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October 25, 2021
AI Ethics for Assessments in Higher Education: A project example of an interdisciplinary social sciences undergraduate summer research scheme
By Isabel Fischer (Warwick Business School) and Thomas Martin (Economics)
Warwick’s Social Sciences offer students and faculty from economics, education and Warwick Business School (WBS) the opportunity to take part in an interdisciplinary summer research project to improve awareness and understanding of collaborative research work on a topic of the students’ choice. One of this summer’s group focused on AI ethics for assessments where students applied the EU Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI to Higher Education Assessment. Students concluded that despite the limitations of AI, AI has the potential to make assessment processes in higher education more effective and fairer. Students suggested that AI should be embraced, but only with human oversight and agency, and with clear stakeholder communication in place.
Linden Davison, a student from the Department of Economics, commented: “Getting involved in the UG research scheme broadened my awareness beyond my single subject discipline - working in a field I wasn't aware existed when we started! It was a pleasure to work alongside students from different departments and be guided by such engaging, motivated staff alike.” Toby Pia, also from Economics, added: “Throughout my URSS experience I improved my ability to explain complex ideas in a more understandable way. I also got better in conveying a balanced argument as previously I tended to get more entrenched into one side of a debate rather than looking at it from both sides.”
At the end of the project each student produced a research poster, depicting one of the seven overarching themes of the EU Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI. Below an example by Shubhangi Bhatt, a student from the Department of Education Studies, on Transparency.
Finally, here a link to five articles that explain how AI could be made ethical and trustworthy:
And you also might want to read here how AI can (positively) influence education generally:
June 07, 2021
Education Research Conference Review - Monday 14th December 2020. The University of Warwick. Written by Fionnuala Spicer - Primary PGCE student (Early Years Specialism)
On Monday the 14th December, the University of Warwick invited leading academics and teachers across the field of Education to share their research with current primary and secondary Warwick PGCE students. The conference began with an inspirational keynote speech from Jeanie Davies on the intricacies of the ethical teacher and why character matters in the teaching profession. The conference followed with a selection of seminars and workshops from varying professionals drawn from universities and schools across the United Kingdom who engaged our PGCE cohort in their research. The PGCE students including myself self-selected which sessions to attend and many opted for a pick’n’mix approach where we opted in and out of a number in order to hear as many speakers as possible. The research conference complied with the core content framework which details the compliancy for teacher training programmes in their entitlement of all trainee teachers to expose PGCE students to research.
I was particularly encouraged when listening to Jeanie Davies speak on the importance of character in the teaching profession. Jeanie challenged us to reflect on the different interpretations of character education and to consider our position as trainee teachers. I learned from Jeanie that character can be caught through the ethos of a school when it is embedded within school values, but it can also be taught to children through educational experiences which enhance opportunities for character development. Jeanie invited us to reminisce on our own school experiences, including reflecting in three words on an inspirational teacher who made an impact on us. I opted for the words “believed in me” as I remembered a teacher who touched my life and helped me overcome my difficulty in reading. Other PGCE students provided answers which followed on the same topical thread with words such as “’approachable”, “kind”, “caring”, “honest”, with one trainee also stating, “gave me opportunities”. I found this last answer particularly poignant as I hold the belief that education is a powerful tool which can be harnessed to address the inequality which still exists in our society. A highlight from Jeanie’s speech is it provided a moment for us as trainee teachers to reflect inwards and consider our personal motivations for pursuing a career in teaching. Jeanie highlighted the fact that most teachers enter the profession for altruistic reasons, because we want to make a difference, and this is a theme which was acknowledged and supported by many academics throughout the conference. Jeanie reminded us that there are complexities within teaching as teachers are regularly required in all aspects of education to make quick decisions with conflicting demands, many of which do not have a clearly defined right or wrong answer. However, it illustrated to me that engaging in moral matters is embedded within teaching and we therefore have a key role to play in showcasing our ethical knowledge and a moral responsibility to help our students become good people.
The next session I dipped into was Georgina Newton and Dr Holly Heshmati’s session on empowering pre-service teachers to develop personal and professional resilience. I was drawn to this session as I was already aware that teaching has one of the highest turnover rates of any profession and I was eager to explore how I could build my resilience considering this. I learned that resilience is not fixed or innate as it can be learned and strengthened in different contexts. Georgina and Dr Holly emphasised how a resilient teacher displays high professional competency to overcome challenges and shows empathy towards children who struggle at school. The theme of resilience was conveyed through an honest lens as Dr Holly highlighted that it is only realistic to expect students to be resilient if teachers exhibit resilience themselves and build a capacity for resilience. However, I appreciated that the session also acknowledged that each of us has a limit with what we can cope with as although resilience is important, it is essential that teachers are supported and feel able to be vulnerable and confide in others when in need. This was also supported in Professor Des Hewitt’s session as he highlighted how if we want the best for our students, then we need the best for teachers also. This also builds on Jeanie’s keynote speech which exemplified the importance of values, motivation, agency, and empowerment and how it should extend not just for children but to teachers also.
The theme of resilience was particularly relevant in advance of the next session I attended with Becki Coombe on supporting the engagement of disengaged and disaffected learners. This workshop really challenged me as a trainee teacher to not simply see children’s behaviour at face value but to instead consider the root cause. Becki highlighted that students who are disengaged or disaffected in their learning often have additional factors to negotiate such as early childhood trauma, a chaotic home environment, medical needs, and disorders such as ADHD. I learned too that children’s disengagement in learning can also be down to our practice as teachers if we do not differentiate enough or if there is a lack of creativity to sufficiently engage children’s interest. This spoke to me especially as it brought the accountability back on to us as trainee teachers to improve our practice and consider ways in which we can engage these children and help identify underlying life issues which are impacting them. During my first teaching placement, my mentor instilled in me the importance of building a relationship with my students and getting to know them and this was reiterated in this session as a way to help students engage. Becki helped us explore practical ways in which we can give our students quality time outside of the classroom such as leading extracurricular activities because if students feel invested in then they will have a much better experience to learn. Becki highlighted how by us investing in our students and showing them they matter, we are automatically helping place them in the third tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with a sense of belonging.
I found this session particularly useful also as it opened my eyes to how teachers should aim to contribute to a positive learning environment by conveying expectations, setting clear boundaries, remaining consistent and embodying the ‘glass half full’ mindset. Becki revealed to us how we should “catch students being good” and pay just as much attention to positive behaviour as we would negative, to build rapport and provide students with stability. Becki highlighted how a good sense of humour will carry us far in our role as teachers and that a “teacher look” is an essential in any teacher’s toolbox! The focus on being present and available to our students really stood out to me as it linked to Jeanie’s prior session on how we can support children’s character and be a stabilising presence in children’s lives. A lesson that I will apply from this session in my future practice is to treat each lesson like a story - each lesson should have a beginning, middle and end but everyone desires the happy ending at the end of the story. Therefore, I will ensure that the ending of each lesson is a positive experience for my students so that they leave happy and willing to continue engaging in learning.
However, the session also highlighted some of the problematic issues in practice as it raised the importance of not limiting resources or provision which have been recommended for children to help them cope in the classroom such as time out cards. However, Becki highlighted the underlying tension as there is often a tendency to cap these at a certain amount when instead any adjustments used as a mechanism to support students in their learning should be wholeheartedly utilised, welcomed and embraced without limit.
Other sessions I also popped into included Sue Johnston-Wilder’s seminar on addressing maths anxiety in our students and ourselves. The session revealed the sense of fear that is typically centred around maths and which permeates many students’ mindsets. However, it was positive to note that we as trainee teachers can play a pivotal role in changing that trajectory and we can move students on from a place of helplessness to one of confidence in maths. This theme of confidence was also drawn upon in Professor Des Hewitt’s session which focused on the ways in which research can make sense of primary and early years settings. The session supported much of what was also conveyed in Becki’s session with an integral focus placed on the importance of us knowing our students and understanding their learning journeys. This session reaffirmed what I learned in Becki’s session as Des conveyed how through understanding children’s personal circumstances, we can help them overcome obstacles in their learning. In this session we were asked to also reflect on teachers who were memorable from our school experiences and most of the answers centred on teachers who were funny, caring, passionate and who helped us through difficult times in our lives. Therefore, there was a sense that it is the pastoral element of nurturing teachers which keeps students going. Professor Des Hewitt’s session was also a particular highlight for me personally from the research conference as it promoted social justice in the way in which it advocated for inclusion and challenged us as trainees to consider what defines an inclusive school which avoids discrimination. We were encouraged in the session to choose an aspect from the ten principles of inclusive leadership which we felt had particular significance for us. I selected aspect four which stated how inclusive leaders acknowledge and value diversity and champion a culture of tolerance and diversity. However, I felt it important to note that whilst I agree that we must champion a culture of diversity, there are complexities within the language of ‘tolerance’ which demand acknowledgement as diversity should not be just ‘tolerated’ but wholeheartedly embraced, welcomed, recognised and valued. I appreciated how the session placed a focus on looking for the ability in people and seeing that talents can be expressed in a multitude of ways such as through art, music or social dimensions rather than from a wholly academic perspective.
To conclude, as a result of attending the research conference it has become clear that there are implications for trainee teachers which require acknowledgement. The fear surrounding Ofsted and the culture of compliance was drawn upon in different sessions and the problematic issues were built on further with the recognition that professionalism in education is often determined as compliance and by measurable aspects such as attendance or punctuality. There was a mutual understanding within the research that there is at times a disconnect between what universities say is good practice in schools and then what happens in the classroom. Another problematic issue raised from the research is how there is limited training for teachers on moral development in schools which has the potential to impact on practice and how students learn about character. The research conference was a worthwhile event as it prompted us as trainee teachers to think beyond practice and explore how as teachers we need to act in good sense and pass this on to our students also to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead. The speakers provided us with the opportunity to consider the complexities behind student’s behaviour, motivation, life circumstances and this is particularly useful as it will carve us into kinder, better trainee teachers. The research conference has equipped us as trainee teachers to understand research, engage in research and to recognise its value. The research conference also provided a physical example of the advantage in universities and schools collaborating to help each other in enriching teachers’ practice, student’s learning and in fulfilment of the moral commitment to contribute to the wider professional community. The research conference has made me appreciate my entitlement to work in a research rich environment and to teach in a way which is informed by the latest research for the benefit of my students and wider school community.
February 16, 2021
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.
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
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.
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
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!”
January 26, 2021
Teachers are the revolution!
Jeanie Davies provided an exceptional talk on the root causes of why teachers leave the profession. With a brief overview of the origins of our eight primary emotions as humans, and our deep rooted need to stay connected to one another, Jeanie highlighted the importance of social capital and the need for a shift in school culture. Workload, accountability, Ofsted and government ideologies are just a few of the pressures teachers have to face, and this has generated an increase in fear and created a lack of trust between staff.
Jeanie’s overall message set the tone for the rest of the conference: the power of using research based evidence to apply positive change within education, lies with us. We are human. We are educators and teachers are the revolution!
Supporting the engagement of disaffected and disengaged learners/those with low academic self-esteem
An in-depth look into Becki Coombe’s research highlighted the importance of creating positive learning environments to increase pupil engagement of tasks within the classroom. Obstacles to learners’ progression were considered, and different methods of motivation such as providing a supportive structure, leading by example and the 5 R’s for a positive learning environment were explored.
Teaching Early Numeracy to Children with Developmental Disabilities
This presentation by Dr Corinna Grindle detailed the ‘Teaching Early Numeracy to Children with Developmental Disabilities (TEN-DD) approach. It effectively summarised the assessment and learning framework and interestingly discussed the implications. Corinna highlighted the lack of research and resources that is currently available, but with effective use of the TEN-DD approach, children with developmental disabilities can show significant improvement in attainment of skills.
Action research: Workload reform for teachers
This talk by Dr Deborah Roberts examined the current issue of the teacher and trainee workload. It featured key policy documentation from Ofsted and the Department of Education. Deborah effectively presented her research from a yearlong project, exploring methodology and findings, of an investigation of trainee experiences of workload on the PGCE. It also included an interesting summary of their reviews on workload reform initiatives.
Empowering preservice teachers to develop personal and professional resilience
This interesting presentation given by Georgina Newton and Dr Holly Heshmati explored the strategies that preservice teachers can implement to help with the development of personal and professional resilience. The session also included an insight into relevant and current research regarding teacher well-being and how we can boost this.
Attendees were introduced to the five aspects of resilience as a multi-dimensional construct and also focused on the exercise of agency in employing practical strategies to overcome daily challenges in the teaching profession.
This presentation continued with a discussion on the possible implications this could have on trainee teachers and the ITT education programmes, including school leaders and preservice teachers. The overwhelming message of this session was the focus on building a toolkit of resilience to be used within our professional lives.
The ethical teacher: Why character matters in the teaching profession
The session by Julie Taylor placed great emphasis on the importance of character. It provided a perceptive exploration of its impact on teachers, by considering the profession through an ‘ethical lens’. We examined the meaning of virtuous practice, and the positive impacts this can have on school ethos and teacher/pupil development. This was a very enlightening discussion that all teachers should consider within their own practice.
January 20, 2021
Annually since 2014, the Research in Action conference has been running to bring together educational researchers from across the midlands to help motivate, encourage and inspire teacher trainees. With a range of presenters, from the knowledgeable staff from Warwick, teachers of local schools, academics from other universities and professional researchers from external organisations, a vast number of a topics were covered so that all trainees were given the opportunity to understand what educational research could mean to them. How could they approach it throughout their careers? How could it enhance their professional development? With such a full, action-packed programme, each trainee was able to customise their own timetable throughout the day, and select specific topics of interest. The day was an enjoyable, educational experience, and there was something for everybody.
As teachers, we are all researchers in the classroom
Dr Nicola Crossley motivated the virtual room with her awe-inducing career journey. From teacher trainee to Director of Inclusion, Council Representative and Chair of the Women Leaders’ Network, Nicola really did show us that it is possible to achieve all our goals. Sharing her experience of balancing doctoral research with a full-time senior leadership role in school, the talk highlighted research opportunities available and also suggested ways in which teachers can engage in manageable, effective educational research. The main idea of Nicola’s speech was to encourage teachers to pursue research at any point within their careers. To be curious, inquisitive and to take risks. We should embrace any research opportunity that comes our way, after all, we are all life-long learners!
Engaging teachers and leaders in ongoing critical research, through the new Frameworks in ITT/E Core Content; Early Career; Ofsted; and beyond
In this session Dr Deb Outhwaite, FCCT investigated how to undertake research and work in a system that is ever-shifting. We looked at the changing landscape, and were provided with some helpful, practical tips as to how it is possible to continue engaging in critical research, while employed in a full-time teaching post.
Feedback not marking!
Dr Liz Pyne focussed on a teachers approach to feedback, Liz offered a revolutionary way to assess pupils work within the classroom. By using the ‘Meaningful, Manageable and Motivating’ approach, we explored how to plan our feedback for classes to improve teacher workload and effectively implement strategies such as self and peer assessment to increase impact. Liz placed a huge emphasis on the importance of changing our viewpoint into ‘providing beneficial feedback’ to pupils, and not just ‘marking’ work.
Re-imagining the school; where pedagogy and physical learning space align
This thought-provoking talk by Jake Lever openly invited attendees to critically reflect upon the design of learning spaces through the use of case studies in Early Years and secondary education. When giving a consideration to how pedagogy informs the design of learning spaces, we explored the implications this could have upon learning. It contained insightful ideas for those who are seeking to create stimulating learning environments within the classroom.
This event is one that is not to be missed! Approaching topics such teacher wellbeing, behaviour management, diversity and inclusion, all attendees will have learned something new to implement within their own practice. With the variety of extraordinary research on offer, the stimulating information from knowledgeable educators, and the wide range of ideas created through discussion, you can only seek to benefit from the Research in Action Conference. Learning from each other and sharing in each other passions, is what research education is all about, and I would not hesitate to recommend this conference to all future trainee teachers. The theme of this conference is to see how research is effectively used within practice to improve all aspects of education, and that research comes from educators and from us. Teachers are the revolution!
January 11, 2021
Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/cte/students-partners/students/riaconference2020
Conference highlights and lessons learned
When deciding which sessions to attend, it came down to a matter of what I felt would benefit me most as an educator. I knew that, coming into the conference, I was interested in going on to do further research after my PGCE. My subject specialism, history, was also taken into consideration – I wanted something I felt would have an impact in my lessons.
As a start to the conference, I found Jeanie Davies' keynote presentation to be informative and thought-provoking. Not only did she highlight some of the current issues facing the education sector, such as the retention crisis, but she also concisely verbalised a topic that I’ve found is ofttimes hard to describe – that of culture within schools. Using her Trust Revolution Model, Jeanie Davies discussed both the rise of fear-based cultures, how they arise, and how to lead a trust-revolution to inspire change in a schools culture. She also gave helpful advice on how to assess whether a culture matches your values when applying for NQT roles.
Dr Marcelo was my most enjoyed session of the conference – it was clear how passionate he was about inspiring students and helping them be excited about not knowing. Dr Marcelo argued that the key to this is how we create the conditions that enable the children to want to learn - enthusing them to want to learn and want to know. Whilst I can’t discuss the entire session in so few words, to sum it up, it was a transformative experience that made me rethink my approach to questioning; especially the dreaded answer of ‘I don’t know!’
As a queer teacher with a passion for LGBT+ rights within education I have realised there is a limited amount of literature available – which is why I found Jen Rowan-Lancaster’s session so interesting. It was inspiring to see people within the field pushing research forward. This session was complimented greatly by Carol Wild’s presentation. I found that where Jen’s was an informative indepth study, the greater breadth of Carol Wild’s session allowed me to leave the conference with a clearer sense of direction for my academic career after the PGCE.
As a Secondary History PGCE student, I also felt that attending Dr Alison Morgan’s session allowed me to look at history education through a different perspective. The workshop style of the event was one of its strengths, especially when analysing the Peterloo Massacre through different lenses. It gave attendees the opportunity to experience the other side of the classroom beyond the teachers desk. The session did require some level of knowledge on different theories. However, whilst some pre-reading may have been beneficial, this did not stop anyone accessing the session.
The 2020 CTE Research in Action Conference was a good opportunity for trainees to experience and engage with some of the latest research. At the end of a long-term, faced with unique challenges, it re-energized me as I was able to talk and discuss exciting topics with experienced professionals.
June 16, 2020
The BERA blog was established in 2015 to provide accessible research informed content for the wider public on important and topical educational issues. Current posts include identifying the potential impacts of Covid-19 on school-based sexuality education and the Black Lives Matter movement in education.
May 28, 2020
I have often shared with trainee teachers the analogy promoted by Professor Sims Bishop of books being ‘windows, mirrors, and sliding doors’ and how important these concepts are in terms of the range and diversity of books shared with pupils in school. ‘Windows’ is to do with ‘looking out’ – it is the idea that the books we give children offer views of the ‘worlds of others’, beyond their own reality. ‘Sliding doors’ is to do with stepping beyond the view from the window – enabling children to enter (albeit imaginatively) the world of the book to experience a different reality. ‘Mirrors’ is to do with book choices including texts that mirror and reflect the child’s own reality so that the pages of the book value and validate who that child ‘is’. In other words, the child is looking back at themselves. The combination of ‘mirrors, windows and sliding doors’ is a powerful way of encapsulating the different ways in which books enable children to enter new worlds, visit new places, inhabit the lives of characters and, most importantly, learn to empathise by ‘walking around ‘in someone else’s shoes’. These are surely undisputed reasons for all schools providing pupils with a rich range of texts and a wide range of reading experiences, including time in the day for independent reading and for being read to.
A further reason for parents and educators to recognise and understand the importance of encouraging children to read is the fact that research by The Reading Agency has found reading can benefit our wellbeing and help us to make social connections. Research suggest that people who read regularly are more satisfied with life and more likely to feel that the things they do are worthwhile. Reading for pleasure can improve relationships and reduce symptoms of depression. Considering these research findings in relation to children, it seems fair to suggest that emotionally, books can offer children dual benefits – they can be an opportunity for the reader to become rapt and delighted in an ‘escape’ from the ‘real world’ into a magical, fantastical one. Equally, books can be transformative for children who are feeling isolated, worried and vulnerable, in the way that they can offer children scope to share and identify with a character who is depicted as sharing similar ‘life challenges’. Jacqueline Wilson highlighted this exact point recently, emphasising the power of books to reassure children experiencing difficult times, helping them to feel that they are not ‘alone’. In terms of wellbeing, then, the world of books has the scope to provide both reassurance to children and a sense of ‘connection’. More generally, books which invite and enable children to enter the lives of others and inhabit their concerns and preoccupations – whether mirroring their own or not - can be a key antidote to the inward-looking, self-absorption which is engendered by many social media platforms which isolate and create anxiety for many youngsters in our classrooms.
At a time when the Education Inspection Framework is placing an emphasis on reading for pleasure and schools will consequently be reviewing their reading programmes, it is timely to build on the issues around diversity of text selection and opportunities for reading and to make explicit to parents and educators, the role books play in promoting emotional wellbeing. What should we be doing? What messages should we be sharing? Perhaps a key message to convey to parents is that ‘family encouragement’ to read beyond early childhood is invaluable. In areas of social disadvantage where literacy levels may be low and some parents may be holding enduring negative memories of reading themselves, teachers could invite them to share story time during the school day so they can observe ‘how it’s done’ and recognise that sharing a book is not a threatening or difficult thing to do. Class and school libraries should offer diversity in their stock so that both teachers and pupils have ready access to books which reflect important themes and highlight pertinent issues. Steadily, in these ways, it is possible for schools to develop a culture in which it is routine for staff, children and parents to reach for a book for solace, ‘company’ and understanding. That is to say, in terms of supporting children’s wellbeing, the power and potential of reading has never been more important.