Tuesday, June 4, 2019

“More than Just a Student”: How Co-Creation of the Curriculum Fosters Third Spaces in Ways of Working, Identity, and Impact

In my recently published article, I analyse further qualitative data from my doctoral research on co-creation of the curriculum to draw out the theme of Third Spaces that has emerged. My work takes on new theoretical perspectives drawing on theories of the Third Space which I engaged with as a result of being inspired by the special issue theme of the International Journal of Students as Partners focusing on this topic. I also draw on literature on the Third Mission of universities which I was first introduced to while participating in the Central European University's summer school last year focusing on the theory and practice of contemporary adult education. The abstract is below as well as links to the open source article.

“More than Just a Student”: How Co-Creation of the Curriculum Fosters Third Spaces in Ways of Working, Identity, and Impact

The Third Space (Bhabha, 2004) represents non-traditional roles, processes, relationships, and spaces in which individuals work and have impact. This article presents qualitative research into 13 different curriculum co-creation initiatives at five Scottish universities and analyses the forms of Third Space that emerge.The findings highlight that curriculum co-creation can foster Third Spaces that include: new ways of working in learning and teaching, student development in a space between traditional student and teacher roles and identities, and impact in civic engagement within and beyond the university. The respect and reciprocity that characterise curriculum co-creation can greatly benefit students’ personal and professional development as individuals. In addition, I suggest that the Third Space of civic engagement can advance the Third Mission of universities (beyond impact in the first two missions of teaching and research) when students and teachers work in partnership to have a positive effect on the wider society.

The full article can be accessed here.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Reimagining the Place of Students in Academic Development

It's been such a pleasure to collaborate with an international team of staff and other PhD students on the journal article 'Reimagining the Place of Students in Academic Development' in the International Journal for Academic Development. I have learnt so much from Peter Felten, Sophia Abbot, Jordan Kirkwood, Aaron Long, Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, and Roselynn Verwood as we developed the ideas and 'reimaginings' of student-staff partnerships in academic development. Use the link above for free access to the article, and see the abstract below:

As calls for student-staff partnership proliferate across higher education, academic development must re-examine and reimagine its relationship to students. Students generally occupy roles with limited agency in academic development. We argue that this needs to change. We propose re-articulating the purpose of academic development toward the creation of conditions that liberate everyone involved in teaching and learning in higher education. We offer four vignettes that illustrate what is possible when students have the opportunity to embrace their essential roles. We conclude by reflecting on the human implications of student agency in academic development and higher education more broadly.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Reflective Essay: Co-Researching Co-Creation of the Curriculum

Last year, I shared on this blog some of my reflections on co-researching co-creation of the curriculum and my experiences of working with students as partners as part of my PhD research in this area. After this time, I was thrilled that Hermina Simoni wanted to carry on this partnership work by writing a reflective essay about our experiences of using arts-based methods together, and that she shared with me about co-production in her subject area of health care. I learnt a lot throughout this collaborative work, and I'm thrilled to now share our work in our new publication.

Co-researching co-creation of the curriculum: Reflections on arts-based methods in education and connections to healthcare co-production
International Journal of Students as Partners

Summary of our reflective essay:
Our research explores how students and staff can both benefit from participating actively in partnerships in higher education. Through qualitative research employing focus group discussions with students and then with staff, participants suggest a plethora of practices of co-creation of curriculum whilst also reflecting on benefits and challenges. The inclusion of two student consultants as co-researchers added another layer to this research project by engaging students as partners in learning and bringing multiple voices to the research collection, analysis, and dissemination processes. The inclusion of undergraduate student co-researchers’ perspectives offers a mirror in which we can observe what is needed to foster effective co-creation of the curriculum in higher education. This reflective essay illustrates perspectives about our experiences of engaging in this collaborative research using deliberative democratic methodology. The scope of this paper is to provide an informative picture about our experiences, draw connections with co-creation of healthcare, and encourage similar partnerships in education and beyond.

I hope you enjoy reading the full reflective essay via the IJSaP website.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

ECER 2018 - Educational Inclusion

The European Conference of Educational Research (ECER) was hosted this year in the beautiful town of Bolzano, Italy in the Dolomites at the crossroads between Italian, Austrian, and Swiss borders. The Free University of Bozen-Bolzano hosted us, and I was fascinated to learn that their degree programmes are all trilingual. This set the stage for gathering education researchers from all over the world.

At such a big conference with 33 parallel sessions running at the same time, of course each participant navigates their own course through the conference proceedings and events. In this post, I attempt to summarise some of the take-aways throughout my conference journey this week.

Space to Reflect, Learn, and Make New Connections
I enjoyed attending the presentation by Labake Fakunle and Joceline Alla-Mensah sharing Universas21-funded work looking at the benefits and barriers of doctoral students’ engagement at networking events and conferences. Their participants cited financial barriers and time constraints as challenges, but they also saw great value in networking at conferences. This was certainly the case for me in attending ECER and, thanks to the Moray House Graduate School’s financial support and my ability to take a week of annual leave from my work, I was supported to attend ECER. As with the AERA and JURE conferences, I found great benefits to taking the time to learn about a wide variety of educational research, reflect on and share my own work, and connect with individuals researching similar topics. This was particularly the case at the Universitas21 FINE networking event (which I will write about separately soon) and the ECER networking events in the town plaza and at the Mareccio Castle which was a fabulous experience.

Inclusion through Sharing Values
There were some fascinating keynote talks and symposia that highlighted and problematised the conference theme of inclusion. Brahm Norwich emphasised how inclusion is respectful to all participants or partners by valuing the contributions of all, but he also noted that inclusion has become a popularised term in the current society. For example, co-researching has become a popular method to include participants’ voices more actively in research design and direction. Kyriaki Messiou provided some rich examples of including children’s voices actively in school improvement projects and research when they draw ‘power maps’ of where decision-makers are located within the school, take photos of where they do and do not feel safe to improve the learning environment, and write a ‘message in a bottle’ to share their wish list of other improvements. Messiou shared how inclusive research that challenges traditional power dynamics can empower all participants, and I similarly found the experience extremely valuable when co-researching with undergraduate students

Both Messiou and, in his keynote, Thomas Popkewitz, highlighted that inclusion represents our values. Although power dynamics are always present, they are made more transparent in some ways by showing how decisions are made and creating spaces for shared ownership (as in benefits of co-creation of the curriculum). At the same time, though, including sometimes may mean excluding others who don’t share our values and we need to be attentive to this exclusion. This made me reflect on how whether co-creation practitioners may exclude traditionalists when challenging the status quo of the traditional university hierarchies, processes, and structures.

Inclusion through Creativity and Play
In some cases, inclusion can mean inviting other individuals into existing spaces to contribute to decision-making. For example, Manuela Raposo-Rivas and Kyriaki Messiou each showed in different research in the UK and Spain how children can be invited into adult spaces to contribute to decision-making and the learning of both new and experienced teachers. Furthermore, Demet Lukuslu showed in the Partispace project how youth were invited into adult-led spaces in youth councils in Turkey. While these forms of inclusion are positive, they are operating within existing structures.

Because of my interest in creativity and play in teaching outside the box, I enjoyed learning about other examples at ECER of creating new, creative spaces for inclusion. For example, Bernadette Mercieca showed how the framework of well-known children’s literature such as Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz, or Little Red Riding Hood could be used as metaphors in a doctoral thesis to make concepts more accessible or understood in different ways as they resonate with readers. I was fascinated by this idea! In a session on gamification, Lina Higueras-Rodriguez and Esra Demiray each shared interesting presentations about gamification of learning to promote new spaces for engagement. These presentations led to a fascinating discussion about how ‘game’ and ‘play’ are two distinct concepts in English but, in Spanish, one word is used for both. We discussed the distinctions, and what we felt were playful methodologies versus traditional methodologies which that promote engagement. There are interesting connections to be made between play, gamification, and engagement in learning.

Inclusion through Teaching Excellence
I enjoyed hearing a number of papers on teaching excellence. For example, Sofia Chanda-Gool presented on university teachers in England fostering learning environments that promote a wellbeing framework; she found that these inclusive environments increase students’ sense of belonging, as well as their confidence to engage in groupwork and take risks in learning. Similarly, Mercedes Inda-Caro presented on Spanish teachers’ ‘activating teaching’ methods that develop learning environments that foster student engagement. Salvador Reyes-de Cozar also presented on the importance of counselling and student support, and the need for teachers to recognise students who are struggling and to provide support. Each of these three research presentations had similar findings to my own research into student perceptions of excellence in teaching and student support.

Thinking back on Thomas Popkewitz’s fascinating keynote presentation, he suggested that curriculum outcomes reflect individuals’ hopes and what we want students to become in our society. He argued that educational work and research are based on these aims and values, even when purporting to be objective. I reflected on the many different stakeholders in education and their various perceptions of teaching excellence

However, throughout the massive conference programme of 3,000 presentations centred around the theme of inclusion, it was striking that seeing students as partners and/or working with them to co-create the curriculum within secondary and higher education was almost non-existent. For me, this speaks to the need for university teachers and researchers to not only listen to students’ feedback and use their data in research, but to become more inclusive by working with students as collaborators. After all, if partnerships with children are successful, secondary and undergraduate students are more than capable! Perhaps the bigger question is whether academics are willing? Hopefully we can have some blue-sky thinking.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Creating Spaces: Embracing Risk and Partnership in Higher Education

My latest publication was co-written with Juliet Hancock, with whom I work in the Professional Learning team at Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh. In this essay, we reflect on risk in partnerships in learning in higher education, including initial teacher education and teachers’ continued lifelong professional learning.

In the essay Creating Spaces: Embracing Risk and Partnership in Higher Education, we explore risk and expand on challenges within the themes of:
  • the ethos and values of partnership; 
  • sustaining our commitments;
  • vulnerabilities in trying new things; 
  • negotiation of learning; and 
  • rapport and relationships
We are both passionate about learner voice and exploring ways of creating opportunities for deep and meaningful partnerships. This includes considering ways of overcoming potential risks that working in partnership with learners may surface for all concerned in learning and teaching, including challenges arising from trying new things by teaching outside the box. The essay also considers how best to model and enact the ethos and values of partnership work that others might wish to take forward and further develop in their own practice.

We hope you enjoy reading the full essay as well as others in Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: The Benefits of Co-Creation of the Curriculum

I'm delighted that my newest research article, Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: The Benefits of Co-Creation of the Curriculum, has been published in the International Journal for Students as Partners. This work builds on my previous work looking at the benefits (and challenges) of co-creation while extending new arguments about how co-creation helps students and staff to develop self-authorship that help them deal with challenges in the supercomplex world we live in.

See the abstract below:

This research explores the benefits of co-creation of the curriculum, which is seen as one form of student-staff partnership in learning and teaching in which each partner has a voice and a stake in curriculum development. This qualitative research analyses participants’ perceptions of co-creation of the curriculum in the Scottish higher-education sector. Initial findings show that some staff and students participating in co-creation of the curriculum perceive it to benefit them by (a) fostering the development of shared responsibility, respect, and trust; (b) creating the conditions for partners to learn from each other within a collaborative learning community; and (c) enhancing individuals’ satisfaction and personal development within higher education. Using Barnett’s conceptualisation of supercomplexity and Baxter Magolda’s three-pronged view of self-authorship, the author suggests that critical and democratic engagement in co-creation of the curriculum can develop the self-authorship of both students and staff members, including their cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal abilities which help them adapt to an ever-changing, supercomplex world.

Read the full article.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Forum for International Networking in Education (FINE)

It was a fantastic experience to attend the Forum for International Networking in Education (FINE) meeting and events around the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in New York a few weeks ago, representing Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. I attended the FINE Forum as well as their networking events and some of their events in partnership with the AERA Graduate Student Council such as the Human Library Panel Session: Conversations on Global and Local Educational Topics. It was an extremely valuable experience for networking, hearing interesting talks, and also gaining helpful tips to enhance the PhD experience.

Several themes emerged throughout the FINE discussions, including the following tips which were shared with me which I hope to pass on to you here!

Depth, breadth, and interdisciplinarity
It was highly recommended by more senior academics that early career researchers should have not just breadth but also depth in your work and, specifically, 'programmatic research' that builds coherently and extends on previous work. Furthermore, reading outside of your subject area, engaging in interdisciplinary work, and taking risks by being open to different opportunities and interdisciplinary work was highly emphasised. For instance, Associate Professor Susan Bridges (Assistant Dean for Curriculum Innovation, University of Hong Kong) spoke about the value of making career choices based on what opportunities are most exciting or fun, and she described how sometimes unexpected experiences or roles can have a massive, positive impact on your career and satisfaction of working in academia. Go on – be bold and creative even if it may seem like a non-traditional choice or a risk. (My previous post on teaching outside of the box seems relevant here, as well as the Fearless Girl statue facing the bull at Wall Street which I saw during my visit.)

Although the AERA conference is focused on current American educational research and an overwhelmingly American audience, it was refreshing that the FINE meetings connected colleagues from around the world based at Universitas21 institutions. The FINE sessions emphasised seeing internationalisation as an opportunity and not an imposition, as well as seeing the power of interdisciplinary work across borders. Especially for those of us who are engaging in research on more controversial topics that unpick power dynamics (I'm thinking here about my work on challenging the status quo to embed partnership), the mentors at the FINE meetings encouraged early career researchers to be true to why we joined the academy. In this sense, networking and building relationships with colleagues was seen as a powerful way to humanise us and so that others may be more receptive to the controversial aspects of our work.

Networking and collegiality: draw from the power of groups
The FINE events, jointly run conference sessions with the AERA Graduate Students’ Council, and the breakfast and reception events were great opportunities for networking with other PhD students from around the world as well as more experienced colleagues. I really enjoyed making new connections with others from the University of Auckland, University of British Columbia, University of Connecticut, and Nottingham University as well as reconnecting with a colleague from Hong Kong University who I previously met at the JURE EARLI conference last summer (see a photo of us at AERA below)!

While attending conferences, presenting, and publishing your work, it was highly recommended to contribute to and learn from the collegiality of academia. This includes valuing the feedback from peer reviewers and colleagues to help you improve your work. I have found the peer review process immensely helpful for my own work. This also includes engaging in and drawing on the communities within our departments. While it was helpful hearing about how other PhD students work with their supervisors on research, have active communities where senior academics and also early career researchers mentor PhD students, it made me think that Moray House was missing a trick here and could do much more to promote a sense of community which appears to occur in other education schools. For example, some schools hold 'PhD Days' where all in a cohort would present a poster or a three-minute-thesis-style talk to their colleagues and receive feedback. I think this would be an extremely valuable exercise which would help our community be more inclusive and supportive while letting us get to know others' research and any synergies with our own.

Crafting your teaching identity
During the FINE sessions, Gladis Kersaint (Dean of Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut) emphasised the importance of teaching in a scholar’s career. She noted that the focus tends to be on one’s research identity rather than teaching (which was a theme re-emerging throughout FINE events and my own research which I hope to write about more in the future). However, it is important to gain teaching experience (even if guest lecturing or creatively teaching in other areas) and to reflect on your teaching identity. 

Later in the FINE meetings we learnt more from Alison Milner and Jennifer Tatebe (FINE Leadership Team Members) about how to articulate our teaching philosophy well to potential employers. They emphasised that this is a self-reflective portrait of teaching beliefs that demonstrates your key teaching experience and shows a strong understanding of your students, and can draw on Chism's (1998) five components of the teaching philosophy. It is not only important for recruiters but also for your own professional development. It should illustrate a few key teaching moments that illustrate your teaching philosophy, show synergies with your research, and – especially if being submitted with a job application – draw out synergies with the institution’s values and priorities.

Research for meaningful impact
Everyone focused on the importance of publishing to advance your career in academia and share your work. However, it is also important to have meaningful impact by sharing research beyond academia by informing the public of your research and its implications. This includes sharing your work on Twitter, blogs such as this one, or newspapers. An example was that, for every journal article you publish, you should either write a blog post or opinion editorial piece to share your work more broadly.

Ways to ‘do it all’ – co-creation of research
Both Marc Beauchamp (Associate Dean of Research, University of British Columbia ) and Andy Noyes (Head of School of Education, University of Nottingham) shared insightful reflections about engaging in co-creation of research with students. Marc spoke about ‘teaching like a rockstar’, by which he meant excellent student-centred teaching where faculty and tutors can work in partnership with undergraduate students to mentor them and involve them in their research (this sounds like other great examples that I saw in my research on student perceptions of teaching excellence). 

Andy also emphasised ‘teaching like a troublemaker’ and not just focusing on efficient, ‘what works’ teaching methods since it is important to develop students’ criticality. He also suggested that one way of doing this is to not see a teaching/research dichotomy but to do your research through your teaching by involving students (see my reflections on doing that through co-researching co-creation of the curriculum). 

We also discussed how there has been so little resolution in the teaching/research dichotomy in the last few generations. Perhaps co-creation of the curriculum is a solution by involving students more in our teaching decision-making and in our research? Rowena Arshad (Head of Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh) spoke powerfully about the importance of knowing and trusting our students, and the opportunities that co-creation of the curriculum can present.

Concluding remarks
The FINE forum and events surrounding the AERA conference provided valuable panel discussions, networking opportunities, and food for thought. It was great, too, to be part of the FINE collaborations with the AREA Graduate Students’ Council and to have the opportunity to attend such a wide range of other conference sessions at AERA (more to come on this soon on my blog). I really enjoyed hearing tips from senior academics, and it is good to end on their wise suggestion to own the privilege but also the responsibilities that come from being part of academia, and to enjoy the journey as an early career researcher by exploring and maintaining the feelings of excitement resonating with why we originally started our PhDs.

Our Moray House School of Education team at FINE 2018