From education to employment

#FEResearchMeet goes Virtual

Annie Pendrey

As partners in all things research, Kerry Scattergood and I first met and connected through our roles on the Society of Education Practitioner Advisory Group and have since gone on to collaborate and grow the West Midlands #FEResearchMeet which takes place twice a year January and June, but who knew that Kerry would have to organise her Summer research meet during a lockdown.

It was ‘with a little help from our friends’ that the West Midlands #FEResearchMeet not only took place but all three Monday mornings sold out in less than 24 hours. This event supported by Solihull College and University Centre and the University of Huddersfield in addition to the Society of Education, required Kerry to work tirelessly with Sam Jones, Jo Fletcher -Saxon, Dr David Powell and myself to create a virtual research space with keynote speakers, followed by break out rooms led by room leaders sharing their research.

The three mornings all had an individual theme starting day one with ‘WHY?’, day two, ‘HOW?’ with the final day theme being ‘SHARE’ with every delegate invited to join us each Monday with a cup of coffee or tea ready for a morning of connections and research sharing.

Day One – Why?

Day One started with a lively tune, which I think no delegate expected and it is fair to set the scene and the ‘vibe’ for the opening of our first #FEVirtualResearchMeet. Kerry greeted everyone into the virtual space alongside her Panda, a backdrop to her Zoom, which her children had created without her knowing but Panda became an integral part of our three Monday mornings.

The keynote for day one was Professor Matt O’ Leary, who presented his keynote with three key words resonating with the theme of ‘Why’, these words being exploratory, explanatory and emancipatory. Matt also spoke about some of the reasons why as a sector we need to research and using Brookfield’s lens gave us a space as educators to reflect upon the main points of his keynote presentation. During the keynote, Kerry had asked the delegates to post questions in the chat and as a planning group, we became concerned that no one appeared to be posting questions but it quickly became evident that the delegates were so absorbed in the presentation they were not interacting with the chat. However, as soon as the presentation concluded the questions flowed with Kerry only able to ask a few questions and so with our digital nurse at hand, Dr Lynne Taylerson, questions unanswered were collated for a #UKFECHAT to take place after day three. The day continued with the breakout rooms and research presented by Kerry Scattergood, host and researcher in the same day, alongside Diana Tremayne, Joyce Chen and Jennifer Linsdell, after which we all returned to the main room to consolidate each room leaders’ key points. Energised and elated as a collective we were already buzzing for day 2.

Day 2 – How

Day 2 kicked off with the tune, Firestarter chosen by Sam Jones, the founder of #FEResearchMeet and the keynote for the day. As the founder of what is quickly becoming the FE Research Movement it felt only right that Sam started with what seems to have become her theme tune as this was piece of music played at Sam’s first ever research meet.

Sam’s theme was ‘How?’ and within her presentation she led the delegates to reflect upon ‘how we could feed the tree’, referring to how as ‘FE experts we feed our research tree as opposed to ‘decorate the tree’ and invited us to reflect upon how as educators and researchers, we are the experts in our sector and in our professional practice. As host for day 2, I collated the questions from Sam’s presentation, and it is fair to say we could have continued the question and answer session beyond the time allocated.

As host for the day 2, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit all four virtual research rooms and observe the richness and enthusiasm of every researcher and the delegates before returning to the main room where the room leaders shared the key themes that emerged from their presentations. The room leaders sharing their research on day 2 were Christine Osborne, Garry Nicholson, Francine Warren and Rebecca Gater.

Day 3 – Share

With only one day left it was Jo Fletcher- Saxon’s turn to host who chose ‘I predict a riot’ as the opening tune for the session (say no more), with Kerry and David launching a new and exciting project for our final day theme, ‘share’. The format of this day was slightly different to the previous sessions, in as much, we were not allocated break out rooms for research presentations but allocated a room leader to guide us through our collective writing project to be published in 2021. Before we headed to our writing spaces all delegates had the pleasure of listening to Professor Sam Broadhead’s keynote. Sam shared her personal experiences of writing, how to use form, content and process and the importance of finding a space where you can be inspired and write.

Following on from Professor Sam Broadhead, Dr David Powell continued with the theme ‘SHARE’. David shared with us one of his previous collaborative writing projects and how now as delegates we were all invited to be part of a new and exciting publication of our work, inviting us to reflect upon how our work as educators during Covid19 had been ‘messy’ or difficult, what had been enabling or constraining in terms of teaching, learning and assessment which is due to published in 2021.

Both presentations instilled confidence in all of us as delegates to join our room leaders, Ruksana Patel, Jo Fletcher- Saxon, Alistair Smith, Elizabeth Draper and myself to begin our writing project discussing how Covid19 had impacted upon our teaching, learning and assessment, sharing a timeline of capturing our words, the peer review process through to publication.

The three days had witnessed energy, enthusiasm and a celebration of the FE sector with some questions unanswered in the moment and so in order to leave no stone unturned, Dr Lynne Taylerson, Amy Woodrow, Kerry Scattergood, Jo Fletcher- Saxon and I collectively hosted #UKFECHAT the following Thursday evening after Day 3 of #FEVirtualResearchMeet where educators who were unable to join us became part of the event.

The impact of the three #FEVirtualResearchMeet days are still rippling, with at least one breakout group formed with myself and Kerry, where we are offering a space for follow up discussions following Gary Nicholson’s research. This space has no fixed agenda but offers an exchange of ideas for educators to move forward in their thinking, their research, and/or their reflections on teaching, learning and assessment in the next academic year. In addition, there is #FEresearchpodcast established by Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Alistair Smith, where just one of the podcasts is Dr David Powell sharing his thoughts on practitioner research in FE, well worth a listen!

And if that wasn’t enough, planning is now taking place for the West Midlands #FEVirtualResearchMeet in January 2021 and I suspect this will equally sell out fast so here are the dates for your diary, Friday 22nd and 29th January 2021, keynotes are already booked and room leaders to follow so see you there – Annie and Kerry.

Annie Pendrey – FE / HE specialist

Day One Room Leaders and Research Titles

Kerry Scattergood – The thread running through weaving everyday literacy into curriculum design

Diana Tremayne – More than chat? Exploring participation in informal online learning communities in further education

Joyce Chen – Working Together: FE Teachers’ experiences of using Joint Practice Development as a model of collaborative enquiry and professional learning.

Jennifer Linsdell –How Arts and Creativity can be used to support positive mental wellbeing in FE staff.

Day Two Room Leaders and Research Titles

Christine Osborne – Mind the Gap: An investigation into developing forms of feedback that students can be willing and able to use and act upon to improve their learning and achievement.

Garry Nicholson – A study into the concept of Bildung in an adult education system that is increasingly about developing human capital for the labour market

Francine Warren – Disrupting teacher identity through peer observations: a sense of agency through pedagogic conversations

Rebecca Gater – Five lives: a life history approach to exploring the professional identities of senior leaders in education


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