Conference 2021

British Education Studies Association

16th Annual Conference


24–25 June 2021

Educational Alternatives: Challenges and Possibilities

Keynote Speakers
  • Professor Tonia Gray
  • Emeritus Professor David Jardine
  • Professor Sean Blenkinsop

Thursday 24th June

9.30-10.00Drop-in session

An opportunity for presenters and delegates to ask any ‘last-minute’ questions.

10.00-10.15Welcome to the conference

Outgoing Chair, Dr Zeta Williams-Brown

Conference Chair Dr Dylan Adams


Professor Tonia Gray, Western Sydney University

11.15-12.15Two parallel paper sessions

Paper session one: Covid-19 related studies

Chairs: Caroline Lewis and Richard Sanders

  • Conducting exams outside during the pandemic: reflections on current practice and lessons for the future. Asad Ghalib, Liverpool Hope University.
  • Impact of Covid on the challenges associated with ethnographic data collection: reflections on experience as a new researcher. Thomas Morris, Cardiff Metropolitan University.
  • Exploring the factors of time and space for undergraduate students studying and writing in Covid times. Verity Aiken, Nottingham Trent University.
  • Ecological education: a response to the anthropocene. Sandra Abegglen, Solent University, David Blundell, London Metropolitan University, Jessie A. Bustillos Morales, London Metropolitan University.

Paper session two: Schools

Chairs: Sarah Evans and Chrysoula Magafa

  • Decolonising the curriculum investigating the challenges and possibilities at an English Business school. Asad Ghalib, Liverpool Hope University.
  • Private tuition as an educational and alternative: challenges and possibilities. Maureen Smith, Newman University.
  • Teachers’ perceptions about mental health problems as a hidden crisis among school students and role of school-based mental health facilities. Saba Khurshid, Liverpool Hope University.
  • Crossing the boundaries to FE: Experiences of transition. Amanda Thomas, South Wales University.
1.15-1.45An introduction to the journals

Dr Joe Gazdula and Dr Sarah Evans, journal editors

1.45-2.30Two parallel paper sessions

Paper session three: Alternative programmes and strategies

Chairs: Dylan Adams and Aneta Hayes

  • Toilet Rolls and Chromebooks: School Leadership and Management of Education Technology in the four nations of the United Kingdom during the early months of COVID. Andrew Joyce-Gibbons, Bath Spa University, Gary Beauchamp, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Linda Clarke, Ulster University, Moira Hulme, Manchester Metropolitan University, Lorna Hamilton, Edinburgh University.
  • Using targeted programme to support quiet, shy and anxious learners in the early years’ classroom. Rhiannon Packer and Susan Davis, Cardiff Metropolitan University.
  • We try and turn them around, don’t we? Supporting student autonomy at the margins of alternative provision. Claire Kinsella, Staffordshire University.

Paper session four: Higher Education

Chairs: Steve Dixon and Zeta Brown

  • Rethinking independent learning as a practice of academic freedom using student vlogs. Loretta Okeke, Manchester University.
  • Clever but not posh. Cheryl Hedges, Newman University.
  • The influence of the interplay of the students with dyslexia as performers, lecturers as advance in the university as a front on the social construction of dyslexia in Higher Education. Dana Omar, University of Derby.
2.30-3.00Break and Q&A
3.00-4.00AGM All delegates welcome to attend.
4.00-5.00Second Keynote

Professor Sean Blenkinsop, Simon Fraser University.

Friday 25th June

9.30- 9.45Welcome to the second day of the conference

Incoming Chair, Caroline Lewis

Conference Chair Dr Dylan Adams

9.45-10.15Routledge Education Studies Book Series

Emeritus Professor Stephen Ward

10.15-11.15Two parallel paper sessions

Paper session five: International studies

Chairs: Joe Gazdula and Julia Everitt

  • Migrant children’s education in China’s disadvantaged area: privately-run migrant schools in Guiyang City. Yao Wang, Newcastle University.
  • The disconnect about displacement: IDP access to educational alternatives in Iraq in the Covid-19 era. Mariam Hassoun, University of Oxford.
  • The relevance of the intangible: community engagement, indigenous knowledge practices, and sustainable development at the University of Zambia. Marcellus Mbah, Nottingham Trent University.

Paper session six: Assessment

Chairs: Alpesh Maisuria and Ruth Mieschbuehler

  • Who assesses the assessors? Jonathan Barnes, University of Chichester.
  • Fostering engagement by grading: a study of students’ participation in assessed tutorials. Asad Ghalib, Liverpool Hope University.
  • ‘If you’re viewed as that stereotypical black person, you’re not going to do as well’: Racial inequalities in assessment and assessment practice in Higher Education. Paul Campbell, University of Leicester.
  • “When I was 11, I was more concerned about having fun with my friends and playing football.” Exploring GCSE students’ perceptions of assessments and the performative culture in schools. Kiah Bond, Newman University.
11.30-12.30Two parallel paper sessions

Paper session seven: Education Studies and Resilience

Chairs: Joe Gazdula and Caroline Lewis

  • Education Studies: an international perspective. David Menendez Alvarez-Hevia, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alejandro Rodriguez-Martin, University of Oviedo, Dolors Forteza Forteza, University of the Balearic Islands and Emilio Álvarez-Arregui, University of Oviedo.
  • Reconsidering resilience as an educational goal. Michael Hall, Winchester University.
  • The health, status and future of undergraduate education programmes: a comparison on leading and developing the subject within different institutions. Mark Pulsford, Warwick University, Rebecca Morris, Warwick University and Ross Purves, University College London.

Paper session eight: Outdoor Education and Blogs

Chairs: Sarah Evans and Steve Dixon

  • To blog or not to blog: To understand how (if at all) blogs provide collaborative and co-constructed learning experiences for part-time students in higher education. Fiona Casserley, Nottingham Trent University.
  • Mindful approaches with primary school aged pupils (aged 7-10 years), in a nature reserve, from the perspective of their teachers. Dylan Adams and Gary Beauchamp, Cardiff Metropolitan University.
  • Same actors, undecided roles: towards an understanding of forest schools as sites of knowledge construction. Angela Garden, Liverpool John Moores University.
  • “I learn better this way”. Forest school as alternative pedagogy. David Cudworth, De Montfort University.
1.15-2.15Two parallel paper sessions

Paper session nine: Schools and Learning Cycles

Chairs: David Menendez Alvarez Hevia and Chrysoula Magafa

  • The chicken or the egg? Prioritising teacher confidence vs. teacher competence when using technology to create effective learning opportunities. Sophie Meace, University of South Wales.
  • Collaborating in school networks: the realities of navigating the professional boundaries of schools. Julia Everitt, Birmingham City University.
  • Re-thinking Kolb; Open Learning ‘Cycles’ and the case for micro-reflections. Joe Gazdula, Edge Hill University and Sarah Evans, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Paper session ten: Religious education, spirituality, and nurse education

Chairs: Richard Sanders and Aneta Hayes

  • Reassessing religious education: understanding the challenges and exploring the possibilities in Scottish non-denominational primary schools. Stephen Scholes, Glasgow University.
  • Exploring inclusive teaching in RE classrooms. Akbar Ali, Staffordshire University.
  • The influence of Kirtan in Early Years Education on the foundation of spirituality in a Sikh Nursery Japjit Kaur, Newman University.
  • Promoting praxis in nurse education. Catherine Best, Saint Catherine’s Hospice, Scarborough.
2.15-2.45Break and opportunity to join the SIGs
2.45-3.45Final Keynote

Professor Emeritus David Jardine, University of Calgary.

3.45-4.00Informal goodbyes and opportunity to network
4.00-4.15Close of conference
Keynote Speakers
Bio Photo of Sean Blenkinsop

Professor Sean Blenkinsop

Sean is a professor in the faculty of education at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. He undertook his doctoral thesis in philosophy of education at Harvard University with a focus on existentialism, education, dialogue, and the environment.  His current research explores teacher education, school change, and the challenges of justice and the environmental crisis in a rapidly changing world.  Sean has also been, and still is, involved in creating and researching three innovative public elementary schools in British Columbia that are focused on being much more community, place, and nature-based in both pedagogy and curriculum.  Important strands in this work include ideas related to nature as co-teacher, questions of equity, teacher as activist, cultural change, and eco-social justice. Sean has published more than 100 articles and chapters. His most recent book with Palgrave McMillan was an innovative research adventure project called Wild Pedagogies: Touchstones for Re-Negotiating Education and the Environment in the Anthropocene. His next book, with Peter Lang, due in the summer of 2021 is called Ecoportraiture: The art of research when nature matters. It explores, complexifies, and offers examples of what research becomes if human researchers actively seek to engage with the more-than-human community as co-researchers.

Bio photo of Professor David Jardine

Emeritus Professor David Jardine

David Jardine is an Emeritus Professor of Education, retired from the Faculty of Education, University of Calgary in 2015, and so glad to have got out alive and fairly hale. His main work in that job was supervising student teachers and working with practicing teachers in schools. He is the author of far too many books and even more articles on matters of education and how schools might be places of ecopedagogical joy and the tough work of learning about the sometimes-lovely mess we’re in instead of, too often, frightened and mind-numbing arenas of panic and exhaustion.

Photo of Professor Tonia Gray

Professor Tonia Gray

Professor Tonia Gray is a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University. With a Masters in Community Health and a PhD in Education, Tonia’s transdisciplinary research explores the intersection of experiential education, human-nature relationships, and health/wellbeing. Her twinned passions for teaching and research have earned Tonia several major awards such as the 2019 International Association of Experiential Education Distinguished Researcher of the Year and the prestigious 2014 Australian Award for University Teaching.

Paper Sessions

  • Title (Desc)
  • Title (Asc)
  • Promoting Praxis in Nurse Education

    Catherine Best

    Evident throughout the pandemic has been the growing impact of the inequalities that exist. With the burden of related illness and death being borne unequally (Stafford and Deeny, 2020). The final toll is yet to be determined. Nurse educationalists throughout recent decades, have sought to empower nurses to consider how, through their behaviours, they can challenge these inequalities, the effect of which threatens the very fabric of society. And yet, these inequalities are increasing, the gap widening. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to demonstrate how, through praxis, nurse educationalists can empower nurses, not only to critically analyse the impact of inequality, but also act to eliminate this most heinous of crimes against society. Within nurse education, nurses are taught and equally encouraged to determine the impact of government policies on professional practice, and to do this using reflective models and portfolios, creating structure to often challenging, confusing and painful experiences. By adopting a praxiological approach to reflection, nurses can take this one step further and recognise their role in taking positive action to eliminate inequalities, the importance of critical dialogue being fundamental to this. Praxis, however, is not simply action based on reflection; but also ‘embodies certain qualities’ including ‘a commitment to human wellbeing, the search for truth, and respect for others’ (Smith, 2011). Therefore, in order to achieve praxis, the nursing profession must step away from the insistence of a still heavilyfocused emphasis on ‘banking’, an educational approach which, argues Rose (2017), has the ability to limit critical thinking, and advance towards one which, empowers nurses to become heutagogical or self-determined learners.  A process which, argues Hase (2014), encourages learners to have agency with respect to how, what and when they learn. Furthermore, as nurses begin to see collaboration as central to acting, they are afforded the opportunity to change the way they think about professional experiences and ultimately to decide upon what they want to achieve. This collaboration is undeniably a cornerstone of praxis.
  • Impact of Covid on the challenges associated with ethnographic data collection: reflections on experience as a new researcher

    Thomas Morris

    This paper explores the challenges exacerbated by COVID experienced within an ethnography of alternative education. Although it is important to highlight that challenges were experienced pre-COVID, this paper will focus on the challenges related to ethnographic data collection influenced by COVID. The paper aims to highlight the challenges I have experienced. It is hoped that other researchers, particularly new researchers, can utilise these reflections as a source of information. Additionally, this aligns well with the call for more researchers to outline their experiences of overcoming challenges within ethnography (Matthiesen, 2000). The suggestion made by Mills and Morton (2016) that there are as many ways of doing ethnography as there are ethnographers is of particular relevance to the current project. I consulted previous literature for many of the commonly experienced challenges of ethnography from the early stages of the project. However, as a government-initiated lockdown became imminent in Wales, there were a number of challenges being presented that have not been documented within the previous literature. As such, for many of these challenges I was unable to find any of the ‘answers’ I was looking for. Due to this, the use of reflections became of paramount importance. A reflective diary was kept from the early stages of the current project to document reflections made while attending the research setting. However, as the first lockdown approached, I developed a separate reflective diary. This second diary was used to document the reflections made that were not directly related to the research setting itself but of the overall research process. In essence, these reflective diaries became two separate accounts of my research journey where my original reflective diary may be considered as what Schön (2016) refers to as ‘reflecting-in-action’, and the second reflective diary may be considered as ‘reflecting-on-action’. The paper will utilise reflections made both in-action and on-action to consider the challenges experienced throughout the ever-changing nature of COVID. Some of the challenges to be discussed include; a loss of access to participants, limited opportunities to build/maintain rapport, issues obtaining informed consent (particularly from the parents of students), as well as a range of others.


    Matthiesen, N. (2020) A Question of Access: Metaphors of the field. Ethnography and Education, 15(1), pp. 1-16. Mills, D. and Morton, M. (2013) Ethnography in Education. London: Sage. Schön, D.A. (2016) The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action. Oxon: Routledge.  
  • The disconnect about displacement: IDP access to educational alternatives in Iraq in the Covid-19 era

    Mariam Hassoun

    Over six million Iraqis were displaced during the war with Daesh and, although many have returned to their communities, there are approximately1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDP) scattered across the country. Many IDP children in Iraq, whether in camps or in host communities, face challenges including poor infrastructure, lack of documentation, economic insecurity, trauma, and health shocks that make it difficult to access schooling. These shocks were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which led to nine months of nationwide school closures supported by some temporary use of online educational alternatives. However, distance learning is not accessible to the 50% of Iraq’s population without in-home internet access (ACAPS, 2020). This study explores how parents assess and identify the barriers internally displaced children who fled violent conflict with Daesh face in accessing education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Six IDP parents with out of school children and six IDP parents within school children were invited to take part in an online, semi-structured interview lasting up to one hour. This study foregrounds the voices and family histories of IDPs when navigating educational access with particular attention to pandemic-related disruptions. Against a backdrop of grey literature that is largely dominated by household surveys, I make a methodological argument for the need for qualitative research on the ground. In doing so I clarify mainstream understandings of barriers and opportunities to education in Iraq. Although the literature says that poverty, trauma, and poor infrastructure are the main barriers to school access, these interviews suggest a more nuanced picture involving intangible challenges such as intergenerational illiteracy, bullying, and loss of faith in schooling’s promise. The data also indicates that the transformative qualities of displacement can potentially carry positive impacts related to resilience, including newfound opportunities for girls’ schooling, creative educational alternatives, and community participation. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has essentially halted all progress with respect to educational alternatives in the IDP community in Iraq due to lack of facilities appropriate for social distancing and inadequate access to internet and technology necessary for distance learning.
  • The Influence of the Interplay of the Students with Dyslexia as Performers, Lecturers as Audience in the University as a Front on the Social Construction of Dyslexia in Higher Education (HE)

    Dana Omar

    This study explores the social construction of dyslexia as a therapeutic consumerist entity in Higher Education (HE) and its influence on students with dyslexia through highlighting marketisation reforms in HE. The paper aims to enquire about the social construction of dyslexia in HE sustaining its existence in higher education institutions (HEI). The continuing existence of dyslexia transforms students with dyslexia into explorers, real dyslexic and identity seekers/rebels and cynical dyslexic performers. This entity commodifies universities to become therapeutic services providers. This study is conducted using Goffman’s (1959) theory of performance to analyse the influence of dyslexia on the behaviour of students with dyslexia in HE. The concept of dyslexia has inconsistent definitions associated with the medical model in HEIs. The main findings of this chapter are: There is an interplay between the construction of the concept of dyslexia, and students with dyslexia, lecturers and university. Based on Goffman (1956), the concept of dyslexia becomes the tool used to obtain support in HE. Students with dyslexia become performers by performing the role of the patient; the lecturers become the audience, and the university becomes the front/stage where students perform, their roles influenced by the marketisation reforms in HE. To explain the construction of the concept of dyslexia as an inconsistently defined tool for performance in HE, the concept of dyslexia is arguably contested due to its inconsistent prevalence rates, and claimed genetic and neurological origins. Interpreting the conceptualisation of dyslexia in HE in the light of Goffman (1956), the conceptualisation of dyslexia in HE creates the front of the performance. In the case of dyslexia in HE, the university becomes the front where students with dyslexia perform the role of the patient. To synthesise Goffman (1959) with Collinson’s (2019) analysis of the biologisation of dyslexia, the concept of dyslexia as a therapeutic entity becomes a tool dramatic realisation creating the juxtaposition of dyslexia of real and cynical dyslexic performers. Viewing the concept of dyslexia as a progressive science reflected in medicalising dyslexia in HE through Goffman (1956), the medicalised concept of dyslexia becomes the tool lecturers in HE use to support students with dyslexia.
  • Exploring the factors of time and space for undergraduate students studying and writing in Covid times

    Verity Aiken

    The fallout from COVID related restrictions continues to frame the way students experience and manage studying and writing for assessment. Closing down the physical infrastructure means limiting the benefits of being on campus including how students use time on campus to engage in self-study (see Burke et al., 2017). Without being able to provide students with places to retreat to (Mehta and Cox 2019), those who need access to campus space and its resources will be especially hard hit. This paper reports on a small-scale piece of research with the remit to capture these types of students’ experiences involving studying and writing remotely as a result of the pandemic. Guiding the research are the objectives of: (1) To examine the effects of limited access to campus in terms of student study and writing experiences during COVID; (2) To analyse how space contributes to effective studying and writing from the student point of view; and (3) To reveal possible pressures impacting upon writing and study time that have arisen for students studying and writing in more remote ways. The research uses semi-structured online interviews alongside photo elicitation techniques and a thematic data analysis approach. The data is discussed using Bakhtin’s (1981) notion of chronotope to foreground time and space in relation to how undergraduate students account for their studying and writing for assessment experiences during COVID conditions. In doing so, the research places a spotlight on issues to do with digital poverty that have become much more topical in the latest lockdown, but often to the reserve of the difficulties faced by schoolchildren. More specifically, the research contributes to student equity research by shedding light on the precariousness of student study conditions and the amplification of time and space factors during the pandemic.
  • Ecological education: a response to the anthropocene

    Sandra Abegglen, David Blundell and Jessie Bustillos Morales

    ‘And I had done a hellish thing, And it would work ‘em woe: For all averred, I had killed the bird That made the breeze to blow. Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay, That made the breeze to blow!’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner This paper is prompted by a call for education to take up the challenge of the Anthropocene. It does so at a time when there are immediate questions surrounding how educational institutions should respond to the multilateral disruptions associated with the global coronavirus pandemic. The identification of The Anthropocene as a new geological epoch marks the dominance of human agency in shaping and reshaping geosystems in ways that are understood to be irreversible and have profound implications for the continued operation of our ecosystems. The paper proposes that responses to the emergence of this (new) planetary reality depend fundamentally on an understanding of the origins and meaning of the Anthropocene, and especially how it conceives the relationship between humans and the rest of life on the planet. It goes on to argue that familiar concepts of the human, of Nature, and relations between them rooted in Enlightenment modernity hinder attempts to navigate the challenges ahead. As educators we therefore advocate a shift towards ecological education that surpasses a curricular topic but which offers a root, branch, and systemic way of seeing curriculum, pedagogy, and institutions that not only acknowledges the agency of learners, but also relations between human and the more-than-human communities we all inhabit. We believe that the COVID and ecological crises exhibit significant intersections and that in these unprecedented times ecological education offers a practical and philosophically flexible response to the multiple challenges facing the planet. What is proposed recognises the value of accumulated knowledge and understanding in education as an intellectual memory bank and eschews the fetish of technological or systemic innovation for its own sake. Education has the capacity to actively shape what we think about and how we approach our environment, bodies and social relations. The question must be asked: How do we include the environment and sustainable development in our education system to create a sustainable future that instils hope in the younger generation?
  • Education Studies: an international perspective

    David Menendez Alvarez Hevia, Alejandro Rodriguez-Martin, Dolors Forteza Forteza and Emilio Álvarez-Arregui

    Education Studies in the UK emerged as an independent subject in the late 1990s. Initially it was introduced in just few universities as an ‘’ideal subject as preparation for teaching and other careers’’ and in combination with other subjects (Simon, 2019, p.2). It is now present in most of the universities, in different forms, with different titles and mainly associated to faculties or departments of education (Bartlett and Burton, 2016). However, it is still difficult to discuss outside UK what Education Studies means. In an international forum, the representation of education studies is more elusive, takes multiple forms and presents its own epistemological trajectory associated to the particularities of each context. This paper aims to discuss diverse conceptualisations, practices and views associated with education studies from an international perspective to facilitate the communication, understanding and presence of the education studies community in a global context. The study provides an original insight that brings together reflections, quotes and stories from people involved in education studies, equivalent areas or programmes of study from different parts of the world. More specifically, we present ideas that emerge from an open discussion between academics and students from a diverse array of international higher education contexts, including voices from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Canada and United States. This discussion is articulated around four elements that we explore through informal focus group discussions:
    1. Common features or views (e.g. multi-professional possibilities, openness to different forms of education that include exploring formal/informal/non-formal aspects or settings, interest on the study of the multidisciplinary nature of education)
    2. Differences (e.g. curriculum design, course organisation, contextual differences and traditions that influence research and academic practices)
    3. Challenges (e.g. employability issues, respond to global concerns, resist internal and external pressures to instrumentalise knowledge, social sciences and higher education) 4. Possibilities (e.g. innovative approaches to teaching, learning, research and curriculum design, ethical internationalisation: international collaborations and the development of the education/al studies global community).
    We discuss how education study looks in different international contexts. Finally, we open the discussion to explore the possibility-impossibility of developing a common international framework for Education studies.


    Bartlett, S. & Burton, D. (2016). Introduction to Education Studies.  London: SAGE. Simon, C.A. and Ward, S.  (2019). A Student’s Guide to Education Studies. Abingdon: Routledge.  
  • “When I was 11, I was more concerned about having fun with my friends and playing football” Exploring GCSE students’ perceptions of assessments and the performative culture in schools

    Kiah Bond

    Performativity is the outcome of numerous government policies around assessment and accountability which sought state-regulated reform for the purposes of economic growth and educational excellence. Such governance in education has led to individual practitioners living an existence of calculation in response to demands for progress, standardization and monitoring. These reforms have been set by non- teachers yet directly impact on them and their sense of professional purpose, identity and values. Neoliberal ideology presents competition as a determining characteristic of human relations and pre 2019 this could be seen with Key Stage 2 tests being used by secondary schools to predict students’ GCSE results. Now these tests have been cancelled and how students will be assessed in GCSEs and A Levels this year remains unclear. It is time to hear another voice, the voice of students and their concerns; they are the consumers of our education offer: Is it kind, relevant to the world of work and ‘world-beating’? This paper focuses on GCSE students’ lived experiences of the effects of performativity. A phenomenological inquiry was carried out with six students taking Religious Studies GCSE, my specialist subject. Interviews were conducted before the first lockdown in March 2019; students were given journals and asked to email extracts and absent students were emailed the set questions. To support students’ wellbeing and to limit stress, extracts and responses were not mandatory but gratefully received. Performativity was defined in the information and consent forms given prior to interviews and students were made aware that their Key Stage 2 tests were used to predict their GCSE target grades. Some positive responses included: students recognised that target grades could be aspirational and motivating, good quality feedback from assessments supported students’ understanding and smaller classes helped them to receive individual support. However, all students felt pressurised to perform, and some felt overwhelmed by the time of five years to meet the expectations of target grades and the number of yearly assessments.
  • Reassessing religious education: understanding the challenges and exploring the possibilities in Scottish non-denominational primary schools

    Stephen Scholes

    This paper seeks to address a significant lacuna in existing scholarship by re-assessing the provision of Religious Education (RE) in Scottish non-denominational primary schools (Matemba, 2018). It responds directly to the conference theme as the paper provides fresh insights into the challenges, possibilities, and the alternatives for a curriculum area that often languishes at the margins of school curricula. The paper reports on a documentary research project covering 203 non-denominational primary schools across four local authorities in Scotland. The project examined the available inspection documentation and handbooks for each of these schools, recognising that they provide valuable, though limited, snapshots of educational practices and processes (McCulloch, 2004). This sample has allowed for a regional-level analysis of provision in RE between August 2016 and August 2020 to be offered in this paper. The documentation has been analysed through qualitative content analysis, thematic coding, and triangulation with curriculum and inspection frameworks. Attention has also been paid to the relevant legislation concerning RE, given that it occupies the unique position of being the only curriculum area made mandatory by law in Scotland. Building on the previously recognised situation for RE provision, the findings highlight that there is variability with respect to the degree of school compliance with statutory expectations (Robertson et al., 2017). The findings also draw attention to how schools are enacting curriculum expectations through various practices, including school visits. Most significantly the findings highlight that the focus of teaching in RE is shifting from an emphasis on Christianity to an engagement with the broad themes of inclusion and diversity. This supports the position advanced in this paper that RE in primary schools is increasingly centred around the development of pupils’ capacities for citizenship, contributing to community, and living in a multifaith society.
  • Collaborating in school networks: the realities of navigating the professional boundaries of schools

    Julia Everitt

    Since the start of state education policymakers have encouraged schools in England to collaborate and form networks with the statutory, private and third sectors. These partnerships and their co-ordinating roles support the wider outcomes of schooling, but the co-ordination has been reduced due to the desire for increased academic outcomes and a smaller state. The need for wider outcomes remains, but it is unknown how those involved are collaborating to meet these needs. Little published research exists on the practical aspects of these collaborations from both teacher and partner perspectives. This paper addresses this gap through interviews with four teachers/support staff and fifteen partners. The interviews explored the question of who is involved in schools and how the networks operate in practice. The interviews highlight a messiness and complexity as the partners reported a constant struggle to find the right person with a shared ethos. Access to schools was restricted, so partners sought decision-makers, brokers or used networks. Not all teachers were decisionmakers, but those who were highlighted a pressure from performativity which affected their decisions to bring partners into schools. There are key recommendations for policymakers to improve this situation, such as an awareness of these issues, but also teachers and partners who have to navigate this complexity. This includes being open around interests to collaborate, regular audits and publishing a process statement to outline how they intend to work in partnership.
  • Mindful approaches with primary school aged pupils (aged 7-10 years), in a nature reserve, from the perspective of their teachers

    Dylan Adams and Gary Beauchamp

    It has been over fifteen years since Louv (2005) stated that children were suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’’ and Miller (2005) warned of the damaging effects of biodiversity loss as people become increasingly disconnected from nature. Since then, numerous studies have aimed to improve children’s nature connection (Barrable and Booth, 2020). However, there are those who contend that the very concepts of ‘nature deficit’ and ‘nature connection’ are both symptomatic and contributory causes of the problem (Dickinson, 2013; Fletcher, 2017). This is because ironically ‘biodiversity conservation has historically sought to separate humans from ‘nature’ to the greatest extent possible’ (Fletcher, 2017, p.230). Moreover, simply providing access to biodiverse environments does not address the fundamental, political, and prevailing conceptual understandings of human and more-than-human relations (Dickinson, 2013; Fletcher, 2017). This study investigated teachers’ perceptions of children’s experiences of undertaking mindful approaches at a nature reserve. The research was situated within an interpretivist, qualitative paradigm that sought to investigate teachers’ perceptions of the impact of mindful approaches on children’s experiences at a nature reserve. Eight teachers and eight groups of children, from eight different primary schools, took part in the study. The children were aged between 7 and 11 years old and were from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. A representative random sample of the children and all the teachers were interviewed after the visit to the nature reserves. The analysis of the teachers’ responses generated four main themes. These were: pedagogical approaches; contemplative time; ways of knowing; and ways of being. The themes are linked to a theoretical background that contends our relationship with nature needs to be at the heart of a renewed philosophy of education (Bonnett, 2019; Jardine, 2016). Furthermore, it is argued that mindful or contemplative approaches offer a reorientation for education in the West as they allow a withdrawal from an adherence to a ‘frozen futurism’ (Smith, 2000), and present an alternative to an anthropocentric and objectivistic worldview.
  • Teaching Strategies for Inclusive Teaching of the Critical Interpretation of the Quran in Muslim-faith Institutes

    Akbar Ali

    This paper discusses teachers’ and students’ perspectives on inclusive teaching in Muslim faith institutes offering Dars-e-Nizami classes. Most Muslim schools use partitions between male and female students, or teach in single-sex classrooms. The impact of this phenomenon on students’ critical thinking skills has not been studied before. The main research question is: How do teachers and students understand inclusive teaching in Muslim Institutes offering Dars-e-Nizami classes? Secondary research questions include:
    • What is the role of inclusivity on students’ critical thinking skills?
    • What are the traits of an effective teacher?
    • What strategies do teachers and students propose for effective teaching?
    I used Interpretive Phenomenology Analysis (IPA) as a methodology to explore the perspectives of teachers and students by conducting a semi-structured interview with three male and one female teachers, and two male and two female students involved in teaching and learning the critical interpretation of the Quran. I could not achieve a gender balance among teaching participants due to lack of female teachers teaching interpretation of the Quran. In addition to semi-structured in-depth interviews that lasted from 20 to 25 minutes, I conducted four non-participatory observations and studied four presentations they used for teaching and learning. The use of non-participatory observation and document studies allowed me to understand the course. I have also made sure that the current study meets with the basic research ethic principle that the study does not cause any harm to myself, research participants and the institutes. In this study, informed consent was gained from research participants to collect data and the discussion and data analysis and especially verbatim extracts from the extract in final writing. The research participants were contacted on the phone and through email, but before the interview, I revisited consent, freedom of participation, and withdrawal from the study. I emphasised how anonymity will be made. Throughout the interview, I also offered support if I thought that a question might be upsetting due to the sensitivity of the issue. I have used IPA starting with a line-by-line analysis of the perspectives both teachers and students offer (Larkin, Watts, Clinton, 2006), followed by identifying the emergent themes from the nodes focus on commonality and nuance. The main themes were developed from sub-themes and finally were analysed in the light of research questions and literature review. The study recommends following teaching strategies for effective teaching:
    • Interdisciplinary teaching and learning
    • Real-world teaching and learning
    • Inquiry-led teaching and learning
    The proposed strategies enable teachers to create a safe environment where both male and female students participate in generating, re-thinking and experimenting with the interpretation of the Quran.
  • The influence of Kirtan in Early Years Education on the foundation of spirituality in a Sikh Nursery

    Japjit Kaur

    Spiritualty has been explored through different types of creativity; in this research, the medium of a Sikh traditional, devotional form of music known as Kirtan has been used to discover children’s awareness of spirituality. Exploring Kirtan through collective worship allowed insight on whether it can be described as a foundational method of expressing the emergence of spirituality in Early Years (EY). Spiritual development has become crucial for children if they are to be more fulfilled and achieve a lifelong love for learning (Lunn, 2015). As a recognised and essential part of holistic development (Watson, 2006), intrinsic to all aspects of learning and crucial in a deeper understanding of self, everyday spirituality (Bone, 2007) emphasises all experiences to be of a spiritual nature as a foundation for identity, meaning and hope. To achieve the above, I reviewed literature considering current legislation, policy and practice relating to the emergence of spirituality and spiritual growth followed by a review on child development, research with children and the Early Years. This research study followed five children over the course of one academic year in their journey of spiritual development; to explore this, I undertook an ethnographic case study design which included video-based observations, coding schedule, sampling methods, researcher immersion, reflexivity, intuitive thinking, participant observation as well as video-recorded interviews using play and artbased research with careful consideration of ethical challenges of researching young children. The new knowledge that emerged from this research demonstrated links against a model of spirituality in music education which van der Merwe and Habron (2015) suggested may be of use to researchers. It was essential, for this research, to also represent Van Manen’s four lifeworld existential (lived experiences; 1990): where the children’s experiences were analysed against four existential themes (corporeality, relationality, spatiality, and temporality) described as structures that pervade the lifeworld of all human beings, regardless of their historical, cultural, or social situatedness (Hyde, 2016). Drawing on a critical and reflective triangulation of all the data collected and subsequently analysed, I explored features of a new and inclusive understanding of faith-based spiritual experiences which is relational, gives purpose to the child’s voice and identity as well as the sacred. The implications, in terms of policy, professional and practice within Early Years, draws on everyday spirituality and the wider workforce to recognise the spirituality in everyday routines and practices. To conclude, the opportunity to represent the real ‘voice’ of Sikh children regarding their spirituality, both verbal and non-verbal, is a priority for the community to support the improvement of Early Years practice.
  • Clever but not posh

    Cheryl Hedges

    My research indicates that working class adult women in HE, via Access to HE programmes, often have several attempts at completing their further and/or higher education. Working class adult women attribute their final success to a number of factors, two of which will be the focus of this presentation, based upon research for my EdD thesis: Clever but not Posh. Firstly, the connection this group of women have with working class academics and the sense of seeing ‘people like me’, are strong motivators in university choice and experience for nontraditional adult learners. Secondly the creation of their own ‘social capital’ via student and family networks acts as more than a safety net and motivating force. However, my research suggests that the connections with tutors and a sense of being ‘Clever but not Posh’ enable corking-class students to choose institutions and courses based on interactions at Open Days. Students value the relationship with working-class academics as they ‘speak their language’ and are seen as supportive – this relationship constitutes an institutional habitus and fosters success in working-class women students. The idea that this group of students do not ‘belong’ can be reinforced by several factors: that these relational activities are not valued in the academy, notions of the ‘aloof academic’, and those who insist on ignoring their class experiences and insisting that they have to write ‘other people’s words’ in a way that is devoid of passion and emotion. The working-class academic, if visible in the academy, attaches importance to nurturing these women, building rapport, expectations of success, and forging friendships. This detaches traditional notions of power and status associated with the university lecturer, and the relationship becomes characterised by a focus on critical pedagogy and ethics of care. This research is located within Critical Theory, using narrative inquiry to understand the educational experiences of working-class adult learners. The research conducted over the last year indicate that smaller, post-92 universities are the choice of working-class women students, that they make choices based on emotional connections, locality, family recommendations and how welcoming they perceive the institution and their academic staff to be. These findings give rise to the following points for discussion: what is a working-class academic? How can their visibility be encouraged? What strategies can be employed to allow working-class adult women to feel a sense of belonging and thus ensure their academic success?
  • The health, status and future of undergraduate Education programmes: a comparison of course leaders’ views on leading and developing the subject within different institutions

    Mark Pulsford, Rebecca Morris and Ross Purves

    This paper reports preliminary findings from the project selected by BESA to receive funding in their 2019/20 research grant cycle. It aims to give an overview of the emerging themes from a sector-wide online survey and in-depth interviews with a smaller sample of UG Education programme leaders, both conducted in Spring 2020. Education courses are a popular choice for undergraduate students in the UK, with a UCAS search suggesting there are more than 800 courses delivered at almost 140 institutions. Whilst the development of this academic field has received attention in recent years (Furlong, 2013; McCulloch and Cowan, 2018), what has been less well considered is the way that Education Studies courses are designed and enacted in practice. What does it mean to lead an Education Studies undergraduate course? What are the decisions and challenges that course leaders face in a dynamic HE landscape? How is this terrain affected by a fast-changing ITE environment? How do these pivotal members of the Education Studies community feel about their role in shaping the subject for the future? And what are the discernible differences across different types of institution (such as Russell Group, Post-92, FE college)? In examining these sorts of questions, this project contributes to the currently small body of literature on HE programme leadership (see Sanderson, 2018; Cahill et al., 2015; Murphy and Curtis, 2013). Moreover, in doing this we seek to map and understand the health, status and future of UG Education as a vital step towards ensuring the longevity and evolution of the subject. This is likely to raise important questions, both of an academic and practical nature, regarding the range of provision for students; the ‘vocational’ or labour-market role of Education Studies; and the buoyancy of the subject within an increasingly competitive UK higher education system.
  • Re-thinking Kolb: Open Learning ‘Cycles’ and the case for micro-reflections.

    Joe Gazdula and Sarah Evans

    This a conceptual paper using a systematic literature search which considers the usefulness of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1984) and suggests there may be better alternatives to consider in a modern society where technology and global change dictate that experiences are increasingly based around a singular event. There are any number of adaptations of this model and others of learning as a reflective cyclical experience (See Boud et al., 1985; Gibb, 1988; Atkins and Murphy, 1993). The Kolb cycle is widely promoted through educational texts and used as key underpinning learning theory when teachers complete projects, dissertations and theses. However, there is a growing body of recent literature which argues this cyclical approach may be of limited use and in some instances erroneous in its use. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle has had its fair share of critiques: for example Webb (2004) concluded the model was unviable arguing it is a dramatic distortion of the very epistemological fundaments it references, neither did learning take place in four clearly defined stages. Forrest (2012: np) states ‘…that a number of processes can occur at once and stages can be jumped or missed out completely.’ Forrest notes that Kolb drew the model based on a research base was small with limited (western) cultural underpinnings and fails to consider the many non-experiential ways people learn. Our own research with education students (Gazdula and Atkin, 2017) also noted the limitations of the model as students on placement learned from a number of singular but significant learning events which made us question not only the usefulness of the experiential learning cycle but also its widespread use. It is likely that Kolb’s experiential learning cycle was influenced by the work of Dewey (1933) who himself was a strong proponent of reflecting on experience. However, Dewey realised that learning came not just from reflection on experiences but required some thought on future actions and reflecting forward. Time has also moved on and, while Dewey lived in an era of jobs based around increasingly repetitive industrial tasks, the de-industrialisation of countries in the western world has seen a shift towards more creative knowledge-based industries where ideas and learning might be opportunistic and singular causing a lack of opportunities for reflection and revision. The need to reflect forward might be the only reflection possible. Wheeler, (2012) calls Kolb’s model anachronistic and belonging to another time arguing, ‘It is time to develop new models to explain the processes that occur when people learn using socially rich interactive digital media.’ (p. 1). To overcome this we considered a number of linear learning curves which overcame the critiques of Kolb (Wright, 1936; Mendez and Johnson, 2012, Jaber, 2016) before devising a conceptual model based on Otto Sharmer’s Theory U (2009) and developing it into a model of learning along a linear curve with continuous micro-reflections to provide a model of deep learning for education students in the modern era.
  • Migrant Children’s Education in China’s Disadvantaged Area: Privately-run Migrant Schools in Guiyang City

    Yao Wang

    Privately-run migrant schools (PMSs) constitute the main educational provision for the children of internal migrants in China’s fast developing cities. They provide important educational opportunities for the children of migrants who would, instead, very likely be ‘left-behind’ children or have no educational opportunities (Hu, 2019). This research will demonstrate how these schools operate, and the educational and social improvements they aspire to. Different from previous studies, which tend to study PMSs in highly developed cities such as Beijing and Shanghai (Lai et al., 2014; Ling, 2015; Chen and Feng, 2017). I focus on schools in a relatively disadvantaged but burgeoning city, Guiyang, the capital city of one of China’s least developed provinces – Guizhou Province. There are insufficient studies on PMSs located in Guiyang and what they can offer, internationally or nationally. However, grassroots privately-run migrant schools are widespread in cities such as this. Three main methods were applied in the approach to investigating PMSs: firstly, the views of a selection of local NGO staff were collected (among whom semi-structured interviews were undertaken with three NGO directors who are serving PMSs); secondly, the perspectives of principals (15 of whom completed questionnaires which aims to explore the socioeducational context of PMSs); and, thirdly, the researcher undertook participant and nonparticipant observation (ethnographically recorded in field notes and photos to map the characteristics of these privately-run institutions). Finally, 22 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with principals and teachers to explore schools’ challenges and aspirations from their perspectives. This data is examined to try and establish the role(s) PMSs are playing for migrant children’s education and their lives more broadly. Overall, this research aims to shed light on the circumstances of PMSs in Guiyang which would, otherwise, remain invisible from public view and, thus, the needs of these schools and their students are likely to remain unknown.