixed group some are sitting on generous bursaries and others are scraping by. How do we, in this complex and in many ways fractured initial teacher education sector, ensure that our current student teachers learn from the sorts of experiences that Kerry and Sam suggest had so much impact on power? How do we create modern day collaborative learning experiences in which our student teachers will experience solidarity with each other and with the learners, will be given permission to be productively creative and do so in a safe space in which each of them can become the best teacher they can be?

Some of our current Newcastle University PGCE students

In a subsequent blog post I will start to address this question, illustrating how we support student teachers to learn through productive collaborative learning opportunities. You might ask why this matters when it is the individual who is awarded the professional qualification and has to stand on their own feet in their classrooms as teachers.  Well, I will address that too. It’s not just about adding a social experience to build in more fun, but because learning as a social practice can make a world of difference in challenging contexts like the teaching profession.

Written by Dr Rachel LofthouseHead of Education, Newcastle University.

Personal and professional learning from this summer’s conferences

I was tempted to begin this blog post with a witty anagram of BERA and BELMAS, the two conferences I attended this summer but it is with some degree of embarrassment that I have given up with nothing to show for my efforts.

BERA stands for the British Educational Research Association.  According to their website (www.bera.ac.uk), it is a ‘membership association and learned society committed to working for the public good by sustaining a strong and high quality educational research community, dedicated to advancing knowledge of education’. BELMAS is also concerned with the field of education but this society focuses on aspects of and issues concerning leadership, management and administration.

I have been trying for some time to identify ways of applying the methodological and analytical approaches, which I used in my doctoral work, to contexts of educational leadership in line with my roles and responsibilities within the North Leadership Centre.  My doctoral work was a study of teachers’ developing understanding of enquiry based learning.  It primarily concerned concepts of identity and agency in relation to curriculum innovation and formative assessment.  My current position within the North Leadership Centre allows me to work with serving school leaders on aspects of their personal and professional development including identity and agency.

I was delighted, therefore, that my first solo abstracts for both BELMAS in July 2016 and BERA in September 2016 were accepted and included in the conference proceedings.  The abstracts presented the rationale and outlines for two different workshops:

How can Bernstein’s (1996) concepts of ‘classification’ and ‘framing’ be used to explore the development of programmes for school leaders in the North East of England?

This workshop addressed the theme of the 2016 BELMAS conference by challenging a shift in government oversight of education from compliance to performance (Ball, 2000) with a more ‘humanist’ approach to professional leadership development.  It offered tasks aimed at identifying underlying issues which enable or discourage leadership curriculum innovation.  The discussion considered whether incorporating the development of ‘weak’ social structures in new leadership development programmes can help to address key priorities in improving the leadership and management of schools in the current Education sector.

Our dialogical selves: developing an analytical framework for exploring practitioner identity and agency.

This workshop introduced the concept of the ‘dialogical self’ (Hermans, 2001a; Hermans, 2001b) and invited participants to engage with a developing analytical framework for exploring themes of identity and agency.  It offered practical tasks aimed at uncovering underlying issues which enable or discourage practitioners to ‘act’ within their particular contexts.  The discussion considered whether the analytical framework I employed as part of my doctoral work can help to address key priorities in developing practice in the current Education sector.

Both workshops were designed to foster dialogue and encourage critical reflection in order to seek out whether my ideas for future work would stand up to the rigour and expectations of the academic community.  For the first time at these conferences, I felt like I was beginning to find my feet as an academic, capable of holding my own in discussions with others for whom I have a very high regard.  That other academics were prepared to share their experiences and expertise with me was a huge boost to my confidence.  That they encouraged me to continue with my approaches will be the motivating factor moving forwards.

Image: Outcomes from the BELMAS 2016 workshop

Moving forwards, then, I have committed to preparing and submitting an article for a special issue of ‘Management in Education’ later this year.  When I reflect upon my experiences at both BELMAS and BERA, I now realise that I engaged in the conferences as a personal and professional learning opportunities, where, by providing stimuli for discussion, the responses of academic colleagues helped me to move forwards with my own my thinking and doing.  Ironically, I feel I am undergoing a shift in identity myself, which is compelling me to engage further and with greater self-belief.

Dr Anna Reid is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Deputy Director of the North Leadership Centre and Programme Director for the North East Teaching Schools Partnership (NETSP) within the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

Twitter: @AjrReid


Bernstein, B. (1996) Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. Maryland: Rowman and Little Publishers, Inc.

Hermans, H,. (2001a) ‘The dialogical self: Toward a theory of personal and cultural positioning’, Culture & Psychology, 7(3), pp.243-281.

Hermans, H. (2001b) ‘The construction of a Personal Position Repertoire: Method and practice’, Culture & Psychology, 7(3), pp.323-365.

Reid, A. (2016) ‘Aspiring leaders understanding their ‘selves’ and/in social contexts’ [Online] Available at: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/aspiring-leaders-understanding-their-selves-andin-social-contexts.  Accessed on 16 August 2016.


Reid, A. (2015) ‘An opportunity for change‘ [Online]. Available at: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/an-opportunity-for-change.  Accessed on 16 August 2016.

Building global education communities through twitter: Forging links with teacher coaches in Australia

I seem to be one of the lucky ones.  So far, and with fingers crossed for the future, my engagement with educational professionals and academics on twitter has been a positive experience.  I know that some fear social media as a relatively unregulated space, and one in which ‘followers’ and onlookers can create threads in which contributors can become unwittingly entangled. Despite the odd provocation (it’s amazing how deeply and spuriously the twitter-sphere seems to divide educators into so called ‘traditionalists’ and ‘progressives’ and how vocal each side can become in its attacks on the other) I have engaged unscathed so far.  Putting the few that like to rant to one side, I would agree with Professor Chris Husbands in his recent BERA blog post when he states what now might be seen as really quite obvious ‘social media has been transformative for professional communities’.  What matters here is that this transformation rests on many individual stories. Teachers find like-minded others who bring subject passions alive, others write honestly and wisely about the challenges they face as parents and how this alters their perspectives on schools and professionalism and social networking groups like @WomenEd who act to advocate and support others. Perhaps the largest group is of teachers who browse and pick up new ideas, which the sometimes take into practice and then pass on through the twittersphere.

One of the very special features of twitter is the ease with which it ignores geographical and political boundaries.  It allows educators to forge professional links with others from around the globe, and for those who like tracking data there are ways of mapping the spread of followers and geographic reach of tweets.  I haven’t done this, but even so I am I have become aware of distant hotspots where my interests have specific resonance.  So, forgive the twitter references in what follows – but this narrative only makes sense with them.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself a recipient of the following tweet from @ryangill; “This is surreal! I move to Australia and find my uni course leader from 13 years ago pops up”.  So, while I may vainly wish that I wasn’t 13 years older than when I taught Ryan on the PGCE, it was great to connect again.  I had ‘popped up’ in a #coachmeet organised by @stringer_andrea at her school in Sydney, Australia. It was an early morning spot for me, using Skype to talk to about 40 teachers and coaches in their after school event. I had seven minutes to share my knowledge of teacher coaching in England, and offer some insights from case study schools.  I put my glasses on to hide my morning eyes and to add a look of owl-like wisdom, and I sat in my office and talked to teachers on the other side of the world. Some might call me a ‘skype-granny’ but honestly that would seem a little cruel.  When I opened the ‘storify’ that Andrea had curated I was surprised that the first picture was from the original CfLaT research on coaching in secondary schools, suggesting how coaching and mentoring can be distinguished from each other. The rest of the ‘storify’ illustrates the dynamic nature of the contributions to the #coachmeet. This was the first one that Andrea had organised – I am sure there will be more.  Now, much as we academics might like to think we have global reach, I have no doubt that without twitter I would not have been invited to speak at this event.

You see, I have noted that Australia seems to be a teacher coaching hotspot. I realised that my work in this area was being referenced in practitioner blogs, leading to frequent retweets of links to my blogs, research outputs and guides on coaching and invitations to be part of twitter coaching themed chats, and being generously. The end of this brief narrative is not yet written, because recently I have been invited to speak at the 5th National Conference on Coaching in Education in Melbourne in 2017.  While I am there I will also work in at least two schools and a university drawing on my research and practice in the field of coaching for teacher development. Many of the people who I link with via twitter will become real during my visit, and thus the global community of educators sharing common interests will continue to be built. And yes, @ryangill is one of them. Thirteen years may have passed, but this time I expect to learn as much from him and his colleagues in his school context as I hope he did from me on the PGCE.

Written by Dr Rachel LofthouseHead of Education, Newcastle University.

CfLaT Newsletter – September 2016 (Issue 25)


  • We are pleased to announce that Jill Clark will be taking over as CfLaT Executive Director from the New Year. Out-going Exec Director, David Leat says, ‘Thanks to everyone who has made my (long) tenure enjoyable’.
  • CfLaT’s directors have this year scored a promotions hat trick, with Rachel Lofthouse and Pam Woolner promoted to Senior Lecturers and Jill Clark to Principal Research Associate.
  • Laura Mazzoli Smith has been appointed as a Research Excellence Academy Fellow — the first to be appointed in this new University research initiative. Laura has also been invited to be a member of the Scientific Committee for the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) 2017 Life History and Biographic Methods conference.
  • Simon Gibbs has had a paper discussing the costs and benefits of educational psychology accepted for ‘Educational Psychology in Practice’. Working with CfLaT’s favourite economist, Ivy Papps, Simon investigated the cost and perceived benefits of the educational psychology services in two comparably small local authorities in England.
  • Laura Mazzoli Smith and Karen Laing have been awarded funding for a project ‘Changing Stories’ that aims to harness the power of life story to support the transition of pupils from backgrounds with historically low participation rates in higher education to get to university. The projects involve a colleague at Bristol University, Dr Sue Timmis, and will also involve collaboration with widening participation staff in the North East Raising Aspiration Partnership.

Community Curriculum Making

Ulrike Thomas and David Leat have run a 9 month project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Fund on Community Curriculum Making.
Ideally this sees schools working with community partners to plan and run meaningful, challenging projects for pupils. While this might sound like familiar territory for some schools, the hallmark is the extent to which the community partners are involved, both in planning and in providing a wide array of resources and experiences from community assets. Our slogan is that pupils need ‘to go places, meet people and do and make valuable things’.

Educational progression becomes more than meeting subject targets and as much about developing social capital, informed aspirations and complex identities. This is hard to achieve sat in a classroom just doing work for your teacher. To extend a famous aphorism ‘it takes a city to raise a child’.

The project culminated in an event in July attended by 70 people. This included a group of students from Belmont School in County Durham (thank you Laura Jackson) who had been taught by community members over the course of a week to play brass instruments, with a public performance at the end of the week. They were going places, meeting people and doing a very valuable thing. There were various other table seminars hosted by schools and community partners. The principle outcomes of the project is a Guide to Community Curriculum Making and an agenda for further action and research. Please contact David or Ulrike if you would like a copy.

In addition David has just completed a book Enquiry and Project Based Learning: Students, School and Society to be published soon by Routledge.

For information, contact David.Leat@ncl.ac.uk or U.Thomas@ncl.ac.uk

CfLaT Showcase: Educational Research for Practice

Rapidly becoming an annual event, the CfLaT research showcase offers teachers, students, school leaders, educational practitioners, academics and policy makers a chance to find out about recent research activities and outcomes. And it’s free to attend!
Presented by members of CfLaT, the showcase will include research presentations and Moot ‘How can we ensure all children achieve?’. As ever, there will be plenty of opportunities for networking. Wednesday, 5th October 4pm-7.30pm, King George VI Building, Newcastle University See programme here.

Register here.

CfLaT welcomes Sam Shields


Sam Shields is a newly appointed lecturer in ECLS who will be teaching research methods to our undergrad, masters and doctoral students.

Sam’s research interests include assessment and feedback, research methodologies for pedagogic research and emotions and power in the learning process. She presented a paper at BERA about pedagogic research methodologies in the Netherlands and the UK. She is in the early stages of collaborating with colleagues in the HungarianNetherlands School of Educational Management on a project called the ‘Learning School: International Comparative Research’. She is looking forward to collaborating with colleagues in CfLAT and is always happy to chat about research.

Contact samantha.Shields@ncl.ac.uk

House of Commons Education Committee


In January this year CfLaT col-leagues submitted evidence to the Education Committee as part of their inquiry into the ‘Purpose of Education’. A condensed ver-sion of our submission was later posted on the BERA Blog (https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/some-thoughts-on-the-purpose-of-education). Following that, in July Simon Gibbs received an in-vitation to attend a conference convened by the committee as part of their ongoing inquiry into the ‘Quality and Purpose of Edu-cation in England’. Here Simon reflects on the experience .

The day consisted of a mix of invited speeches (including Gert Biesta, Daisy Christodoulou, Dame Alison Peacock, Michael Young, Mary Beard) and a range of ‘breakout sessions’ in which we were invited to discuss specific topics – choosing two from ten. I opt-ed to join one led by Anna Vignoles that was devoted to ‘Social mobility in education’; and the other, led by Ste-phen Drew, headteacher of Brent-wood County High School that was focussed on ‘Behaviour and discipline’. Other groups considered ‘Employability’, ‘Parental engage-ment’, ‘’Primary assessment’, ‘Standards’, ’14-19 assessment’, ‘Educating outdoors’, ‘Expressive arts and creativity’ and ‘well-being and mindfulness’.

During the course of the day we also heard from representatives of Swiss and Finnish governments who gave us rather different perspectives on how education might be envisioned and operationalised.

During one of the breaks I was able to talk with Neil Carmichael, who chairs the Education Committee and noted the breadth and diversity of topics under consideration and won-dered about how it might be possible to arrive at any meaningful conclu-sions. He admitted that the ‘strategy’ was deliberate and part of an open-ended inquiry and that the committee was determined to pursue the issue.
Mary Beard, who perhaps might at first seem an unlikely key-note speak-er at such a conference, reminded us that education has been a ‘political football’, since at least 399BC (see the copy of her speech here) She admit-ted that for her ‘education in the broadest sense is one of the most elusive subjects in the human scienc-es’ and concluded by suggesting that we might ‘abolish a few paper trails and initiatives, trust the judgement of teachers on the ground more – and in general ‘loosen up’’.

For me that sounds like good common sense but not, I fear, a prescription that may sit comfortably with Neil Carmichael and his committee col-leagues. I sensed a genuine intellec-tual fascination with the issue (what is the purpose of education?) but the committee may be unable to locate best fulcrum for the lever of change.

In the context of Brexit, grammar schools and the balance of power at home and internationally who is going to really give a fig for education? Alt-hough the Finns are overhauling their education policies, even they fear the incursions of realpolitik and the cold heart of international economics. For the foreseeable future I suspect the voice of folk like Daisy Christodoulou (‘‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr Gradgrind’) will be more likely attended to than the wis-dom of Gert Biesta. Sad times and Hard Times (again).

Poverty Proof Schooling


Laura Mazzoli Smith and Liz Todd have been engaged in an evalua-tion of a high-impact Children North East audit called ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day.’

Their evaluation produced a report, which has been widely circulated and taken up, and was part of a BERA presentation on community-led school reform in September.

The evaluation and work around the concept of poverty-proofing formed part of an event hosted by CfLaT on July 12th, ‘The Impact of Poverty on Education – New Evidence on an Old Problem’ with invited speakers Profes-sor Ruth Lupton from Manchester Uni-versity, Sara Bryson from Children North East and Irene Cussó Parcerisas from Ramon Llull University, Barcelo-na.
Laura has also recorded a short Youtube video for teachers and teach-ers-in-training on the key principles of the poverty-proofing process, available here

For more information, contact: laura.mazzolismith@ncl.ac.uk

Research Tea Timetable


Our Wednesday Research teas aim to provide an informal forum for discursive exami-nation of emerging research themes and concepts.

Tea and cakes will be available from 3.45pm in the Centre base (KGVI 2.50), unless other wise stated, with the session officially beginning at 4pm.

21st September: Angelika Strohmayer, Open Lab – Researching With Charities in Socially Complex Spaces

19th October: Alan Strachan, Director of Extended Services (Wallsend Area) – Wallsend Children’s Community: A model of partnership working.

16th November: Liz Todd, Laura Mazzoli Smith and Karen Laing, CfLaT – Out of School Activities and the Attainment Gap

Further information about the research teas from laura.mazzolismith@newcastle.ac.uk
or from the Centre website (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cflat/news/Teas.htm).

Hello Kim!

CfLaT is delighted that Kim Cowie has been appointed as a Lecturer in Education specialising in Profession-al Learning.


Kim previously taught in a number of lo-cal schools, most recently being Deputy Head at Park View in Chester-le– Street. While there she was an enthusiastic col-laborator in the Community Curriculum network initiated by David Leat and Ulrike Thomas.

Contact Kim: kim.cowie@ncl.ac.uk


CfLaT was present in strength at both the European and British education research conferences, ECER and BE-RA.

We took papers on CfLaT projects, but also used the opportunity to present with academics from other universities, across the UK and Europe who are partners in our research. See page 4 for details of our papers and please do contact col-leagues for further information.

This Year’s Conference Papers: Oct 2015 – Sept 2016

Baumfield, V., Hall, E., Lofthouse, R. & Wall, K. (2016) What do we mean when we talk about practice? Working in partnership to understand teachers’ labour, work and action in the classroom, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Clark, J. and Laing, K. (2016) Making connections: Theory and practice of using visual methods to aid participation in research, Youth Matters: Moving from the margins, Newcastle University, 8-9 June 2016.
Clark, J. and Laing, K. (2016) Working with young people around crime and anti-social behaviour: exploring the capacity for change in their communities, North East Crime Research Network Conference, Northumbria University, 7 April 2016.
Koglbauer, R. (2016) Invited Keynote on Professional Development Programmes for School Leaders, Leadership Conference, Hebei (China), May 2016.
Koglbauer, R. (2016) Languages, Language Learning in the UK – The Now and The Future A reflection by the President of the Association for Language Learning. Keynote, Languages in HE conference, University of Warwick, UK, July 2016.
Laing, K. and Clark, J. (2016) Capacity building in research skills and methods: In-volving young people as agents of change, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Laing, K. Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L. (2016) Out of school activities and the edu-cation gap, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016
Laing, K. Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L. (2016) Out of school hours activities: looking at school staff, parent and pupil meanings and theories, BERA, Leeds, 13-15 Sept 2016
Laing, K. (2016) Understanding the relationship between out of school activities and attainment, BERA, Leeds, 13-15 Sept2016.
Laing, K. & Lofthouse, R. (2016) The role of models as tools in the ecology of re-search and practice partnerships, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Leat, D. and Thomas, U. (2016) Curriculum Brokerage Between Schools and Commu-nities, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2015) Carving out a CPD role for university expertise; sustaining impact and relationships, University Council for the Education of Teachers Annual Conference, Birmingham, 3 – 4 November 2015
Lofthouse R., Davies, P., Davies, D., Greenway, C. & Kirkman, J. (2016) Trainee teachers’ conceptions of their own learning: does context make a difference? BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) Lesson study as part of ITTE: learning promise or clumsy com-promise? Teacher Education Advancement Network Conference, Aston University, May 5th- 6th 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) A chance to learn through inter-professional practice develop-ment; coaching teachers to develop communication-rich pedagogies in multi-cultural settings, Teacher Education Policy in Europe Network Conference, Univer-sity of Malta, May 19th – 21st 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) How can we help them? Coaching and Mentoring in Initial Teacher Professional Development, ITE Mentoring Conference, University of Roe-hampton, 5th July 2016.
Mazzoli Smith, L. (2016) Working with gatekeepers: young people, power relations and permission to speak, Youth Matters: Moving from the margins, Newcastle University, 8-9th June 2016.
Mazzoli Smith, L (2016) Initiatives designed to support pupils in areas of socio-economic disadvantage – a contradiction in terms? BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership workshop, North East Teaching Schools Conference, Newcastle upon Tyne, 27 June 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership development in the North-East of England, Headteacher Leadership and Professional Development Conference, Baoding (China), 8 May 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership, identity and agency: methods to explore dialogical selves, BELMAS/BERA Educational Leadership SIG event, Newcastle, 26 Apr 2016.
Reid, A. and Koglbauer, R. (2016) How can Bernstein’s (1996) concepts of ‘classification’ and ‘framing’ be used to explore the development of programmes for school leaders in the North East of England?, BELMAS, Carden Park, 8-10 July 2016.
Reid, A., Lofthouse, R. and Leat, D. (2016) Our dialogical selves: developing an analytical framework for exploring practitioner identity and agency, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Keynote, Researching Educational Leadership: conceptual and methodological challenges. BERA/BELMAS seminar. Newcastle, 26 Apr 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Becoming international: academic perceptions and practices of internationalising higher education. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Keynote, East Asian Research Group Anniversary Seminar: Bene-fits and Challenges of Internationalisation in a competitive global environment. Hull, Mar 2016
Robson, S. and Koglbauer, R. (2016) Invited Plenary, Leading Creative and Produc-tive Teams School Business Manager Conference (Schools North East, UK), July 2016.
Shields, S. (2016) Researching Assessment: An analysis of the methodological tradi-tions in the UK and Netherlands, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) A school for the future: design, democracy and student expectations in England 2016. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) Flexibility in the HE learning environment: defini-tions, desires and the potential of new designs of furniture to enhance it. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) Change and stasis within design and practice over three decades in an English primary school. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Wysocki, L. (2016) Setting boundaries, communicating, and reflecting: 3 projects using comics as a method, Graphic

For more information, please see our website: www.ncl.ac.uk/cflat

The Trouble with Aid – Quantity, Institutions and Utopian Ideals

On 14 July 2016, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new Cabinet, following a significant reshuffle and re-structure of Government. In this context, researchers from all over Newcastle University express their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the Government in the Ideas for May’s Ministers blog series, considering how individuals, communities and societies can thrive in times of rapid, transformational change. Professor Pauline Dixon is Professor of International Development and Education at Newcastle University. Her book “International Aid and Private Schools for the Poor” was named one of the top 100 books in 2013 by the TLS.

To: Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development
From: Professor Pauline Dixon, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Just over a year before Priti Patel took up the post as Secretary of State for International Development, the Coalition Government brought into law the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015. The Act saw the enshrinement into law that 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) has to be spent on international aid. Priti Patel is required to ensure that the target is met in 2016 and in each ‘subsequent calendar year’.

It has been estimated in 2015 the UK spent £12.24 billion (0.71% GNI) in Official Development Assistance (ODA, i.e., international aid); in absolute terms the second largest in the world only to the US[1].

There are many groups with a vested interest in the aid industry, pushing for larger aid spending. However, it is not just the provision of aid that makes a difference. There needs to be a focus on making sure that aid is effective. Having a positive effect on economic growth and aiding the poorest is crucial; just giving money is not enough. The government’s introduction of spending targets could lead to waste and pressure to get rid of money.

When someone is put in a position of deciding what is good for others ‘the effect is to instil in the one group a feeling of almost God-like power; in the other, a feeling of childlike dependence’.[2] The result? The imposition of utopian colonial ideals, which are irrelevant in developing contexts.

Bearing this in mind can countries that continue to rely on and are given large amounts of ‘systematic’ or ‘bilateral’ aid, (that is the giving of aid to governments through government to government aid or institutions such as the World Bank) ever eradicate poverty?

Aid can make very little difference in countries where there are major barriers to development such as the environment being typically dominated by mismanaged, corrupt institutions created and perpetuated by elites. The lack of the rule of law and property rights along with inadequate governance and the lack of political freedom and the press all add to the inability for aid to engender sustained growth and a route out of poverty for its citizens.

As aid flows into a poor country that operates under autocratic regimes, those that benefit most according to the critics of aid are the wealthy political elite.[3] Even the World Bank acknowledges that corruption undermines Africa’s development with leaders, government officials, ministers and public servants lining their pockets with money destined for the poor.

One option would be to stop aid altogether.

But is there an answer or a way forward for international aid money? Is there a more productive way of channelling aid that could engender a positive effect on poverty alleviation, growth, focusing on the poorest?

One alternative is to look at market based solutions to poverty, ignoring the planners who do not have the knowledge to allocate resources, but listening to the searchers and Africa’s ‘cheetah generation’[4].The entrepreneurs and innovators, those operating and living at the grassroots level in the slums and shanty towns of developing countries. Here social media can play a role through economic empowerment, monitoring and reporting on corruption and mobilising public opinion.

Radical reforms are required to alter the way aid money is directed and transferred to the poor. If aid money is not directed at sustainable and scalable projects which focus on local entrepreneurs where communities are able to maintain the momentum once the aid has dried up, throwing good money after bad for the sake of it will perpetuate the ineffective, and sometimes damaging, consequences of aid. When aid agencies walk away, others need to be able to pick up the baton and run with it. The poor themselves are the solution.

Aid needs to start working and making a difference now more than ever before. Given a market focus it can. So what’s my advice to the Rt Hon Priti Patel?

  • Use gold standard research to inform policy not planners who think they know best.
  • Ask the poor what they want. From the slums of Nairobi to the shantytowns of Lagos, the poor aren’t waiting for aid agencies to rescue them. Visiting some of these thriving communities highlights what works for the poor by the poor;
  • Focus on market led initiatives and market based solutions encouraging entrepreneurship not dependency.


Sector Breakdown 2014 UK Bilateral IDA (£millions) (source DfID 2015)[5]

[1] https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=TABLE1

[2] Friedman, 1962 Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press p. 148

[3] Moyo, 2009 Dear Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another wy for Africa,Harmonsworth: Penguin

[4] Ayittey, George B.N. (2005), Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future, New York: Palgrave MacMillan.


Rethinking a National Curriculum and finding space for the local

On 14 July 2016, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new Cabinet, following a significant reshuffle and re-structure of Government. In this context, researchers from all over Newcastle University express their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the Government in the Ideas for May’s Ministers blog series, considering how individuals, communities and societies can thrive in times of rapid, transformational change. Professor David Leat is Professor of Curriculum Innovation in Newcastle University, and he directs his Idea to Justine Greening. 

From: Professor David Leat, Newcastle School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

To: Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education

One of the principles of a nation having a National Curriculum is that pupils can move from school to school with some continuity in their education. There is the added attraction to policy makers that they have more control over schools.  However, the social and economic turmoil of the last ten years has moved the political goalposts as both radical right and left wing movements have proved attractive to many who feel that they have been left behind as social inequality grows.  Political elites are rethinking and renegotiating the relationship between the nation and its component parts – regions, cities and communities.  In England, we need our government to give the message to schools and teachers that they should be using ‘the local’ as one of the building blocks of the curriculum to put meaning back into learning.

Community Curriculum

Successive governments, however, have learned that exerting control by detailed specification of  curriculum content has a considerable downside.  They are open to attack from many quarters about too much content or the wrong content. As a result, they have shifted from ‘input regulation’ or the specification of content as a means of control, to ‘output regulation’ or the setting of exam targets as a means of control. The targets-related data has had the added incentive of helping to marketise education as it provides a means of comparing schools and ‘driving up standards’.  However, there are signs of considerable collateral damage from this policy fix:

  • Teachers teach to the test and can lose sight of any wider purpose to education – a message which pupils internalise as education becomes a steeplechase of exam hurdles. This is a dangerous context for adolescent mental health and learning to learn.
  • Teachers are de-professionalised as their role is restricted to delivering content. Teachers who do not develop their own curriculum do NOT develop ownership of the curriculum. It is hardly surprising that so many teachers are leaving the profession. The National Union of Teachers data shows that 50,000 teachers (11% of the workforce) left the profession in 2015.
  • Young people are poorly prepared for further and higher education and indeed for the labour market as demonstrated by the Independent Advisory Group report (Anderson, 2014) commissioned by Pearsons Publishing
  • It tends to make schools look towards the DfE and Ofsted for all their cues and not to their locality and its resources. It is astonishing just how many organisations, businesses and individuals want to help shape the lives of young people and society in the most positive ways – but few get the chance.
  • As a consequence engagement is a serious issue. Across the developed world, there is strong evidence that pupils begin to lose interest in school work from the middle of primary school, even for many who are successful in the exam system (see for example Berliner, 2011). One of the reasons is that the curriculum lacks meaning for them, and they find precious few connections to their lives, despite the best efforts of dedicated teachers.

There are some real advantages in having a locality and community dimension to the curriculum, especially if there is a strong focus, through demanding projects, of going places, meeting people and making and doing things.

Horizons are broadened as pupils encounter people who have interesting jobs (not just professional jobs) and life histories – providing both role models and powerful raw material for developing their own identities.  Pupils can take real pride and find meaning in the things that they make and do, both for and with the community.  It should also be remembered that digital technology is changing the learning landscape as it provides the power to access, analyse and present information and understanding to a wide range of audiences through a variety of media.  A local dimension to the curriculum can provide an element of service learning in which young people are given responsibility and make a contribution. Some of these principles are elucidated in the work of Mimi Ito and colleagues (see http://clrn.dmlhub.net/).

Gemma Parker, a Newcastle University doctoral student, has found that many more recently qualified teachers have no conception of curriculum, equating it to schemes of work or a yearly plan, usually ‘given’ to them to teach. Generally, they do not see themselves as having a role in curriculum development, which undermines their professional standing.

In the last 30 years the voices of government, of ministers, of the DfE and of Ofsted have become the dominant ones for teachers, and their vocabulary around ‘standards’ and ‘targets’ is repeated and relayed by senior leaders in school – ultimately this cramps thinking about what curriculum is possible in school. We need government to usedifferent words, in order to give permission to teachers to take up the opportunities for demanding curriculum projects in their communities, localities and through digital technology. Teachers need to hear that voice.

We need good professional training and support so that there is rigour and challenge in community generated curriculums. In particular, many teachers will need to learn about the process of curriculum development, how best to work with community partners, how to find the balance between guiding work and allowing pupils to take greater responsibility for the pace and direction of their work, how to harness digital technology to its fullest and how to map projects back to important subject questions, methods, concepts and principles.

All across the world there are serious questions being asked about exam driven education. In response, there are also numerous organisations promoting and developing enquiry and project based learning and competence-based approaches.  These include the International Baccalaureate (IB), Expeditionary Schools, Connected Learning, Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs), the Partnership for C21st Skills and Opening Minds.  England could position itself as a world leader in educational practice if it embraced the principle of schools developing much of their curriculum through the medium of high quality locally generated and resourced projects.


Anderson, R. (2014) Careers 2020: Making Education Work, London: Pearson.

Berliner, D. (2011) Rational responses to high stakes testing: the case of curriculum narrowing and the harm that follows, Cambridge Journal of Education, 41:3, 287-302.

To engage in the conversation, tweet @Social_Renewal #IdeasforMaysMinisters

From private conversations to public dialogue reflections on a European research workshop

ecer group

The scene

Picture the scene; it was a sunny August Friday afternoon on the last day of a four day European conference in Dublin. We found our session venue and we organised ourselves and our resources for our workshop. Writing the conference abstract in January seemed a very long time ago, but we had spent some time since then re-visiting our understanding of our proposition which we had articulated as follows:

Visual models can be used as tools because they have the potential to facilitate effective research and practice partnership.

In our workshop we wanted to unpack this idea and create a space in which we could explore it further with the participants.  So, we went armed with three examples from our own work, each one illustrating a different type of use, as well as a suite of other models on posters that we were offering as stimulus.  We overcame the two problems which beset us; firstly finding that the posters had got jammed inside the cardboard tube which needed to be attacked with scissors to allow them to be levered out, and secondly realising that the scheduling of the session meant that some potential participants were already on their way to Dublin airport.  On the flip side we were grateful for the 1970s classroom with breezeblock walls on which we could blu-tac our posters with gusto (we had feared one of the pristine new seminar rooms), and we welcomed our session chair (ex-CfLaT colleague Elaine Hall) and our small band of enthusiastic workshop participants.

The idea

So, what do we mean by our proposition? In recent years CfLaT researchers have developed a range of visual methods to aid participation in research and our workshop extended this theme.  It came about because we each had found ourselves planning or reviewing a number of our research projects which to some extent relied on partnership working, and recognising that in some of them visual representations of ideas played a key role.  We consider these to be models – in the sense that the visual representations offered a way to demonstrate key concepts, allowing us to work out and share ideas that were relevant to specific contexts but could also articulate more generalizable ideas. However we also recognised that the models were rarely static but instead were active in the partnerships; they acted as tools.  Our initially reflections on our experiences were grounded in theory. We suggest that tools used or created within of research partnerships are able to perform epistemic functions and having catalytic qualities. In other words they act as part of the knowledge-transfer and knowledge-building aspects of research in partnerships.  They also can function as boundary objects supporting boundary crossing within research partnerships. This can be quite literal – they can physically be passed between participants whose experiences on either side of boundaries might otherwise be difficult to connect and learn from (e.g. the boundary between academic researchers and young people in their communities). During our conversations we started to develop our own conceptual lens which was built on our recent experiences.

Unpacking our thinking

We see research partnerships as sites for learning, in that they can provide opportunities for reciprocal learning, which is a way of enacting partnership. Our experience suggests that using and developing models has many potential benefits to aid partnership. These benefits include; encouraging reflexivity and criticality, adding a dynamic to dialogue, enabling mapping of experiences, providing a relational platform and acting as a visual mediation of encounters. We argue that models as tools to aid research partnerships are primarily used in three different ways, and it was this that we explored in our ECER workshop.

Firstly we consider models as tools for Application.  We expressed this as applying a model to make existing theories more accessible to the participants of research and practice partnerships. The model could be inputted into the research and practice partnership at any stage, perhaps helping to create a framework for research design, or acting with explanatory power. We illustrated this through a HASS faculty PVC-funded research project in which A practice development led model for individual professional learning and institutional growth developed through Rachel’s PhD is being applied to research focus groups. In these settings it acts as a tool to stimulate debate, support reviews of current practice, and enable new learning and opportunities for practice development.

Secondly we consider models as tools for Elaboration. In our experience models can be generated and / or adapted as an inherent and developmental part of the research and practice process to scaffold learning within the partnership. We used Theory of Change as our illustration, which Karen has significant experience of. These models provide a way of encourage research partners to take an active role in conceptualising approaches to evaluation (for example of educational interventions or programmes). Developing a collaborative theory of change helps to focus participants’ thinking to reveal what might be in the black box of systems change, from inception, through to implementation and evaluation of outcomes.  The process also provides a focus for dialogue and a vehicle for exposing contradiction and building consensus in partnerships.

Finally we consider models as tools for Creation. Creating new models as an outcome of research partnerships helps to synthesise and conceptualise emerging learning, allowing research partners to engage in theorising, verification and knowledge-construction allowing the development of theorised practice. To illustrate this we used the Collaborative action research model which resulted from partnership work between Rachel and independent speech and language therapists to develop a new inter-professional coaching approach.


Moving forward

So, following our workshop where are we now? Well it was reassuring that we were not laughed out of Dublin-town – while we had a small audience they each actively engaged with our ideas and started to interrogate them from early on the workshop.  Luckily we had 90 minutes in which discussion could flow – a definite advantage of a workshop format over a conference paper. Each participant offered some personal insight, and in doing so revealed that they had not thought about models in the way that we had.  So we at least felt we were offering them something new to take away, and indeed they offered reflections on what this might be – whether it was related to their current research or indeed their teaching partnerships.  We were able to rehearse our ideas, both in our preparation for the workshop and in its execution. Taking an idea from a relatively private space to public scrutiny can generate anxiety, but also creates an opportunity for reflection, sense-making and further learning.  The advantage of working together meant that one of us was able to take notes while the other focused on facilitating conversation – and soon we will find time to review what emerged and was noteworthy.  Thus we have new ideas which we will take back into our own research or practice partnerships, and we also have a sense of the degree to which our thinking about models as tools to support research partnerships is valid.  Plans for publication will ensue.

Written by Dr Rachel LofthouseHead of Education and Karen LaingCfLaT Senior Research Associate, Newcastle University.

References for the 3 models:

Practice development led model for individual professional learning and institutional growth

Theory of Change

Collaborative action research model


Aspiring leaders understanding their ‘selves’ and/in social contexts

This blog post follows up my initial thoughts concerning opportunities for change in August 2015 (https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/an-opportunity-for-change). At that time, the opportunities in question related to the forthcoming review of National Professional Qualification programmes for Middle Leadership (NPQML), Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and Headship (NPQH) in England.  I was looking forward to the chance to weaken existing social structures relating to teachers’ professional learning.

Empirical literature on the theme of National Professional Qualifications for school leadership serves mainly to evaluate the programmes themselves in relation to the concept of leadership. I have not uncovered any existing accounts of how to prepare NPQ participants for final assessment in the English context.  A search of national leadership development programmes in Scotland suggested findings from Jenny Reeves and Christine Forde concerning complexities involving concepts of space, identity and agency.  Empirical work by these authors identifies a ‘third space’ which combines leadership development programme assessment when addressed within the school context.  This can become foggy when expectations of school conflict with experiences from face-to-face days on the leadership development programme.

Teachers’ negative identities of themselves as learners can impede their agency in relation to engaging with professional learning programmes

This empirical evidence would certainly validate accounts from NPQ programme administrators regarding the content and nature of questions from participant e-mails about aspects of the final assessment process. Indeed, my own observations as a facilitator on face-to-face days would suggest that ordinarily highly competent individuals in their own school contexts are reduced to uncertain novices where writing up and submitting accounts of their in-school leadership initiatives are concerned.  Teachers’ negative identities of themselves as learners can impede their agency in relation to engaging with professional learning programmes and writing up final assessment submissions.

We are living in an environment now where some teachers quite like being done to: tell me what to do, tell me what I have to do next. This may be the consequence of a need for self-preservation in a workplace of ever increasing demand. I have become increasingly frustrated with this when it translates into how aspiring leaders approach their professional development.  As a lead facilitator on leadership development programmes, I sometimes find myself thinking, “You are preparing yourself for senior school leadership, yet you are still asking me what you need to do!”  Individual contexts and expectations play a key role in enabling or blocking their teachers’ perceptions of their capable selves, which in turn help or hinder their willingness to engage in the final assessment stages of their programmes.

If we take Biesta and Tedder’s concept of ecological agency seriously, some people find the school very conducive to preparing their final assessment, and it fits, but for other people, if the school context is not conducive, the space is much more conflicted and difficult for them. This not only reflects the competence of the aspiring leader, it concerns the degree of ecological agency that is available within the school, which spiritually encourages or discourages, and materially encourages and discourages. A lot of teachers’ competency is shown by their ability to reflect on the context, the assessment and the task rather than just the first order, do the task.

It isn’t just about teachers’ own agency, however. It is also about spiritual, emotional and physical conditions because agency also resides in the context.  This concerns an aspect of Hermans’ dialogical self theory (DST), which involves having a helicopter view of a particular context and asking, ‘What sense do I make of this?’  In this way, teachers are able to comment on not just themselves but themselves in that social context.  It requires teachers to read the context, which can be very difficult if they have only ever taught in one place.  It also requires for them to discuss amongst themselves so that they get more of a sense of what it’s like in other places.

So what does it all mean? For me, it’s about trying to support a shift in perspective, presenting a pedagogical approach which allows participants to understand their ecological context earlier on in their NPQ programme.  For participants, it’s about realising the role and power of their contexts as well as their personal capacity to act within and beyond them.

Taken from the BERA blogs.

Dr Anna Reid is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Deputy Director of the North Leadership Centre and Programme Director for the North East Teaching Schools Partnership (NETSP) within the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

Twitter: @AjrReid

You can find more information at


Learning outdoors in school grounds

Perhaps it’s the onset of summer weather, or the fact that the school term feels different after the exams and tests are over, but whatever the reason there has been a renewed interest in learning outdoors recently, as illustrated by a recent Guardian feature.  On a serious and really critical note what this article demonstrates is the potential for learning outdoors to boost children’s wellbeing.  In addition England’s largest outdoor learning project conducted by Plymouth University recently revealed that children are more motivated to learn when outside.  It is unusual to start an ECLS blog citing research from another university, but the interest generated by this research (as evidenced on twitter) prompted us to publish an evaluation of a particular outdoor learning project conducted by CfLaT on outdoor learning in school grounds.  You can access this report here.


The CfLaT report “Creative Partnerships: Creating purpose, permission and passion for outdoor learning in school grounds” is based on evidence from four primary and first schools in North-East England, Farne Primary School and St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School (both in Newcastle) and Stobhillgate First School and Tweedmouth West First School (both in Northumberland). Each school used the opportunities offered by Creative Partnerships to develop learning experiences in their school grounds during 2010 and 2011. The motivations for initiating the work; the nature of learning; the use of the school environment and the relationships were unique to each school, as were the physical, cognitive and affective outcomes. This blog outlines core themes that emerged across the schools and their outdoor learning activities.  You can read all about it in the report.

Re-thinking teaching and learning

The outdoor learning projects provided an impetus for a reconsideration of the processes of teaching and learning. The Creative Partnerships projects focusing on the outdoor environment certainly offered opportunities for fun and memorable learning experiences, but the impact went deeper than this. Teachers and co-ordinators recognised that they had the chance to develop alternative approaches and to explore alternative perspectives on both pedagogy and the curriculum. One way of understanding this is through the distinction between convergent and divergent teaching. Much of the teaching and learning developed through these case study projects could be described as divergent. Divergent teaching is contingent and cannot be planned fully in advance. It does not rely on a ‘script’, but instead requires a degree of risk taking and thinking on one’s feet. In these examples it was clear that teaching staff and creative practitioners had responded to the pupils’ interests and actions. The collaborative relationship between teachers and creative practitioners supported this; allowing more child initiated learning and an approach which encouraged experiential learning.

In September 2001, Estyn (the Welsh equivalent to Ofsted) produced an evaluation report on the national foundation stage initiative for greater outdoor learning. Like the more recent Plymouth University report Estyn’s findings had resonance for us. For example Estyn stated that, ‘In most cases, children benefit from their time outdoors. They display high levels of engagement and enjoyment and their knowledge and understanding of the world and physical development improve. A majority of practitioners also say that children’s behaviour, physical fitness and stamina improve’ (Estyn, 2011, p5). The Estyn report recognises that opportunities to enhance learning outcomes linked to creativity had not been fully realised in their sample of outdoor learning, and the four Creative Partnership schools provided illustrative examples of how this might be achieved.


Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) was unequivocal in rejecting a view of teaching and learning which stated that the only way to organize the curriculum was to divide teaching programmes into pre-specified outcomes in terms of measurable changes in student behaviour. He argued for the transformation of the teacher–pupil relationship.  In such a transformation there has to be a redrawing of roles, responsibilities and power implying a less authoritarian structure.  Such a transition can be recognised in the four case study schools,  with the introduction of creative practitioners as ‘experts’ and evidence of teachers learning skills alongside pupils, of pupils learning from pupils and opportunities for family involvement in learning activities.   There was also evidence that teachers welcomed the opportunities for their pupils to surprise them, and celebrated both the intended and unintended learning outcomes and consequences.

Teacher development and learning

The same could be said of the development of teaching staff.  In each case the co-ordinators were able to identify tangible, but not always planned for, staff development outcomes.  The teachers themselves had overcome some of their anxieties about ‘letting go’ and enjoyed the chance to work across year groups, to take alternative roles in supporting and engaging in learning, and to draw on the expertise of practitioners who reciprocated by drawing out their expertise as teachers. Traditionally schools and teachers find change difficult (Tyack & Cuban, 1995, Leat, 1999) especially in the direction of more innovative pedagogies.  Substantial pedagogic innovation usually requires some behavioural change in teaching and therefore also changes in thinking and in beliefs about pupils, learning or teaching – and perhaps all three.  There is good evidence that the Creative Partnerships projects created the space and permission for some of these changes to start to occur.  In this environment teachers and pupils responded positively to what they recognised as more fluid teaching approaches, often driven by the ‘natural’ processes adopted by practitioners based on craft skills, experimentation, or exploration of ideas, environments and techniques.  Leadership, effective co-ordination and permissions were all critical.  This was also a conclusion reached by Estyn (2001) who found that the ‘vision of leaders and their commitment to making the best use of outdoor learning are key factors’ (p5).  Where scepticism of the value of outdoor learning was found in the Welsh sample the outdoor environment was not used well enough.  One of the significant characteristics of the Creative Partnerships sample in this report was that such scepticism (if it had existed) had been largely overcome and thus real progress was made in developing appropriate teaching and learning in the enhanced outdoor areas of each school.

In Timperley et al.’s (2007) ‘best evidence synthesis’ study of effective professional development (as measured by student outcomes), one of the most important factors implicated in teacher learning was the challenge to the existing beliefs that are embedded in the everyday discourse of some schools, usually that certain groups of students could not learn as well as other groups.  There was evidence from the schools that transferring learning to the outdoor environment, and taking alternative approaches to planning, enacting and valuing learning had allowed some teachers’ assumptions to be challenged.  In this environment each school had evolved as a community; with new elements of school improvement planning being developed and plans being made for further innovative approaches. The experience of Creative Partnership projects had helped each school to recognise that the value in innovation is not simply in adopting one new approach after another.  They have learned that they can enrich the curriculum through exploiting multiple opportunities for learning, extending relationships for learning and recognising a very wide range of outcomes of learning.

Written by Lucy Tiplady, CfLaT Research Associate, Newcastle University and
Dr Rachel LofthouseHead of Education, Newcastle University.


Estyn (2011) Outdoor learning: an evaluation of learning in the outdoors for children under five in the Foundation Phase – September 2011

Stenhouse, L. (1975) An Introduction to curriculum research and development, London: Heinneman.

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H. and  Fung, I. (2007) Teacher Professional Development and Learning, Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES), Auckland: Ministry of Education.

Tiplady, L. & Lofthouse, R. (2011) Creative Partnerships: Creating purpose, permission and passion for outdoor learning in school grounds. Research Centre for Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University, UK.

Tyack, D. & Cuban, L. (1995) Tinkering towards Utopia, Harvard: Harvard University Press.

InForm Conference 2016: Working with words – Supporting understanding of discipline-specific vocabulary in IFPs

Durham pic

On 16 July 2016 I attended the annual InForm conference, which took place at Durham University. InForm is a publication edited by staff from the University of Reading that provides a research forum for HE professionals working on international foundation programmes.

The conference presentations were very relevant to my EdD research project and dissertation as they all focused on the application of learning and teaching strategies in the foundation course sector. Of particular interest was the first key note speech by Prof. Michael McCarthy as he talked about the use of corpora to inform learning and teaching. In this context he reported how teachers react when confronted with their own language use in the classroom. This was particularly insightful as some of the teachers’ sentiments he described mirror the teachers’ comments in my data. Furthermore, the presentation by Aaron Woodcock from Reading University was very interesting for my dissertation topic as he outlined how he, too, takes a content and language integrated learning approach to his teaching practice, although he does not formally use the “CLIL” framework.

My own presentation on “Raising linguistic awareness through CLIL: A reflective practice approach for subject teachers” was well received. It was the last presentation of the day, but still attracted an audience of about twenty people. The presentation sparked some good discussions regarding the “authenticity” of the higher education experience of international students as well as the need for teacher development for academic subject staff. Overall, the feedback was very positive and some of the attending teachers commented that they felt my research topic was of great relevance to the sector.
On a personal level, it was good to catch up with former colleagues from INTO Newcastle University and from Northumbria University’s foundation programme. Also, I used the event for networking and had some interesting discussions with colleagues from Glasgow, Southampton and Durham Universities. Furthermore, I shared experiences with another EdD student from Durham University discussing our research projects, respective methodologies and general progress.

Overall, it was a really worthwhile conference and I enjoyed both attending as well as presenting a session and am grateful for the funding received from ECLS.

Written by Sandra Strigel, currently studying her Doctorate of Education (EdD)

Simple measures can poverty proof the school day for pupils

Looking at classmate

A scheme to help disadvantaged pupils has been shown to increase attendance and attainment in schools.

Remove barriers to learning

The Poverty Proofing the School Day toolkit, created by charity Children North East and evaluated by Newcastle University experts, aims to remove barriers to learning for the poorest students, who may not have access to the correct uniform, PE kit or computers to carry out their homework. This means they can be stigmatised at school through no fault of their own.

The scheme advocates schools use simple measures to help youngsters living in poverty get more out of the school day. It includes steps such offering students a free drink and snack before exams, improving IT access, more breakfast clubs, changing the ways school meals and uniforms are administered and cutting the number of non-uniform days. These small steps can prevent poorer students being discriminated against during the school day.

‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’ does a great service in reminding us all why it is still so difficult for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to do well in the English education system in the 21st century.
Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith

Positive impact

An independent evaluation of the project by Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith and Professor Liz Todd from Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communications Language Sciences, found evidence of the scheme’s positive impact in schools across the North East, North Lincolnshire and Glasgow.

Their research showed increased engagement at school with the most disadvantaged pupils, including improved attendance, attainment, uptake of free school meals and uptake of school trips and music tuition.

Six schools in North Lincolnshire noted a rise in attendance for pupils eligible for free school meals, with one school noting a 7% increase. Seven North Lincolnshire schools reported increased attainment of pupils on free school meals at Key Stages 1, 2 and 4.

A total of 28 schools have taken part in the scheme so far, with a further 23 additional schools waiting to take part.

Dr Mazzoli Smith said: “This is one of the most important projects I have been involved in my time at Newcastle University.

“By uncovering the myriad ways in which children living in poverty can be stigmatised at school, ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’ does a great service in reminding us all why it is still so difficult for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to do well in the English education system in the 21st century.

“It is the hidden, unwitting nature of this stigmatisation that is of particular concern. However, as the evaluation highlights, there are a raft of positive steps schools can take to prevent this from happening and to work towards a positive school culture where such practices are unlikely to occur.”

High cost to families

Liz Todd, Professor of Educational Inclusion said: “‘State schooling is supposed to be free. In fact, the cost to families is high. Uniform, food, equipment, study support and other activities central to becoming a successful adult, not optional add-ons. Our research suggests that attainment gains follow when schools take action.

“Schools already pay a lot of attention to the social needs of students. However, this research has demonstrated that there are many way that school systems unwittingly stigmatise poorer students. It takes Children North East’s Poverty Proofing Audit process, a critical friend talking to everyone in the school, for the school staff to see what is happening and to evolve solutions that are respectful to students.”

‘Child poverty has increased in the last 6 years and we are seeing schools as a frontline organisation to support families by paying for many things families cannot pay for – even down to feeding children. At the same time school budgets are being reduced. There is a limit to the extent to which schools can compensate for the impact of low wages and welfare cuts. A response is therefore needed from the government to reduce child poverty.”

Sarah Bryson, Policy and Research Manager at Children North East, said: “The pressure of the rising cost of the school day, from school trips, tuition, and uniforms has a significant effect, not only on pupils, but their families too. We want to limit this stress and encourage pupils to have a positive experience at school, which all contributes to helping children to grow up healthy and happy.
“We know Poverty Proofing the School Day supports pupils living in poverty to improve their future prospects by helping them to be engaged throughout the day by reducing discrimination which can often alienate pupils and lead to a lack of interest and motivation in education.”

Taken from Newcastle University Press Office.

Written by Laura Mazzoli Smith, Research Associate.

BREXIT – initial thoughts on effects on our schools

Alea iacta est, the die is cast! With 5am last Friday morning it was obvious that a majority (51.9%) of the UK electorate had voted for BREXIT. By lunchtime it was clear what BREXIT means for the leadership of the country as well as the conservative party: change. Change is approached differently by all of us, some of us are anxious and some are embracing change and try to see the opportunities change will bring. However, considering BREXIT there are so many unknowns; some of us might still be hoping that the European Union might offer the new prime minister a better REMAIN deal, an option that has been particularly featured in some of the German speaking press. We won’t know immediately what this change called “BREXIT” means. We have entered a period of waiting, and a period of leadership discussion. The optimist in me is looking forward to a more factual, scientific and less emotional debate in preparing for the negotiations with the EU when the UK government finally decides to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Considering these future negotiations, education, without doubt, might not be on the highest of the agenda. Chris Husbands opened his BERA blog last week with the words that the EU referendum “has nothing to do with education – certainly not with schools”. In the course of his blog, Husbands makes a strong argument why the referendum does actually have to do with education but doesn’t refer back to schools. As an educator, teacher trainer and someone who has been working on teacher supply policy over the past five years, I would argue that BREXIT is likely to have quite a bit of an impact on our schools.

Teacher supply, and the lack of it in some subjects, has been part of the education debate in this country for at least 20 years. Through the freedom of movement arrangements within the European Union it has been possible for the Department for Education to rely on teachers from European countries to fill some of these vacant posts. In fact, we even welcomed them by accepting their European teacher qualifications and attributed them the status of “Qualified Teacher”.

These teachers are not just a solution to the staffing problem but they are also an invaluable asset to the school and its community; they bring a new perspective, new culture, new approaches and often alternative ways of working and thinking to the community. At a time where ‘otherness’ is leading to anxiety and fear in our society, it is our moral responsibility as educators and policy makers to ensure that our learners are actively engaging with people from different nations, cultures and customs. Yes, one might argue that this might not be of such an importance when we have disconnected ourselves from the European Union, I would argue that it will be much more important, as we won’t be automatically part of it. We will have to negotiate partnerships for ourselves rather than being part of a European Union scheme, such as Comenius or Erasmus+.

Erasmus+, and previously Comenius, have enabled school leaders to have access to additional funds to motivate, engage and most importantly develop their young learners as well as accomplish innovative school improvement initiatives. One headteacher reported to me that he received over €490k by applying successfully to different EU schemes over an eight-year period.

And then there are those educational activities that I would argue are vital for a child’s development, i.e. trips and exchange programmes to European Union countries. Yes, some might argue school trips in recent years have declined anyway – but this is not due to the European Union, this is a purely UK self-inflicted decrease by constantly increasing the red tape and highlighting the risks rather than the opportunities of such mobility programmes. Practical schemes such as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) have not just reduced the costs of international trips but ensured that our pupils and teachers are able to access adequate medical care while travelling within the EU zone.

All these are examples of how the UK has benefitted from being part of the European Union. Yes, the die is cast! However, this does not mean that all is lost for the country, its partnership with the European Union as well as for education and schools more specifically. It is now essential that we all, politicians, experts, embassy representatives, school and business leaders, unions, subject associations and parents work closely together to identify ways forward in a partnership with the European Union in order to ensure that this BREXIT referendum outcome does not negatively affect our next generation – a generation that would have so much more wished to be part of a united Europe than a potentially isolated and de-united (Great) Britain.

Taken from BERA


Husbands, Chris (2016): Yesterdays and tomorrows: what the referendum says about education. BERA Blog, Wednesday, 22 June 2016https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/yesterdays-and-tomorrows-what-the-referendum-says-about-education

Written by:

René Koglbauer

René Koglbauer is Senior Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Director of the North Leadership Centre at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. René is currently also acting head of the school. René is President of the Association for Language Learning and Director of Network for Languages North East. He is member of a number of regional, national and international policy groups. René represents the UK at the International German Teacher Association and is chair of a number of competition and teacher award panels. Prior to his university appointment, René held a number of roles in secondary education in the UK, Hungary, Russia and his country of origin, Austria.

René can be contacted by email rene.koglbauer@ncl.ac.uk or via twitter @Rene_Koglbauer

For more information see: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ecls/staff/

CERA-UK Conference 2016

From 24 June to 25 June 2016, I attended an annual conference held by Institute of Education, UCL, called CERA-UK Conference 2016, and presented the draft findings of my doctoral research in Session D – Higher Educational issues. And the title of my presentation is “Internationalisation strategies and the international students’ experiences: two approaches of internationalisation of higher education (IHE) in universities of the UK and China”.


I received many useful feedbacks and suggestions from this presentation experience. To be more specific, I received critiques on “sampling” issues and realised the necessity of further declaring the criteria and considerations of choosing participants in my study. Also, I had a further discussion on the IHE framework with audiences during the “Question and comments” part of my presentation.

Also, at the end of each session, there was a panel discussion. And all presenters in that session were sitting in the front, answering more questions and discussing any other related topics in details. In the session D I was presenting, the key topics also covered “intercultural perspectives”, which is another key issue involved in my own project. Although the research context of Prof. Dervin and Harkonen’s study is different from mine, I still learnt a lot from listening to their presentations and the discussing with them in the panel discussion.


Also, as an international conference looking at educational issues and relationships in both China and the UK, there were several keynotes that intensively looking at globalising issues. For example, Simon Marginson from UCL gave a Keynote speech “Towards future world society: Some thoughts about China-UK relations in education and research”. In the keynote, he suggested that in every country, the approach to internationalisation is shaped by historical, cultural and political-economic factors. And he further suggested that more needs to be done in the UK to develop internationalisation on a world-wide scale and practice the China-UK engagement, thus to make the transition from the imperial past to relations of global equals within the unity in diversity of world society. His speech broadened my research horizon, as I am only focusing on “institutional level” of IHE. As a result, for further revising work on my literature review, I would like to consider the IHE issues within a broader background.

In addition, it was really an enjoyable and inspiring conference, and a good chance to get connections with other international scholars, either from the Britain, China or worldwide. For instance, during this conference, I met the Minister-Counsellor Shen Yang, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China TBC, Department for Education, UK, who gave the opening speech. And I got to know more Chinese scholars who are doing educational research in the UK, such as Yongcan Liu, University of Cambridge, who gave a keynote speech named “Dynamic Assessment for the Language Development of Disadvantaged Migrant Children with EAL”.

About the blogger

Written by Coco Lu LIU, 4th years PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.