I started work in October 2016 as the University of Hertfordshire’s Research Fellow in Research Rich and Informed Teaching. Based in the School of Education I work also with the Learning and Teaching Innovation Centre and across UH’s ten Schools. My task is to analyse and help to develop UH’s research rich and informed teaching, learning, curricula and assessment, through programmes of theoretical and empirical inquiry. Over time research partnerships will extend to other Universities and organisations.
My career-long experience of doing and using research in educational, business and policy settings is helpful preparation for this exciting Fellowship. I am drawing on that varied background to help me understand different ways of incorporating current and/or traditional research from disciplines, into cutting edge curricula and lively higher education pedagogy.
As in previous career roles I am also seeking innovative ways for us, as educators, to inform and improve our practice. We aspire for our students that their University ‘…fosters intellectual curiosity and provides opportunities to develop effective learning and research abilities’ (UH Graduate Attributes). We have also set ourselves clear, research-related 2020 strategic objectives:
Providing expert teaching informed by research, business and the professions
Fostering enquiry, critical thinking and curiosity through inclusive, intellectually challenging courses
Creating and developing innovative ideas, products and processes
Fostering and strengthening research with global partners
How learning from our own or others’ practices, policies and cultures can best advance such ambitions, especially those relating to students’ learning, is the focus of my research. Given that such aspirations are common across Universities worldwide, and beliefs in inquiry-led learning have long been fiercely held by some educators in schools and early years settings, I will also look beyond UH for mirrors in which to view our current experience.
As an experienced practitioner and leader in schools, higher education settings and charitable businesses, I have worked in many different teams to research and develop curricula, pedagogy and products. My undergraduate degree in history was followed by a two year historical research degree (MLitt), then training to teach children in English, Maths and PE (PGCE). My first grounded research projects were therefore as a teacher in team-based school curriculum development initiatives. During six subsequent years of full time advisory teaching, leading national and local curriculum training, I then completed a PhD by independent research (UEA) published as a book by Falmer Press. That work examines the relationships between history, pedagogy and storytelling based upon practitioner and action research approaches. Children of all ages, it argues, should be empowered to ask and answer authentic historical questions by learning how to tell convincing stories about the past, derived from evidence. Their teachers should model those practices by telling evidence-based, questioning stories. Might such principles, mediated appropriately, inform education across ages, stages and disciplines?
A second academic book focused on Thinking History 4-14. In my role as a University lecturer in education I also led and participated in varied research and enquiry projects particularly around pedagogy, curriculum and storytelling. This included writing educational guides for and co-leading The Iliad Project, an oral retelling of Homer's Iliad for schoolchildren. I also supervised practising educators designing numerous postgraduate research projects for MEds, MPhils and PhDs. In 2009 I was made an honorary fellow of the Historical Association for ongoing contributions to historical education including work for example via Teachers TV, other visual media and in print (see publications section for examples). I have written seven historical books for children of school age, most recently in 2016.
Subsequent career roles since that lectureship have all involved strong partnerships with Higher Education: through teacher training recruitment, via leadership of a foundation funding and evaluating programmes of learning innovation and research, and by leading a leadership charity training staff practising in schools and early years settings. In such open and competitive markets using, evaluating or managing research was crucial. Some examples I commissioned, managed or contributed to include innovative NESTA programmes for museums and galleries, NESTA’s influential 2006 Real Science report, a 2009/10 DFE national research report and accompanying advice on small rural schools and recent responses to varied policy consultations (see publications).