Positionality from a wooden stool: a blog post about my fieldwork in Rwanda

By Leanne Cameron*

Leanne Cameron is a PhD student at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Currently she is at the end of her second year and her research topic on English teacher professionalism in Rwanda. In this post Leanne reflects on how researchers, while doing data collection, act as “filters” for data and construct knowledge in trying to understand and grasp what is happened out there.

Leanne picture

It’s all unsettlingly familiar: honey-colored brick buildings surround a bright, manicured quadrangle, edged with shrubs and featuring Our Lady encased in glass. In the classrooms, wooden desks in tight rows are carved with years – decades? – of teenage musings. Our glow-in-the-dark Lord and Savior hangs on crucifixes above the blackboards. The full picture is strongly reminiscent of my own parochial childhood – with a few substitutions beyond the plastic Jesus: the wood carvings are 21st century-centric (“Kylie” and “Kendrick Lamar”), not to mention that the location is probably six thousand miles from my idyllic Northern California hometown.

I’m at a boarding school in the Southern Province of Rwanda, not quite awake for the 7:40 start time. The school specializes in science concentrations at A-level (Senior 4-6), but the student body also includes O-level (Senior 1-3). All of the students are gathered in the quad, grouped around the headmistress on the basketball court. After singing the school song and national anthem, they scatter to their classrooms and she comes to shake my hand. Like any ex-Catholic school girl, I forced a smile and tried not to dwell on memories of my own strict, similarly short and square headmistress wringing a cheating confession out of an eight-year-old me.

It’s the first day of proper data collection: my research is with a teacher association, and one aspect of the many methods I have engineered for the project involves observation and interviews with individual member teachers. Thus, I am wearing a dress and functioning as the center of school gossip on a cool morning: the thing about quadrangles is you can’t hide, and the thing about being white in Rwanda is you really can’t hide. Students in royal blue sweaters and white shirts and ties embroidered with the school crest rush past me; one kind, brave Senior 5 soul greets me and takes me to the Teacher’s Room where I find the “Maurice,” the association teacher that I will shadow today.

Back in my teaching days, I would always get a little nervous when being observed, regardless of whether it was my boss, some visiting delegation, or even a colleague. But today, the roles are reversed: Maurice seems cool, collected, and unbothered by my presence, and I’m the one who’s sweating and shaking a bit and constantly dropping her pen. As a PhD student, starting your data collection is declaring your allegiance to one philosophical orientation and beginning the process of knowledge construction. Knowledge begins with data, and it is especially important for qualitative researchers that extensive thought and care should be put into how you collect that data. I have put in that thought and care, but this is where it becomes something real.

Until this point, it’s all been theoretical. Who I am as a researcher is passionate but theoretical, recorded in proposal documents and argued in an upgrade panel, but it is a construction, an ideal. Data collection is when you morph into that person, or a totally different one, where you start to work and communicate and face decisions and problems and become mired in messiness. It’s where things can get personally uncomfortable. Not just sitting in the back of the class, balanced on a stool, trying to remember what I am supposed to be looking for and recording for this observation, what will set me up for our later series of prompted interviews.

Maurice has so many class periods, I lose count: maybe seven? Some are short, only 30 minutes; others are more than an hour. All of the classes are A-level and divided for the concentration: MCB (Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology), MCE (Mathematics, Computing, and Economics), and MPC (Mathematics, Physics, and Computing) – but I probably got at least one of those wrong. It all seems like my own high school subject nightmare. So. Much. Math. Some of the rooms are expansive concrete boxes like classrooms from my previous tenure in Rwanda as a university lecturer: rooms that are loud and echo with every movement across the uneven floor, every scraping chair. They are lit by daylight, with peeling, crumbling blackboards painted on the walls. Some are bricked, hung with ubiquitous net curtains and featuring detailed images drawn on the boards: one classroom for MCE has an elaborate drawing of an Excel spreadsheet. The teacher-artist has used multiple colors of chalk and indicated screen details down to the battery percentage on the bottom toolbar. It’s a clever work-around when teaching technology with limited materials.

For each classroom, I introduce myself. By the seventh class, it’s rushed and to the point. Leanne. Research. American. UK for Phd (yes, I know it’s strange). PhD (don’t do a PhD, you’ll go crazy). They ask me many of the same questions. Married? No. How old? Guess (they are either very polite or very poor at estimation). Some of the classes ask detailed questions – how do I improve my public speaking ability? Others are less interesting – what’s your favorite drink? I wasn’t going to say “gin and tonic” out loud at a Catholic school, so apparently it’s a mocktail of mango juice and Vittolo, the local sparkling water option. After the introductions, I take a position in the back of the room.

Qualitative researchers are (rightly) neurotic over this idea of position and positionality– beyond my wooden stool. Kant famously argued that we cannot possibly experience “things-in-themselves” but can only experience them as they appear to us, encapsulated here by writer Anais Nin: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Whatever the world is, we process it through our selves. It doesn’t mean that research is some therapeutic self-exploration but it means that we are aware that we exist as a filter for that data and subsequently constructed knowledge.

Without getting too far down the research philosophy rabbit hole, I hold a critical constructivist research philosophy which argues that the world is messily put together, and knowledge reflects this: critical constructivist capo Joe Kincheloe (2005) argues that from this perspective, it is “misleading to merely study random outcomes… isolated ‘facts’ and ‘truths’” (p. 2). Rather, knowledge always involves a knower who is permanently linked to a historical and social context: “how the knower constructs the known constitutes what we think of as reality” (p. 2). Thus, for researchers, especially, our position in this place is important. We can’t just fade into the background, become the nameless automaton behind the experiment. As researchers, we play an exaggerated role in constructing knowledge and deciding what “counts” as knowledge. Ultimately, practically, this perspective requires humility, caution, and social awareness in the practice of research.

As such, critical constructivism requires being aware of who you are, what you’re doing, how you’re behaving, how you are reflecting on your work, how dynamics of power and postcolonialism enter the equation. It means examining your biases and what goes into the questions you ask, how you hear the answer. Obviously, you can’t remove yourself from the work – and to believe that is possible is itself naïveté. Instead, we have to recognize who we are in the situation. To quote from my progression document, the solution is an anti-solution: observe, listen, ask questions and be ready to receive responses that cut at the base of who I think I am, recognize the privilege I have and be able to talk about it with honesty and openness. Gadamer (1989) suggests laying bare your affiliations or “horizons” and consider their impact on your interpretation, what he labels a “fusion of horizons” (p. 370). When this is done fully and intentionally, it is meant to be deeply painful in separating what I actually believe and value from what I express as beliefs and values. It I am asking this of my participants in examining their own practice as teachers, I should be doing the same thing. There’s the discomfort.

I tell myself that this classroom, this moment of mentally pressing record is where it all begins, but that’s not exactly true: PhDs require you to define and package your philosophy, epistemology, ontology, and axiology, but really, none of this is linear – just like travel, research requires that you keep going back over yourself, learning more about who you are and what you think and how all of that changes when you are confronted with things that are different and unknown. So I settle in and watch as Maurice divides the blackboard into sections for the class to review last week’s material: “What I know” and “What I want to know.” Fitting. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a girl nudge a folded note towards a broad-shouldered boy while her desk mate furiously copies Maurice’s board composition. In my own notebook, I start making margin notes in pink pen. Honey-colored bricks, a bright quadrangle, glow-in-the-dark Jesus. 

 

*Leanne personal blog with more writing on her experiences in Rwanda can be found at http://athousandhillsfromhome.wordpress.com/

 

References

Gadamer, H.-G. (1989). Truth and method (2nd, revis ed.). London: Continuum.

Kincheloe, J. (2005). Critical constructivism primer. New York: Peter Lang.

Advertisements

“Education has a key role in peace education but this role it’s not straightforward”

 

hilary-cremin.jpg

By Marcela Ramos

Dr Hilary Cremin, University of Cambridge, was one of the keynote speakers at the BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education, that took place at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Dr Cremin researches, writes and teaches about peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities. In this interview, Dr Cremin reflects on the different meanings peace has and the value of acknowledging it while thinking of peace building as an alternative to imposing peace. Within this paradigm shift, “education has a key role but this role it’s not straightforward”, highlights Dr Cremin.

-In your presentation, you stressed the idea of building but not imposing peace. Why is this distinction relevant? Why is it meaningful to think about peace in different ways?

-I think different parts of the world have developed their own traditions about peace and part of the problem is when a Western idea of peace is seen as relevant across the entire planet.

-What kind of peace is the Western one?

-Securitize, so our word peace comes from pax, which is pax Romana, the Italian root. And this word means cessation in hostilities. So in our concept of peace we have the idea that we are not fighting at the moment, but the fighting could always return. Whereas in Eastern traditions, peace is about balance and harmony, a completely different idea. So this is much more about embracing dualities. In Colombia for example, they have a particular focus on moral peace because of Catholic traditions there, so anyone working towards peace in that context would need to be aware of local cultural associations with peace and not just imposed a kind of United Nations idea on what peace is across the whole planet.

-How can we address these significant issues through education research?

-I think we have to get away from the idea that reductionism it’s a good thing. Everybody likes simple models. This is what we have with globalized markets, everything reduced to simplicity, and the world isn’t like that, and so we can’t find the solution from within that paradigm. We’ve got to get used to think about complexity.

-This is interesting because, generally speaking, as social researchers, we are looking to represent our ideas through patterns, abstract concepts…Indeed the idea is somehow to simplify the explanations in order to better disseminate our research…

-Indeed I’m very interested in the art space and bodies research methods as ways of deepening our understandings of teaching and peace education.

BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education

foto 1

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), the Centre for Comparative and International Research in Education (CIRE) at the School of Education, University of Bristol, hosted a one-day symposium where diverse perspectives on sustainability, peace and education were presented. The symposium was very well attended, lively and intellectually challenging in nature, with participants contributing diverse disciplinary perspectives and specialist expertise. Underpinning the different sessions running throughout the day a core argument emerged that acknowledged and addressed the place and influence of complexity in both education and development.

The symposium, generously funded by BAICE, was also an occasion to re-launch CIRE as the centre builds upon past achievements to advance new multidisciplinary approaches to comparative and international research and prioritise the role of quality education in promoting sustainable and peaceful development worldwide. The event was opened by Professor Michael Crossley, President of BAICE and former Director of CIRE, Professor Qing Gu, University of Nottingham and Chair of BAICE, and Dr Angeline M  Barrett the current CIRE Director.

Being disruptive

The day’s activities began with an excellent and engaging video/Skype, Keynote Presentation delivered from Providence University in Taichung, Taiwan, by Arjen Wals, Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. According to Wals the times we now live in are characterized by high levels of complexity and uncertainty. This led to an exploration of appropriate ways of teaching and engaging learners while addressing such challenges. Professor Wals identifies four critical competences that need to be enhanced through education: learning to know, learning to critique, learning to make change and learning to care. He then introduced these as sustain-abilities, related to capabilities such as asking critical questions, reflecting upon contemporary issues from different perspectives and the development of leadership, compassion and empathy.

The idea of being disruptive, in the way street artist whose art interrupts people’s unconscious daily walks, ran throughout Wals’ presentation. In the same vein, Dr Hilary Cremin, from the University of Cambridge, who researches peace education and conflict transformation acknowledged the value of art as an open methodological attitude that could feed discussion about peace education. Based on Dietrich’s (2012) five families of peace, Cremin’s transrational peace education means a pedagogy that: develops curious, confident, wise, compassionate and knowledgeable learners; is aware that learning is always situated, contingent and relational; and enables learners to achieve wisdom through investigation, practice, reflection, and integrates body, mind, heart and spirit.

The afternoon Keynote, delivered by Professor Leon Tikly, drew upon his research in Rwanda and addressed the relationship between unsustainable development, inequalities and postcolonial conditions. Here it was argued that to play a key role and not be complicit in reproducing inequality, education systems need to expand the capabilities of all learners and so become inclusive, relevant and democratic. He highlighted the agency of teachers, learners, policy makers, parents and researchers in achieving this.

Interactive sessions throughout the day

Four main themes were addressed during the interactive break-out sessions led by speakers from different parts of the world. Within the ‘Education, inequalities and sustainability’ theme, Daniel Capistrano (visiting research fellow at the University of Bristol from National Institute for Educational Research and Studies (INEP), Brazil) presented work on the silences associated with equity indicators. Dr Keith Holmes (Programme Specialist in Unesco) analysed the policy implications of a ‘lifelong learning’ approach to the development of inclusive and equitable education systems; and Professor Sheila Trahar and Dr. Sue Timmis, University of Bristol, reflected on the early lessons emerging from their collaborative research on Southern African rural students’ journeys through higher education.

Key issues relating to sustainable peace were explored through presentations on research undertaken in Colombia (Ariel Sanchez Meertens, Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliacion, Bogota) and South Africa (Abigail Branford, University of Oxford). New insights on how peace education could be addressed theoretically and methodologically were considered by Stephanie Bengtsson (Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Human Capital, Vienna), Basma Hajir (University of Cambridge), Elisabeth Maber (University of Cambridge), Goya Vasquez Wilson (University of Bristol) and Lindsey Horner (Bath Spa University). Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire) also drew upon an EU-funded project that developed a framework to enhance twelve competences for sustainable development across the next generation of educators.

The significance of dialogue

The final plenary took the form of an interactive and engaging panel discussion based around questions inspired by the day and raised by participants. In a closing word of thanks, Professor Lalage Bown, University of Glasgow, reflected upon more than 30 years’ experience in adult education in Africa and UK. She emphasised one of the key messages of the day: the significance of dialogue. Looking ahead she asked how we can generate more interaction between those working in peace education and education for a sustainable development; how community education could build stronger bonds with lifelong learning that takes place beyond the school classroom; and how conversations between different fields, themes and spaces can be promoted within the multidisciplinary field of comparative and international education.

foto 2

Implementing language supportive pedagogy in teacher education: An ongoing CIRE research project

by Dr Angeline Barrett

The Language Supportive and Teaching and Textbooks (LSTT) in Tanzania is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, University of Dodoma and St. John’s University, Tanzania.  Now in its second phase, the main focus of the project is introducing language supportive pedagogies into secondary teacher education.  At Bristol, the project is led by Angeline Barrett, director of CIRE. Dave Bainton is a Research Fellow on the project.

Language in education in Tanzania

Like many postcolonial countries, Tanzania has a policy of using both an African language and English as medium of instruction in public education. Six years of primary education is delivered through the medium of Kiswahili. Kiswahili originated from coastal areas of East Africa and is not the lingua franca in metropolitan centres in Tanzania. Secondary education is only available in the medium of English. Students making the transition to secondary education, particularly those living in remote, rural or disadvantaged communities, have had very little exposure to English. The majority do not have the level of proficiency assumed by the syllabus (Barrett, Mtana, Osaki, & Rubagumya, 2014). Yet, when we analysed textbooks available on the market in 2013, we found many use long sentences and obscure vocabulary. Textbooks that have come onto the market since then are easier to read, in part due attention LSTT has drawn to the issue.

LSTT phase 1: developing language supportive materials

Between 2013 and 2016, we collaborated with the Tanzania Institute of Education to develop three prototype textbooks for first year of secondary education. The books incorporated features commonly found in modern foreign language textbooks into science, mathematics and English textbooks. These included English-to-Kiswahili; keeping sentences short and simple; images that support interpretation of the text; structured support for reading, writing and speaking in English; and attention to socio-cultural relevance for socioeconomically disadvantaged learners.

Evaluation of the textbooks in 16 schools found that teachers adopted one language supportive strategy quite readily – group discussion. Working in small groups, students discuss new ideas in their ‘thinking language’. This was usually Kiswahili, Kiswahili mixed with ‘broken English’ or Kiswahili mixed with a local language. The purpose of the discussion is to produce a formal scientific statement in English, which they write down and/or present to the class. This transformed the classroom climate. Within six to eight weeks, students who were initially reluctant to talk in class or to researchers in any language, gained the confidence to discuss their ideas and presenting in front of the class in English. Before and after assessments showed improved ability to write about science in English and an expanded academic vocabulary in English (Barrett & Bainton, 2016).

LSTT book pagePage from LSTT textbook

These findings sit alongside those of a sister project in Rwanda, led by Prof. Leon Tikly, which developed prototype language supportive textbooks for learners transitioning into English medium education following three years of education in Kinyarwanda. The Language Supportive Textbooks and Pedagogy (LAST) project found that children in schools using the textbooks scored on average 16% more in tests than their peers in control schools (Milligan, Clegg, & Tikly, 2016).

There are still challenges, however. Science teachers struggled to understand the language learning objectives or indeed the language demand of their subjects. Language teachers, however, understood the books’ objectives immediately and were often willing to support their colleagues. Science and mathematics teachers struggled to maintain pace when using interactive strategies, and so could not deliver content within the available time.

LSTT phase 2: integrating language supportive pedagogy into teacher education

The university-based textbook authors and researchers in Phase 1 were all teacher educators. It made sense, therefore, in Phase 2, to try putting language supportive pedagogy (LSP) into practice within teacher education programmes. So far, language supportive practices have been introduced into subject methodology (pedagogy) courses in the two Tanzania partner universities and in three teachers’ colleges. We are implementing this using an adapted version of lesson study. It involves collegial professional learning, collaboration between language and science specialists and peer observation.

At the end of October, I travelled to Tanzania to see how the teacher education component of the project was progressing and visited two of the teachers’ colleges – Butimba and Mpwapwa. The two colleges had started integrating both the theory and practice of language supportive pedagogy into their teaching. As with the schools in phase 1, the use of the discussion was the element of LSP taken up most readily, with benefits for student engagement, confidence to speak in English and an affirmative classroom climate. Tutors were devising and sharing creative ways to create space for discussion without sacrificing pace. This included strategies such as ‘think, pair, share’ and allocating different discussion questions to different groups. These are being implemented in large classes (60 – 240 students).  Language specialists were present in the classroom and gave explicit feedback on sentence structure and pronunciation; in the classrooms, a supportive climate was established within which mistakes were tolerated. This led to improved accuracy in use of English and, crucially, students gaining practice in English. At the University of Dodoma, tutors had also supported student teachers to implement language supportive pedagogies during their period of teaching practice in schools.

file

Angeline with tutors at Butimba Teachers College

The project is having a positive impact on teacher education already. Around 3000 student teachers are being introduced to the theory and practice of language supportive pedagogy and observations from teaching practice suggest that with quite modest support, they are then able to implement this within their own teaching. New collegial partnerships have been forged between science and language specialists within and across teacher education institutions. Through these, teacher educators are inspired and supported to innovate, try out and critically review new strategies. However, as we start a second cycle of lesson study collaboration in the two universities, we can also identify areas where we could improve practice further. Some points that I observed during the travels are:Use of group discussion needs to be supported with concise conclusions from tutors that clearly articulate key learning points;

  • Discussions are often oriented towards extracting theoretical information from a text. There is scope to make more use of collaborative learning for contextualised problem-solving;
  • More detailed and explicit content on secondary school students’ language proficiencies needs to be developed;
  • Student teachers need to be equipped with strategies for supporting secondary school students to read and write as well speak in English; and
  • There is potential within the project to develop and share teaching and learning resources that enable each of the above.

Implications for policy

Tanzania is currently at a crossroads, with the option of switching to Kiswahili medium education all the way through or remaining with the current policy. The purpose of the LSTT is to find ways to improve implementation of the policy as it is now being interpreted and implemented and not to explore other policy options. In phase one, we found a way forward for improving English medium of education. But it is one that is demanding of teacher expertise and depends on learning materials being placed in the hands of learners. Implementation requires careful planning and investment, including significant revision of the syllabus. Nothing in our research supports switching language of instruction midway through young people’s schooling career.

 

References

Barrett, A. M., & Bainton, D. (2016). Re-interpreting relevant learning: an evaluative framework for secondary education in a global language. Comparative Education, 52(3), 392-407. doi:10.1080/03050068.2016.1185271

Barrett, A. M., Mtana, N., Osaki, K., & Rubagumya, C. (2014). Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks: Baseline Study Report. Bristol: LSTT.

Milligan, E. M. A., Clegg, J., & Tikly, L. (2016). Exploring the potential for language supportive learning in English Medium Instruction: A Rwandan case study. Comparative Education, 52(3).


Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), which has and continues to fund this research.

Angeline M. Barrett is the Principal Investigator of the LSTT project and Director of CIRE. She has 17 years’ experience of research into improving the quality of primary and secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa.

CIRE Event: ‘Children’s literature and its role in learning about conflict and peace’

By Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau 

On Tuesday the 12 of September, 2017, the one-day workshop facilitated by Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau and Dr Julia Paulson, entitled ‘Children’s literature and its role in learning about conflict and peace’ took place at the School of Education, University of Bristol.

Funding from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law International Development Group enabled us to invite leading speakers and provide refreshments for participants, which allowed the exploration of ideas and discussions into the ways in which children’s literature might be used to foster teaching and learning about conflict and peace.

t

In the current context — where the record levels of people are forced to flee their homes, the refugee crisis and the threat recent polarisation and terror attacks pose — the challenge of how to learn about conflict and peace in the school system, has reach a critical momentum. The workshop took an interdisciplinary approach to reflect on the role that children’s literature can play when tacking these issues in the educational setting.

The Workshop was introduced by Julia Paulson, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of CIRE, SoE, who provided the context of research and practice around education, conflict and peace. Julia argued that although causes and legacies of political conflict permeate the educational experiences of young people living in post-conflict countries, conflict is not always recognized, nor its teaching supported by formal curriculum. She also recognized that in the conflict and peace education field, there is a lack of research focusing on children’s literature, and the need for taking an interdisciplinary approach.

Then Lorna Smith, Senior lecturer, SoE, organized a debate regarding whether 15 children’s and young adults books (such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies and Macbeth), according to the audience and contrasted with the in Key stage 3 and Key Stage 4 English Curriculum, should or should not be read by children in schools.

tt

Lorna Smith, Senior lecturer, SoE, leading a small group within the workshop

We moved next to the representation of conflict in Children’s literature. Dr Blanka Grzegorczyk, Teaching Associate, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, drawing on a forthcoming book to be published in 2018 by Routledge, focused on the ways in which contemporary British Young Adult’s books (such as The Boy from Aleepo, Welcome to Nowhere and The Jungle) are representing Terror and Counter-Terror in Contemporary British Children’s Literature.

ttt

Dr Blanka Grzegorczyk, Teaching Associate, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

The following presentation delivered by Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau, Post Doctoral Fellow, SoE focused on 6 contemporary children books that represent the Chilean dictatorship for a Chilean and international audience. Drawing on a 2017 paper published in Children’s books in Education journal titled “Representations of Dictatorship on Contemporary Chilean Children’s Literature” and recently submitted work, Bernardita argued that the authors’ positionality in terms of nationality, voice and context of production of the books were critical to take into account when understanding differences in which children characters are depict within the narratives and the way in which the dictatorship is represented for a young audience.

In the afternoon perspectives and possibilities were explored by putting together two presentations that dealt with the role of fiction as a tool for enhancing research epistemologies and memory work. Dr Goya Wilson Vasquez, Research Associate, Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, School of Modern Languages, draw on her 2017 award winning doctoral thesis LASA/Oxfam America 2017 Martin Diskin Dissertation ‘Troubling (the) Testimonio: The borderlands of collective memory work—Writing a narrative inquiry with the HIJXS de Perú Group’ Awarded by the Latin American Studies Association.

tttt

Dr Goya Wilson, Research Associate, Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, UoB

Finally, Dr Bernardita Munoz Chereau closed the workshop by sharing with the audience her experience of life in a dictatorship and the process of writing the award-winning IBBY-Chile Colibrí honourable mention 2017 Noelia’s Diary – her latest children book recently published in Chile, which deals with her experience of growing under Pinochet’s dictatorship, as well as the ways in which academic inquiry helped her overcoming censorship.

ttttt

Dr Bernardita Munoz-Chereau, Senior Research Associate, SoE

The fund obtained was vital for nurturing and enhancing the visibility of a new niche of interdisciplinary research that is emerging at the SoE around children’s literature and its role when learning about conflict and peace, as well as to build new collaborative networks across academics from different centers, departments, faculties and UK universities (UoB, Cambridge and IoE-UCL) in the fields of Peace Education, English Curriculum, Qualitative Methodologies and Literature.

CIRE at Conferences Part 2: BERA

This is the second in a series of  posts written by CIRE members who presented at conferences throughout the UK in Summer/Autumn 2017. Part 1, written by CIRE Director Angeline Barrett, focused on UKFIET 2017. Here, PhD student Jane Nebe writes about her experience at BERA 2017.

Attending My 1st BERA Conference

by Jane Nebe

The 2017 edition of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference held on 5th – 7th September 2017 at the University of Sussex, Brighton. It was my first time attending a BERA conference, but it wasn’t my first time at the city of Brighton. I was excited about attending the conference as I received a BERA bursary that exempted me from paying the student registration fee of £285 (if payment was made after 1st May). However, I was anxious as well because I was presenting my PhD research at the conference. I would later realise that my anxiety was unnecessary, because the presentation went well and I had a very supportive audience.

jane 1

Presenting my paper on 5th September, 2017

The presentation was titled ‘Exploring the Consequences of Poor Academic Performance in Nigeria’s High-stakes Secondary School Exit Certificate Examinations: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) Study’. There, I spoke on how my PhD research was seeking to understand the ways that high-stakes examinations impacted on higher education aspirations for secondary school leavers in Nigeria. Having concluded fieldwork in June 2017, I was able to provide my audience some of the findings that emerged from a part of my Pilot Study. Evaluating my performance afterwards, I felt I should have provided more specifics for my audience while articulating the research methodology and design. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the feedback I got on how I could critically engage with theory, considering the philosophical framework of my research.

At the conference, there were interesting presentations by other researchers and thought-provoking Keynote speeches. It was exciting to learn about the wide range of educational research going on around the world. Of course, there was the social part of the conference where I met new people. It was also a huge pleasure to reconnect with an old friend who relocated to Australia and another dear Colleague, Dr. Sana Rizvi, who now lectures at De Montfort University. It was also nice to see familiar faces from the School of Education, University of Bristol such as Professor Rosamund Sutherland, Dr. Sue Timmis and Ms. Paola Ramirez. My most memorable occasion was sitting on the same table with the new BERA President for 2017 – 2019, Professor Gary McCulloch at the Dinner event.

jane 2

Dr. Sana Rizvi and I at the end of the conference on 7th Sept 2017.

Reflecting on my experience of the BERA conference, I dare say it has particularly motivated me to ensure that my research is rigorous, both conceptually and methodologically. I even bought a book that was relevant to my research at a discounted rate and opened conversation with a prospective publisher. I am grateful to BERA for the bursary I was awarded, which made this experience possible as I look forward to attending future BERA conferences.

Jane Nebe is a 3rd Year PhD student at the School of Education, University of Bristol.

CIRE at Conferences Part 1: UKFIET

In the past month, CIRE members have been active at conferences around the UK. This post is the first in a series that details recent conference presentations and publications.

Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development

CIRE at the UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development, University of Oxford, 5-7 September

by Angeline M. Barrett, CIRE Director

CIRE was well-represented at the 11th UKFIET Conference on Education and Development, on the theme Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development.  In total four staff and three students presented papers in sub-themes on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development, Enabling Teachers and Rethinking Curriculum, reflecting new and longstanding streams of research within CIRE.

Pedagogies for peace and sustainable development goes bananas

banana

Julia Paulson and Angeline Barrett joined with James Lawrie of the Save the Children, to convene the subtheme on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development. Julia herself presented with Lizzi Milligan, University of Bath, on a review of history textbook analysis in post-conflict settings. The review found that very little research had gone beyond content analysis to ask questions about how textbooks were commissioned, produced and used in classrooms. Angeline’s paper co-presented with Prof. Kalafunja Osaki, St. Augustine’s University of Tanzania, however, did address the authorship and design of bilingual science textbooks created by teacher educators and curriculum developers in Tanzania.  The presentation questioned whether targeting formal scientific language in just one language was sufficient to address sustainable development within multilingual societies. Kalafunja’s examples of the knowledge of 15 species of banana, preserved within his mother-tongue memorably illustrated the argument. David Bainton, a CIRE Research Fellow, presented his own reflections on the Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks in Tanzania project, applying an epistemological justice framing to evaluate its bilingual pedagogies.

Enabling teachers: Continuous Professional Development, voice and wellbeing

Faizulizami Osmin and Leanne Cameron presented on very different forms of continuous professional development for teachers. Enabling Teachers subtheme. Faizulizami’s paper titled, Empowering Teachers through Self-Initiated Continuing Professional Development: A New Vision for Teacher Professional Development in Malaysia presented a critical analysis of the formulation and reception of a formal, centrally imposed policy on teachers. The analysis identified conflicts and tensions between how the policy was conceptualised by its authors as promoting autonomous responsibility for professional development; and how it was experienced, interpreted and implemented by practicing teachers as a top-down coercive initiative. This paper won a competitive grant from the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), which sponsored Faizulizami’s attendance at the conference. Leanne’s paper, Sustainable Continuous Professional Development? Considering models from East and Central African Teacher Associations, problematised the apparent autonomous professionalism associated with teacher associates. Drawing on data on Language Teacher Associations it highlighted the support and influence of external international sponsors, in particular US Department of State and British Council. The paper highlighted the different organisation of associations and their potential to foster sustained continuous professional development initiated by members, who are practicing teachers.

IMG_20170907_191022_453

Faizulizami, Angeline and Leanne at UKFIET

In the same theme, Tigist Grieve, a postdoctoral fellow, presented Teachers’ Voice: Essentials for Pursuit of Sustainable Development in Teaching and Learning in rural Ethiopia. Her findings from ethnographic research in Ethiopia highlighted the professional and wellbeing concerns of teachers posted to rural schools. Drawing on her ongoing ESRC-GCRF research, Tigist stressed the materiality of voice, and argued, given the emphasis on inclusivity and learning in which teachers are imagined as ‘transformative agents’, their voice, agency and wellbeing must be part of the scholarly debate and key consideration for policy makers.

UKFIET Conference photo

Tigist’s presentation

 

Rethinking the curriculum at Higher Education

Amy Walsh, a Masters student, presented on a Bristol Student Union sustainability project, Get Green, in her paper Learn Act Engage Create: A four-step approach to engage higher education students in sustainability. The project aimed to challenge staff’s and students’ attitudes to sustainability through a holistic approach to teaching and learning, which spanned the formal, informal and sublimal curriculum. It aimed to involve students engaging with ESD through the formal curriculum and then extending this to social action outside of their course. Her quick fire paper was presented in the subtheme Beyond Literacy and Numeracy: Rethinking the Curriculum.

New BAICE President: Michael Crossley

Also at the Conference, Prof. Michael Crossley was announced as the next BAICE President. For more on this see the School of Education news story. We look forward to hearing Michael’s Presidential Address at next year’s BAICE Conference, in York.

Publications related to this blog

Barrett, A. M. (2017): Making secondary education relevant for all: reflections on science education in an expanding sub-sector, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1343127

Barrett, A.M. & Bainton, D. (2016) (2016) Re-interpreting relevant learning: an evaluative framework for secondary education in a global language, Comparative Education, 52:3, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2016.1185271

Paulson, J. (2017). From truth to textbook: the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, educational resources and the challenges of teaching about recent conflict. In M. J. Bellino, & J. H. Williams (Eds.), (Re)constructing memory: education, identity, and conflict. (pp. 291-311). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Paulson, J. (2015). ‘Whether and how?’ History education about recent and ongoing conflict: A review of research. Journal on Education in Emergencies, 1(1), 7-37.