Message from the Head of School
It is a pleasure to welcome our Alumni readers to this newsletter in which we reflect on some of the successes of our academic year.
The year began with the launch of a highly successful MOOC ‘Exploring Play’ – with 17,000 learners from around the world. Led by Professor Elizabeth Wood this MOOC looked at play across the life course. If you missed it – there will be an opportunity in the next academic year to sign up and enjoy this free online course. In December we had news of our REF success, which highlighted the excellent quality of research in the School of Education. Throughout the year we have been enjoying the successes of gaining research funding, prizes for our professional services staff, and several ‘hello’s and ‘goodbyes’ as staff have joined us and others left. Finally we have enjoyed Graduation week, where our BA and Doctoral students celebrated their success. I was particularly pleased to welcome our local partners from Malta who made the journey to celebrate the graduation of the first three students to graduate from our Malta based PhD programme, warm congratulations to them!
The life and work of the School is underpinned by these values.
- We value teaching, scholarship and research that is high quality, is creative, critical, increases learning opportunities and challenges educational inequalities.
- We value research that develops theory, practice, society, and individuals’ lives and work – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
- We value teaching that engages with students’ lives and work, and that is democratic, critically engaged, inspiring and based on research.
- We value a diverse School culture in which we work in respectful, collegial and environmentally sustainable ways with each other and with the students and communities we serve.
Our intention is to reflect these values in our work, and you will find examples of how we accomplish this in the following pages. I want to thank my colleagues in the School of Education and our current students for all they bring to our work. And I hope, as Alumni, you will continue to stay in touch and give us your news.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework
Research carried out in UK Universities is assessed for its quality and impact according to the Research Excellence Framework exercise which takes place every five or six years. The results of the most recent REF were announced in December 2014 and we were delighted with our outcome. Here are the headlines:
- The impact of our research is world leading.
- We are ranked 4th in Education in the UK
- Our research environment enables us to carry out world leading and internationally excellent research.
- Our submitted publications were world leading and internationally excellent.
- Overall, our research is judged to be world leading and internationally excellent.
In Memorium: Professor John Roach
We were sorry to hear of the recent death of Professor John Roach. A Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Sheffield.
Professor Roach was an eminent historian and a much respected Head of Department. He is remembered by many colleagues who worked with him for his kindness and encouragement to them as young academics in the early years of their careers here at the School of Education. Professor Roach made a significant contribution to the study of the History of Education and his acute judgment, outstanding scholarship and generosity of spirit are warmly remembered.
Professor Roach died on 11th July, aged 95 years. His funeral service was held at St. Mark's Church, Broomhill, Sheffield on Friday 24th July 2015 with several members of staff past and present in attendance.
Our Alumni Share their Experiences
It's always great to hear from our former students and catch up with their personal and professional developments. Here three of our alumni share their experiences with us.
Gladson Chikwa, PhD Educational Studies
"My name is Gladson Chikwa. I studied for a doctoral degree in Education Studies at the University of Sheffield and graduated in January 2013. Significant for me, the doctoral journey helped me to not only gain a higher qualification in my field but contributed to the development of important employability skills. During my studies I had excellent opportunities to present my research work at various seminars and conferences organized within and outside the university. Such experiences helped me to develop enhanced conceptual understanding of a variety of educational research methods and raised awareness of contemporary issues in higher education which I have continued to use in my day to day work. In addition, I feel that my studies have been instrumental in capacitating me to take positions of responsibility with confidence and to network with experts in my field, something I find to be essential in all the jobs I have been involved in since my graduation.
I am currently employed as an Assistant Professor in the Middle East College in Oman. As Head of the Centre for Academic Practices, I am responsible for providing strategic direction to learning and teaching activities in the college including the conduct of institutional research. Having a PhD and some work experience in higher education was a requirement for the job. Previously, I worked in higher education context providing pedagogic advice to academics and carrying out institutional research in learning and teaching for more than three years at two UK universities namely Sheffield Hallam and Nottingham Trent University.
Upon reflection, I would say going through a PhD journey requires a great deal of determination and commitment. It is hard work but with appropriate support and an enabling environment such as one I experienced as a student at the University of Sheffield, it can be an enjoyable experience with lots of benefits during and after the studies. Best wishes to all my colleagues who are currently studying or thinking of embarking on a PhD course!"
Catherine Thursby, PGCE
"I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2012, having completed a PGCE in Secondary Geography teaching. Since graduating I have been working at a faith school in North West England, where I teach 11-18 geography. I have found that I particularly enjoy teaching and working with Sixth Form students, and have recently gained the position of Assistant Head of Sixth Form. I also maintain the school's link with a diocese in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and run an annual trip to both Congo and Uganda for our Sixth Form students. Students visit local schools and villages, teach English and ICT and finish the trip with a safari; it is a privilege to give students the opportunity to take part in such enriching experiences! I really enjoyed my time training as a teacher, but also the Masters-level assignments that had to be completed as part of the course. I therefore chose to continue studying part-time with the University on the MA-APSE course, and completed by dissertation for this last September. Since then I have presented on my research at the Geographical Association's Annual Conference in Manchester, and continue to disseminate my findings at work. It was undoubtedly an interesting and worthwhile degree to undertake."
Alicia Blanco-Bayo, MA in Early Childhood Education
"I am originally from a small village called San Antonio de Benagéber in the outskirts of Valencia. I come from a humble family who have worked hard to support me throughout my life and it is because of them I have made it this far.
I left Spain in 1996 and went to University in North Wales. I met the love of my life in Wales and we got married in Spain. After qualifying as a teacher I lived and worked in Wales for a number of years before I moved back to Spain with my husband. I worked as an Early Years teacher and Head of Primary at a well-known International School in Valencia for a number of years before I moved to the UAE where I worked at an International School in Sharjah for a couple of years. It was in the Middle East where I began to develop an in depth interest in the field I continue to be so passionate about.
I found that other teaching professionals wanted to learn from me, that my enthusiasm was shared and my colleagues and parents of the children I taught truly followed my hands on approach. Soon after I started my job as a Year 1 teacher, I offered workshops for parents on a voluntary basis and simply with the intention of guiding them through their children's education. I taught parents how to play with their children and how to offer them structure from home using set routines through practical activities. I basically gave parents tools to spend time with their children and teach them basic skills they would need later on in life to progress academically and as individuals. It was such an unbelievable time in my career it still makes me feel emotional and very proud of having had the opportunity to meet such people.
I then presented a proposal to create a Language, Communication & Reading department which was accepted without hesitation. I was offered continuous support and built the department from scratch. I learnt many things as I went along and used previous training in other areas to create the department itself and train a large team of Early Years and Key Stage 1 professionals. I absolutely loved the job and the challenge that it meant working with professionals from so many different backgrounds. I achieved so much in only one year I still find it amazing today.
My professional achievements as Head of Department were particularly interesting as I was able to apply strategies developed over the years going as far back as the time I taught ESOL in FE in North Wales. Linking language development to the skills taught when learning a foreign language is the key to finding the right approach when teaching in the Early Years world.
How I got to where I am now from a professional point of view is quite unbelievable for me. I chose a career change although I was at an excellent point in my career and I would have probably made it even further as an Early Years Advisor and Language, Communication & Reading specialist in the Middle East. There are times when one has to make drastic decisions in order to find the most appropriate direction professionally and personally.
The support and professional criticism I have had over the years have made me realise I should not stand still. I decided to take action and further my initial training and so I applied for the ECE MA at Sheffield University. When I was offered a place I just could not believe it!! Me, Alicia from my little village???
I have been working at a well known Independent school in Lancashire for almost three years now and currently also involved in the development of language and communication strategies to establish a link between them and initial literacy skills in Early Years. I have developed a number of policies within the Foundation Stage Department at my school and feel the whole team have come closer together. We have achieved great things as a department and I would like to think I have played a part in the development of some of the areas that had perhaps taken too much of a traditional approach.
I also began to write a Blog in 2012 and since then my passion for Early Childhood Education has become stronger and stronger. I have been writing for Education Today Magazine since December 2014 and feel truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to do so. Every step I take and everything I achieve takes me back to my village and my roots and makes me feel incredibly proud of being who I have become. My grandfather Vicente Bayo Hernandez never learnt to read and write and it is thanks to his wisdom that I am who I am today.
I have written a monthly piece for Education Today Magazine since December 2014 but I am particularly pleased with the latest one since it's one of the areas I am truly passionate about."
The School of Education Prize Winners
This year the School of Education have awarded three exceptional students with Postgraduate prizes for their outstanding work. Kah May Yong was the recipient of the School Postgraduate Prize, Martina Smith is this year's Rutland Prize winner and Natalie Cachia received the St Catherines (Malta) Prize. Congratulations to all three!
Winner of the School of Education Postgraduate Prize
Kah May Yong has been awarded the School of Education Postgraduate Student Prize.
May joined the School of Education from Malaysia in 2013 to study the full time MA in Education: Early Childhood. Initailly, she struggled with homesickness as she was separated from her husband who remained in Malaysia and found the change in climate very difficult.
Despite achieving an impressive mark of 70 in her first piece of assessed written work, May continued to improve and progress throughout the year, culminating in her dissertation, which was awarded a mark of 90. This represented the highest mark in her year and May was one of only four students to achieve this accomplishment. The dissertation’s moderator confirmed the mark of 90, adding that there is a “coherence and security in this study that reveals a very accomplished researcher”.
May under took a one year voluntary placement at a local nursery school where she worked one day a week. She was keen to undertake this placement to learn about education in the UK but also to contribute to the new environment in which she was living.
Winner of the Rutland Prize for Early Childhood Education
Martina Smith is this year’s winner of the Rutland Prize for Early Childhood Education.
Martina Smith studied on the MA in Early Childhood Education (part time, distance learning) (UK). Her dissertation study dealt with the very sensitive issue of how parents of a preschool child with complex needs perceive their experiences during the statutory assessment process. The subject was personal and highly emotive for Martina but she managed to handle this subject with sensitivity and academic rigour. The data collected was both powerful and rich. The reflexive thoughts at the end of each section were highly persuasive and further demonstrated the powerfulness of the study. Martina overcame some personal challenges during the writing of her dissertation; despite these she submitted within time to produce a dissertation of an exemplary standard, worthy of publication. Martina has been a full and active member of the part time MA in ECE academic community.
Following on from her MA success, Martina took up her place on the Sheffield EdD in ECE programme which she began in September 2015. Martina’s work was of an exceptional standard and she is a very worthy winner of the 2014 Rutland Prize for Early Childhood Education.
Winner of the St Catherine's High School Postgraduate Student Prize (Malta)
Natalie Cachia who studied on the MA in Early Childhood Education (Malta) is this year's winner of the St Catherine's High School Postgraduate Student Prize in Malta.
Natalie’s dissertation explored the understandings, beliefs and practices of early years teachers with regard to classroom shared reading in Malta.
Her writing showed that she has developed a quality academic style of writing and that she can carry out research which is entirely relevant and pertinent. Her work identified gaps in the research so is commendable for contributing to the field, especially within the Maltese context.
Within her dissertation the review of the literature and the quality of the data was exceptional. She critically appraised the literature, offering a wide range of pertinent perspectives followed by a clear and appropriate discussion of the relevance of her own positionality. Natalie demonstrated an excellent understanding of the arguments around shared reading, including the use of electronic books, as well as the practicalities of using this method in a classroom; this was evidenced by her empathy with the participants in your study. Natalie’s work has consistently been of a very high quality throughout the period of study for the Malta MA in ECE and the academic quality of her dissertation, in particular marks Natalie out as a very worthy winner of the St Catherine’s High School Postgraduate Student Prize in Malta.
On receiving the award, Natalie said “It is a great honour for me to receive this award. It is positively unexpected for me; indeed I am still over the moon! Since I embarked on this journey two years ago when I sought to read for this Masters’ degree, it truly has been a life changing experience. I believe that through this experience, my perspectives on education have changed. Additionally, I feel that through the knowledge I gained during the course I can understand children in more depth. This will help me become a more reflective practitioner which shall undoubtedly help me grow as an educator and person. Furthermore, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude towards the Sheffield team for their guidance and support throughout these two years.”
New Fellows in the Higher Education Academy
We congratulate Dr Sabine Little, who has been made a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Mr Jamal Lahmar, who has been made a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
The School of Education at the Festival of Social Sciences
The ESRC Festival of Social Science was held in Sheffield over three weeks in November. Each year it offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year academic staff in the School of Education organized several events to showcase some of our work.
Hospital Heights: designing videogames for hospitalised children
Working with local hospital play specialists, videogames designers, artists and researchers, Hospital Heights has been looking at digital and physical play, space, isolation, connecting to family and friends and emotions.
Participants were asked to join us to help make a quilt of stories and emotions to be displayed in a hospital space during the ESRC Festival. If you would like to find out more details about this project, please visit our website.
Memories of Reading
The 100 Years of Literacy event was part of our Memories of Reading project. For the project Dr Sabine Little is compiling a data base of stories and memories spanning the past 100 years.
The 100 Years of Literacy event took the form of a 'drop in' day for the whole family including a range of hands-on activities for everyone to enjoy.
Research Centre News
Critical Educational Psychology Centre for the Human (CEPCH)
In March, four members of the Big Society research team, Dan Goodley (The University of Sheffield), Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)), Rebecca Lawthom ( MMU), and Keith Bates (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities), travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to talk about the Big Society project. The project is asking how people with learning disabilities are faring in a time of austerity in the UK, so why did we decide to go to Malaysia to share our findings?
The Malaysian Context
The Government adopted the Persons with Disabilities Act in 2008 which provides social protection services in areas such as health, rehabilitation and education for disabled children guided by the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities and the National Plan of Action for Persons with Disabilities. Malaysia also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2010. The government has made a commitment to improving services and support, especially for children in schools
Long standing connections with Malaysia
Members of the team have already worked with colleagues in Malaysia in the past. They have shared their work on self-advocacy and community psychology in collaboration with organisations in Penang , Kuala Lumpur , Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Penang. The team has good relationships with United Voice, a self-advocacy organization for people with learning disabilities in Malaysia. Members of the team were involved with the first national seminar on self-advocacy held in Malaysia in 2007, and worked on a collaborative research project with researchers from Kuching and Kuala Lumpur (as well as the UK and Zimbabwe) in 2008-2010. Through those long-standing relationships, while in Malaysia, the team is able to meet up with disabled people, family members, practitioners, academics, activists and policy makers in Malaysia to share pan-national examples of good practice in relation to self-advocacy, employment and independent living. Our work with Malaysian colleagues over the next week seeks to share and develop ideas around these key elements of civil society in order to challenge disablism and promote community inclusion of people with the label of learning disabilities.
Shared interest in employment, advocacy and community living
Our Malaysian partners and the project team share an interest in the three strands of the Big Society project: self-advocacy, employment and community living. In sharing our research findings, we are hoping to learn from the Malaysian experience and to reflect on practice and policy in the UK.
Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education
The Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education incorporates researchers whose work crosses, and intersects with a range of disciplines, methodologies and theoretical frameworks. These intersections are evident across the Faculty of Social Sciences (English, Sociology, Architecture and Landscape, Politics), as well as linking with other Faculties – e.g. Medical Humanities, Psychology. Our research also intersects with the two Faculty research centres – the iHuman and Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth. Our work both contributes to and shapes the University’s inter-disciplinary agenda.
Our research draws on a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, with no particular orthodoxy, but with common concerns regarding education and social justice, a commitment to criticality and a desire to drive methodological innovation, particularly engaging young people in and with research. This innovation is evident in a shared commitment to research that embraces innovative approaches to co-production, Visual and Arts-based Methods, and ethical relationships.
Early childhood is defined as birth to seven/eight, and early childhood education is defined as happening in and across many spaces – preschools, schools, homes, communities, art galleries, clubs, on- and off-line sites, forest schools, playgrounds and other outdoor spaces for play and leisure, hospitals, prisons.
Our work encompasses children, parents, families, carers and the range of professionals who work with children in the spaces identified above. This includes their perspectives, beliefs, values and ways of knowing; culturally diverse family/community child-rearing beliefs and practices; professional development – initial and continuing; professional knowledge across communities of practice.
Key themes that are explored in our work include:
Learning, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment: This themes embraces a range of perspectives including critical engagement with the socio-political contexts in which ECE is defined and organised, both nationally and internationally; critical approaches to policy and practice – contexts of production, enactment and resistance; children’s learning and development – multi-theoretical perspectives; engaging in contemporary debates about all aspects of ECE in ways that enable us to inform policy-making in government and other organisations; comparative and critical perspectives on pedagogy, curriculum and assessment in theory and practice. We engage in discipline-focused research such as literacy (learning, pedagogy, curriculum, home-school practices), multiliteracies and multi-modality.
Play – traditional and digital: blending on-line and off-line play; creating new forms of play and new play communities; children’s play lore and play cultures; play from a socio-political perspective – a critical approach to how play is expected to achieve societal outcomes for health, well-being, education; play in different settings – schools, hospitals, communities, museums and galleries, forest schools, playgrounds and other outdoor spaces; play and learning; debates about play in relation to pedagogy, curriculum and assessment; cultural ways of understanding play – children’s and adults’ perspectives. Children’s ways of knowing and being – play cultures and identities. Colleagues in the School of Education led the first MOOC on ‘Exploring Play’ that showcased inter-disciplinary research.
Children’s lives, perspectives and experiences: theoretical, methodological and ethical concerns with understanding children and childhoods in contrasting contexts, cultures and communities; the development of respectful and ethical ways of engaging children and engaging with children in research; critical ways of understanding ‘voice’ and ‘voices’; children’s ways of understanding, creating and engaging in spaces and places; embodiment and emotions; critical approaches to how children are positioned within policy discourses – national and international, including global discourses.
Professionalism and professional knowledge: contrasting approaches to the nature of professionalism and how professional knowledge is defined and constructed in different sites. Conceptions of education, care and love, and how these are embodied and enacted in practice.
In each of these themes our research creates pathways for impact and engagement, where we work with many different groups, communities and organisations.
One of our current projects focuses on Love in ECE settings:
Professional Love in Early Years Settings (PLEYS)
Dr Jools Page is leading this project which considers the question "Should Early Years Practitioners love the children in their care?
In recent years, a small but growing number of early years practitioners have been convicted of child abuse, and the continued media exposure of abusive clergy and then of various ‘celebrity’ entertainers has led to a climate of wariness, and even suspicion, that has grown around adults’ professional relationships with very young children; and it is extremely likely that this wariness increases the reservations often felt around male ECE practitioners.
How does this affect you and your setting?
A difficulty for those who work in early years settings is thus how to express the affectionate and caring behaviours which the role demands of them in their loco parentis, and which very young children need in their development of healthy attachments. Do you recognise these issues? And do you talk about them with fellow-practitioners?
Safeguarding children and practitioners: the ideas behind this project
Dr Jools Page has developed the term ‘professional love’ to try to understand these intimacies. Interest in the term is gathering pace across disciplines, following a number of local, national and international keynote speeches and publications. Though sections of a prurient media are eager uncritically to advertise aspects of rare cases of professional abuses, the real issue, of an appropriate professional love, remains for the most part unexamined in the daily practice of early years settings, obscured in this climate of wariness.
How can you lend your voice?
A research team at the University of Sheffield has developed a funded project which will first of all conduct a wide anonymous on-line questionnaire survey. We want to know what early years professionals think about: - the quality of their relationships with very young children; - the place of ‘love’ in those relationships; - the boundaries to those relationships; - the concerns they may have about any intimacy in EY settings - the ways in which they define and practice appropriate loving relationships with young children in EYs settings
In the second part of the project we will work with staff in our partner institution - a large group of ECE settings - to develop some guidelines and a ‘toolkit’ for use in all early years settings. If these challenges and dilemmas about professional love in EYs resonate with your experience and practice with young children we want to hear from you. Please do tell others in your networks about this survey as we are keen to gather as many views as possible from those who work in the early years sector in England.
If you are interested in this research please complete the survey.
Centre for the Study of Higher Education
In March we were proud to announce that the School of Education are taking a leading role in the UK’s first dedicated research centre to study higher education.
The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), led by University College London (UCL) Institute of Education with the Universities of Sheffield and Lancaster as UK partners, will be the country’s first social science research centre focusing on the systematic investigation of higher education and its future. Professor Gareth Parry will head a four-year study of alternative and emerging forms of UK higher education at the Centre. The research will investigate the shapes and directions taken by alternative and cross-border provision. Their relations with mainstream higher education and their implications for participation and student mobility will be examined.
Centre for the Study of Literacies
The Centre for the Study of Literacies are involved in a study called 'Exploring Play and Creativity in Pre-Schoolers use of Tablet Apps', this is a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, the BBC children’s television channel CBeebies, children’s television production company Foundling Bird, development studio and consultancy company Dubit and Monteney Primary School, Sheffield.
The main aim of the study is to examine the potential that tablet apps have to foster play and creativity in pre-schoolers. Given that almost 40% of this age group have access to tablets in the home in the UK, it is important to examine how apps can be used to enhance innovation and learning.
Funded by the Economic and Social Science Rearch Council (ESRC), and taking place between January and July 2015, it is hoped that the findings of the study will be of interest to teachers, parents, the media industry and policy makers.
For more information, please visit the website.
What do artists do all day?: The Artists Legacy project
Professor Kate Pahl is the Principal Investigator on a research project which is looking at the role of artists on Connected Communities project. The Connected Communities programme is a large UK wide research programme led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) that has supported arts and humanities research in community contexts, with a focus on co-production.
Many of these projects have involved artists. In this project, Kate and colleagues Steve Pool, Helen Graham, and Amanda Ravetz with partners Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, are looking at how artists have worked in communities. This might include artists who have made films, worked with specific communities of interest or place, developed ideas and engaged different stakeholders in processes of exploration as well as dissemination. The project also includes revisiting several previous Connected Communities projects, including a project that looked at The Time of the Clock and The Time of the Encounter, where an artist worked in a school to explore different ways of experiencing time. We are looking at the co-creation of a co-produced calendar, or school planner, with the help of designer Adriaan Mellegers, so that the children can re-think the school day in a different format.
The project is funded by the AHRC and runs from February 2014 and ends June 2015.
Jackie Marsh andJulia C Bishop, (2014) Changing Play: Play, media and commercial culture from the 1950s to the present day. Maidenhead: OUP
Changing Play explores changes in the nature of the relationship between play, media and commercial culture through a comparison of play in the 1950s/60s and the present day, examining the continuities and discontinuities in play over time. There are many aspects of play which remain the same today as they were sixty years ago, which relate to the purposes of play, the way in which children weave in material from a range of sources in their play, including media, and how they play with each other. Differences in play between now and the mid-twentieth century are due to the very different social and cultural worlds children now inhabit, in which technology is central to many play activities.
Where are you now?
It is the diversity of our community of students and staff which helps to make the School of Education such a rewarding place to be. Over the past few months we've invited staff and students to use our interactive map to plot their country of origin and where they are visiting around the world. We’d like you to add your marker to our map – please click on the link and add your name, what you are doing, and when and what you studied with us – we have Alumni all over the world and it would be great to have you on our map!
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this Newsletter. We aim to produce the Newsletter on a regular basis, so please do let us have your news for the next one. If you have any contributions or questions for us, or wish to talk to us about further study in the School, please contact us:
School of Education, 388 Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JA.