From education to employment

Flourishing as an FE Professional in a Supportive Research Network

Annie Pendrey on exclusive FE News background

In this final article from the series of being, belonging and flourishing as a Further Education professional, Annie explores how FE professionals flourish in research networks.

She is joined by Dr Adam Dwight and Ray Truby who hosted the third iteration of the ‘Hear Me, See Me’ FE Research Conference, at City of Wolverhampton College on Thursday 23rd November 2023, a space where professionals in Further Education can come together to exchange research and flourish.

One definition of flourishing refers to the experience of life going well, be this in our personal or professional lives. To flourish as a Further Education (FE) professional, we need to not only excel in our educational roles but to remain curious about our continuous professional development, our emerging professional identity, and professional agency within learning communities that are meaningful and engaging.

The shared vision of the Learning Skills Research Network and the ‘Hear ME, See Me’ Black Country FE Research Meet, aligns with the following values, trust, respect, value, and collaboration. Moreover, the objective of this research community aims to foster relationships, offer collaborative opportunities, share research, and promote flourishing.

I was fortunate to be able to participate in this event. I prepared my research materials, my notebook, arranged an FE publication corner, and then joined my fellow FE colleagues to attentively listen to and actively participate in the following presentations:

  • Tomorrow Never Knows: AI and its impact on teachers, students, assessments, and education.
  • Is Teacher Mental Health a priority or is it second to the job in FE?
  • Impact on professional identity and agency.
  • An interview with a student.
  • Using lesson observations in a high stakes accountability system as part of the quality assurance and staff development process.
  • Empowering Education: Harnessing the potential of Technology.
  • Black Country Poetics and Place: Using creative practice in our everyday locales to scaffold learning.
  • Academic Coaches: Creating space for community and belonging through pastoral support.
  • Showcasing the use of AI in Counselling.

This space supports FE colleagues to navigate a challenging journey of establishing their professional identity as an academic, a vocational specialist, a lecturer, and a researcher. This narrative and the evolution of FE Research Meets unfolded in the Summer of 2OO4, where Lloyd and Jones (2018) purported ‘that we wanted to bring people together to meet, share, and support each other’ in the research process, rather than any research undertaken in FE being an ‘underground’ movement (James 2005). The third iteration of the ‘Hear Me, See Me’, Black Country, FE Research Conference, took a significant leap in redefining its foundational metaphor.

Dr Adam Dwight and Ray Truby states:

This year’s conference transcended the mere act of listening to the influential voices within Further Education (FE), evolving into a dynamic showcase of inclusive dialogue and educational empowerment. It cast a spotlight on communities and issues frequently marginalised in mainstream discourse, featuring presenters with firsthand experiences in diverse fields such as working in Palestine, as well as addressing the pivotal role of mental health within educational environments.

The event highlighted the transformative impact community colleges have in offering renewed opportunities for both young individuals and adults. It underscored the necessity for nurturing teaching methodologies and showcased the cutting-edge application of AI in counselling services. This conference transcended its academic boundaries, emerging as a vibrant call to action for inclusivity and empathy in the educational sphere and beyond. Such an inclusive ethos resonates deeply with the ‘Hear Me, See Me’ initiative’s core principle: to amplify and understand the voices and experiences of diverse, and often underrepresented, segments of our society’.

Nysha Chantel Givans, a Professional Doctoral Student in Education at University of Wolverhampton observed and shared an insight on the impact of the conference.

She stated:

‘The ‘Hear Me, See Me’ research conference is important, especially in a time of austerity, to ensure that the voices of marginalised groups are heard. As an early career researcher, this conference was empowering and inspiring as you get to hear the different types of research being carried out. This research conference enabled me to hear about the innovative ways in which AI has been used as a learning aid in education. What I gained from the conference is the importance of the students’ voice. The teaching and learning experience are not mutually exclusive’.

The impact of the event continues to ripple as professionals and colleges from across the Black Country continue to convene regularly for discussions on FE scholarly activities, potential publications, and the next iteration of ‘Hear Me, See Me’. Watch this space!

By Annie Pendrey

Annie is an established author who is currently writing a series of textbooks to support the T Level in Education and Early Years. She is the author of ‘The Little Book of Reflective Practice’ and ‘Reflection and Reflective Spaces in the Early Years’.

Annie is a freelance writer, educational consultant, external examiner and a doctoral researcher, researching professional formation in FE.

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