All entries for February 2021

February 23, 2021

Scholarly blogs: An assessment tool to strengthen students’ personal brand

Scholarly blogs: An assessment tool to strengthen students’ personal brand by developing an online presence

Isabel Fischer, Associate Professor Information Systems and Management, WBS

Isabel Fischer photo

Graduates require an increased (professional) online presence and a ‘personal brand’ for career advancement. To encourage students to communicate opinions that matter effectively - and to strengthen their confidence both at the time of writing as well as later on when reflecting back on the blogs - I introduced this term scholarly blogs as a written assignment tool. A scholarly blog builds on the transferrable elements of academic writing and transposes these into a publishable blog.

The remainder of this post outlines how the scholarly blog could be introduced in practice as an innovative form of assessment.

To write their blogs, students are asked to draw on theories and concepts covered in the module as well as in their extended reading. Blogs should demonstrate expert knowledge and thought leadership. The generic marking criteria for assessments can apply, e.g. (1) Comprehension, (2) Analysis, (3) Critical Evaluation, (4) Academic Writing, and (5) Reflection. Students are asked to submit their blog as not yet live but ‘ready to post’, including, for example, images, hashtags and approx. time for reading. The blog should be scholarly and contributing to knowledge, i.e. ‘serious’ rather than ‘colloquial’ and reviewing existing knowledge prior to adding to knowledge. It therefore should be underpinned by extensive referencing to academic literature and to professional reports/posts/webpages. In addition, students can, but do not have to hyperlink their references.

The ideas/content that the blog conveys need to be convincing and should demonstrate critical thinking. The blog should therefore be thought-provoking rather than explaining concepts in a textbook-style-writing. The blog should be seen as written by a subject matter expert and driver for change in a specific field whose opinion matters. The language used should be formal, yet appropriate for a blog, i.e. more informal than an academic journal article. Students might want to write the blog using a first-person positioning (e.g. ‘A recent WBS module on Digital Leadership made me consider…’ or ‘I suggest…’), yet most sentences will not include any writing in the first person (e.g. ‘Miller (2021) raised the point of….’ or ‘If X than Y (see Jones (2020) and Smith (2021)’).

I communicate to students that I expect to see a clear structure in their blog which is aligned to academic writing without using the same headings. For example, students might start in larger letters with an executive summary of the blog which is similar to an abstract. They might then introduce the topic (without calling it introduction) and provide a review of existing material (without calling it literature review). Students are encouraged to structure their main body in different sections using content-related titles in bold before having their concluding thoughts. Students could then show their list of references/bibliography under a heading such as ‘Useful articles in the domain of X’ and adding hashtags to relevant areas.

For further questions or comments on introducing scholarly blogs as an assessment tool please email:

February 16, 2021

RiA Conference Review – part three

The big privacy debate: how do young people perceive privacy when using social media in the UK?

Chapman is a senior lecturer in Education at the University of Northampton, whose research explores young people’s behaviour online, and their perceptions of privacy. The big question overarching Chapman’s talk was ‘Does privacy exist in young people’s lives when they’re online?’ One of Chapman’s key reasons for this research was to give space for the voices of young people on an issue that is both relevant and important to them, but also to underpin a mutual understanding of how children’s experiences online can inform our practice when engaging with children and young people.

Though Social Networking Sites (SNS) have been written about for the past 25 years since their conception, Chapman highlights that these are ever evolving, and often leave the realms of young people’s lives as quickly as they enter them. Mark Zuckerberg’s famous statement “Privacy is dead” perfectly encapsulates the feelings of a worried generation of youth. Parents’ and guardians’ concerns about online safety contradict young peoples’ desires for privacy online, creating a difficult and stressful dynamic for families everywhere. Chapman found that though young people do take risks with their online identities, they also see value in their interactions, and worry about their peers more than themselves.

I asked Chapman what his response might be to schools whose only advice (to parents and students) is for students to stop using SNS altogether. Chapman replied that he found that quite sad, expressing a need for both educators and young people to be informed on the benefits and risks of using SNS. They also stated that if we knew more about young people’s perceptions and experiences online, we may have been able to support them throughout COVID in a more informed way. Social media is an irrefutable constant in many young people’s lives and, as educators, it may just be part of our job to better understand it.

Concluding thoughts

Despite it’s unconventional arrangement, the RiA virtual conference (2020) was engaging and enlightening. Davies’ keynote presentation was a highlight for many students, including myself, who felt optimistic about the concept of a truly inclusive and enriching school culture. All of the speakers’ enthusiasm for educational research and its capacity to develop our personal and professional lives was inspiring, and I believe we all left the day feeling more hopeful for teaching in 2021 and beyond.

February 08, 2021

RiA Conference Review – part two

What defines an international school?

Weeks had a long standing interest in international schooling, having been primary school educated abroad them-selves, and with teaching experience in Singapore, Madrid, and Bangkok. Their own mother in law, originally a singer, founded the Sharjah International School in the United Arab Emirates, one of the leading international schools globally.

Despite the distinct lack of quality research on the subject, Weeks gave trainee teachers an overview of what is known about the types of international school that exist, and what attracts families and teachers to them. The Independent Schools Council (ISC) predicts that by 2029, there will be 18,929 international schools educating 10.6 million children, needing double the current staff at 1.03 million teachers. This is as many as 1 in 4 teachers from the UK, Ireland, Australia, and the USA, all for international schooling. The demand for certified anglo-western teachers globally poses huge financial, social, moral, and ethical issues in the UK teaching system; interestingly, 45% of these schools adopt the English national curriculum, thanks to its easily accessible and standardised nature.

Weeks explored with us the three types of international schools, their ethics, and some of the sociocultural implications of for-profit international schooling. They also defined the phenomena of fourth culture kids, as students who find themselves not abroad, but in a foreign system which does not represent their home culture nor beliefs in the way that their home system would.

Key points to remember when considering a profession in international teaching included acknowledging the challenge of living and working abroad, researching the school, package, and cost of living, not underestimating what you have to offer, and Weeks’ concluding point: “Don’t be afraid to come back!” Students considering teaching abroad in international schools found the session hugely informative, with plenty to think about.

Teaching LGBTUA+ content in schools: an ethnographic approach

Rowan-Lancaster is an LGBTUA+ teacher educator, previous PSHE coordinator, and current teaching member on the Primary team at the University of Warwick. Their ongoing EdD research explores trainee teachers’ fears in relation to teaching LGBTUA+ content in schools, and in the talk on Monday they shared some of the potential reasons behind these fears.

Some of the data Rowan-Lancaster has begun to analyse so far shows that teacher fears include: students’ parents having an issue with the content; not having support from their senior leadership team; accidentally offending LGBT families; using incorrect terminology; not meeting their teaching and professional standards; and concerns linked to social media, such as what the consequences might be in their local communities, and whether parents will broadcast the issue on social media. Overall, teachers did not want to blur their personal and professional lives, an issue also explored in Davies’ keynote presentation.

Rowan-Lancaster hopes that their research will have a lasting impact in schools in reassuring trainee teachers that the equality act and their universities are supporting them. They would like to see less fear in teaching LGBTUA+ content in RSE, and hope that schools will start to see that leading ITT providers such as the University of Warwick have a clear focus in social justice, and will follow suit. Rowan-Lancaster acknowledges that social and structural change such as this inevitably takes time. The presentation was objective, focussed, and left students feeling optimistic about the future of teaching.

February 05, 2021

RiA Conference Review – part one

The show went on this year with the University of Warwick Centre for Teacher Education’s seventh annual Research in Action Conference. Unlike any before, the 2020 RiA Conference was held virtually via Blackboard Collaborate online meeting rooms, of which students could pick and mix which links to click, or rather, which talks to attend. This allowed students to explore a variety of current issues and initiatives within educational research in the comfort of their own homes (and slippers) ranging from the implications of class and colonialism in international schooling, to how teens feel when their Nan comments on their social media posts.

The conference aims were to help trainees get a feel for what educational research is, and to understand how being research-engaged can enhance our professional development. The day went smoothly and was received well by students, who felt that the talks were informative, easy to access, and refreshing at the end of a long and stressful first term. Here are overviews of the talks I attended, and what some students thought about them.

Keynote: The Trust Revolution in Schools – Jeanie Davies “We are the revolution. We are the culture […] It is in every one of us.”

Davies’ keynote presentation on building revolutionary school cultures was an excellent start to the day, with many students noticing their enthusiasm for the subject, and commenting on how informative and reassuring they found the talk. Davies’ background in international business helped train her eye to recognising toxic cultures, but it wasn’t until they progressed into teaching that they had the language to describe the experience. Davies’ upcoming book The Trust Revolution in Schools (2020) details the importance of vulnerability and the capacity to show up as we are when navigating our professional and personal relationships. As trainee teachers, some of the statistics that Davies enlightened us to were shocking; in 2017, the number of teachers leaving the profession was higher than those entering for the first time since records began, and currently, 20% of NQTs are leaving the UK state sector within their first 2 years. Davies argues that a revolution is necessary, and that it is in our hands to bring one about. It may be true that it is a British tendency to avoid the Zone of Uncomfortable Discussion, or to flee toxic cultures by calling in sick, but so long as we do not believe that growth and change are possible, they never will be. Davies calls on teachers and leaders alike to cultivate trust-based cultures in schools, promising outcomes of collaboration, up-skilling one another, improved teaching and learning, but most importantly a higher state of wellbeing for all.

Getting published: a workshop aimed at helping you to get published – Kate Mawson “You only need to do it in order to have done it”

Mawson’s workshop style event advised trainees on how to maximise their publishing opportunities, and was open to people from all areas of education, whether aiming to publish academically or non-academically. The session was constructive, with clear examples of Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPPs) which trainees could look out for as ways to enhance their professional identity. Mawson also discussed how LPPs can help to limit imposter syndrome when facing concerns about our own experience or relevance, particularly when comparing ourselves to ‘experts’, who Mawson claims are just further along their participatory journey than we are. They encouraged the trainees by telling us that we were more experienced than we realised, and Mawson’s biggest piece of advice for students trying to get into blogging and publication was to engage socially with this environment, but also, to “Just do it!”

February 2021

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