Some (Further) Academic Context


[Now that the project has matured a little further, we would like you to share with students three to four more good academic papers which help them to ground their work in some theoretical or empirical contexts.

Task: Integrating Reading

Produce at least one blog post which responds to something from the texts shared above. Refer to the previous blog post for guidance on the way you should approach your reading – and remember; we’re not interested in what the paper says, we’re interested in the way you put it to work (how does it help you think about the things you’re doing in your project)


The Project Plan

[This post requires Project Coordinator input]

[During the Saturday conference, you should hopefully have pulled together a plan for the development and implementation of your project – including key milestones and dates for outreach activity. In this post, we would like you to set this out as clearly as possible so that the students understand the journey for the next phase. You may write this however you like, but it may include;

  • A link to a project summary document listing what you’ve done so far, the decisions taken and the support provided
  • A timetable of future physical meetings and agreed dates for outreach activity.
  • A list of any tasks allocated to students and suggestions for how they are carried out
  • Other links to working processes

IMPORTANT NOTE: From this point onwards you will need to create posts as and when they are needed alongside the scheduled ones – please use this liberally to ensure that all students are able to access updates (particularly where they haven’t been able to attend something) and arrangements for future work]

Safe Guarding and Ethics of Project Work

It is a legal requirement that anybody working with children, young people or vulnerable adults is appropriately briefed on safeguarding. As such it is important that all EdLab students engage with this post carefully.

By its very nature your work in EdLab will put you in contact with external partners and individuals outside the university – and often, these will be children and young people. Whilst you should never be put in a position by which you are responsible for a group of children, it is important that you appropriate briefed and considerate of the responsibilities this brings to you for child protection, and more broadly for ethical and professional conduct.


The term ‘safeguarding’ is used to describe the processes and measures which are put in place in order to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults. This protection includes, of course, extreme instances of abuse and maltreatment – and the current legal framework was put in place in response to highly publicised failures of public bodies to respond to warning signs that children were in danger. Safeguarding does mean something a bit broader, though. The UK Government defines the term as;

‘The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’

(DERA, 2014)

This extends the reach of safeguarding beyond child protection to incorporate the additional aims of preventing adverse impacts on health and development, and the promotion of circumstances is which children can thrive through to adult life.

Responsibility to assure safeguarding lies with both organisations (in our case, with the university through EdLab) and individuals (your project coordinator and, importantly, you). There are some basic implications of safeguarding policy for you. These are very simple, and should not be complicated;

  • It is important that all EdLab students have completed a full DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have one, and our responsiblity to pay for it and to limit access to outreach activity without one. In rare situations in which it isn’t possible to gain a DBS (for some international students) alternative arrangements will be made for the student
  • At no point should an EdLab student be left in sole responsibility – the lead for the space you are working in should be the project coordinator, a class teacher or equivalent or the parents of children (who should remain with them at all times
  • If you are concerned, tell your project coordinator. One of the golden rules of safeguarding is that communication is important, and you should flag up any concern (even if you think it might be silly) about young people you are working with immediately with your project coordinator (let them decide whether further action should be taken). It is important to remember that there is no right to confedentiality in law … if a young person starts to disclose something to you, tell them that you will have to tell somebody, and then do tell somebody else, even if they don’t disclose anything.

At this point, we would like you to follow this link and confirm that you have read and understand your responsibilities regarding safeguarding.

Risk Assessment

Whilst the guidance above ensures that you are compliant with fundamental safeguarding commitments, there are additional responsibilities which you should be aware of. Most notably, you are responsible for ensuring that any participants are kept safe within the activities that you run for them. Risk assessment can sometimes get caught up in slightly silly rhetoric, but the fundamentals are pretty simple. The usual process goes something like this…

  • Identify all of the hazards associated with your work. This is anything which might feasibly pose perils to physical or psychological health.
  • Consider which of these hazards constitute risks. Hazards only become risks if they are likely to occur, and if they would be unsafe if they did. This is the process by which you ensure your risk assessment is both effective and sensible, by identifying the things that are most likely to need planning for
  • Finally, you should establish precautions which will be taken in order to prevent risks turning into genuine dangers. What will you do in order to minimise the danger posed by hazards?

Usually, risk assessments are recorded in forms that look something like this – and shared with everyone involved in running the activity.

Professional Conduct

Work on educational outreach projects also has broader implications in terms of your personal conduct. It hopefully goes without saying, but we expect you to behave in professional ways – it is very easy to accidentally damage external relationships if not, and this makes arranging future projects very difficult. Everybody involved, including the outside guests who attend your project work, understands that you may well be inexperienced and novice at ‘doing education’ – and nobody expects that things will be perfect. Equally, though, there is basic level of professional conduct which is expected of our students in how you conduct yourselves within your teams, and in your interactions with those outside the university. Critical to this is effective communication and reliability; other people are often relying on the work that you do, whether its your project team or guests who are attending your activities – and it is therefore critical that you meet your commitments and deadlines. It is also important that you keep communicating with your project team throughout the process … even if things are going entirely to plan.

Quality Assuring your Work

The final dimension of this blog post relates to the importance of taking every reasonable precaution to ensure that your activities and events run smoothly and effectively. As noted above, we don’t expect everything to always run as you expect (indeed, education rarely works like this!) – however there is an extent to which, with some careful though, you can plan for the unexpected. In lots of ways, this process mirrors that of safeguarding, in that it follows these steps (but focused on things that might disrupt the smooth-running of your work, rather than responding to danger)…

  • Work out everything that could go wrong when your run your activity.
  • Audit each hazard in terms of how likely it is to go wrong, and how damaging it would be if it did.

You can then prioritise responses according to this framework:


… In which you would have very definite fall-back plans to respond to anything red (high likelihood and high impact), and be aware of the possibility of anything yellow. The stuff in green, can be fairly safely deprioritised to give more space to focus on the more risky stuff.

Some Academic Context

Happy New year!

I will be posting on Monday links to some useful resources which will help you to ground your work in some theoretical or empirical contexts. You will need to read them and take some time to reflect on them as outlined below.

Reminder: Preparation for Conference #2

Leading up to conference #2, you should have by now created your own blog and completed at least one entry reflecting on conference #1. You should have also been in touch with Gill and arranged to see the ZArts space, leading to a second blog entry. At the end of conference #2, you should have a roadmap for this project outlining subsequent activity which you will also need to reflect on.

Task: Integrating Reading

Produce at least one blog post which responds to something from the resources shared above. Refer to the previous blog post for guidance on the way you should approach your reading – and remember; we’re not interested in what the paper says, we’re interested in the way you put it to work (how does it help you think about the things you’re doing in your project.)

As always, please be in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

How Does Reading Fit In

In previous posts, we have discussed the pedagogy that underpins EdLab – the ways in which it encourages you to generate theoretical understandings of education on the basis of your enacted experiences running projects. There is no pre-defined knowledge, and you are not expected to demonstrate any specific understandings of content or ideas – what matters is the way in which you develop a rigorous and critical sense of what it is you are producing through your projects.

This is, however, not to say that we do not expect you to undertake outside reading in support of the unit. In part, this will take the form of sleuthing other educational initiatives from which you can take inspiration. It should, however, also involve more conventional academic reading which should be used to inspire deeper analysis of the work that you do, and provide languages to talk about that work in more sophisticated ways. Here are some quick and dirty tips for engaging with reading in ways which will support the EdLab process;

  • Its not what it says, its what it makes you think. Try to avoid an impulse to be able to describe what the author is saying verbatim. Instead, find bits of the writing that make you think things (particularly if they affect how you are thinking about your project).
  • One sentence is enough. Often, students find themselves trying to respond to the whole paper. In some cases, this is appropriate – but equally it might be that one particular thing that the author says (it might even be just one statement) is enough to provoke a useful response.
  • Don’t punish yourself. If you are finding reading hard going, don’t blame yourself! Often, it’s because it is dense (and badly written). Don’t read and reread the same paragraph over and over again if you don’t understand it – read on, and find the bit that does talk to you.
  • Stop and write – particularly if you find yourself struck by a thought. Don’t lose that thinking by finishing the paper; go and write a blog post which starts with a quote from the article, and proceeds with a brain-dump of your thoughts. Then finish the paper.

In the next post, your project coordinator will share a couple of sources that might get you started in this process … but do try to do some independent hunting for sources too!

Reflection on #1 conference

Hi all, it was great to meet so many of you at the first conference last weekend. I was really inspired by the deep level of thought you have collectively put into this topic and your desire to create something that will really be productive for the students you will work with. Below is the “I like peoplebrainstorm we did so that you can reflect on all the ideas, thoughts and feelings that emerged. (More to read below.)



So, where has your thinking taken you as you’ve reflected on this? If you haven’t done it already, please use the next day or so to set up your own blog. If you’re new to blogging, please don’t worry. Word press is very simple. I will be looking forward to reading your reflections. Please email me a link when you have it set up.

This is also a  great time to start looking at your reading list. You will find it through moodle. I found a couple in particular really interesting. Make sure you have a look at the two I have listed below. And here’s why: Firstly, Sir Ken Robinson: I noticed that while this is a really important issue to you, the creative response bit seems to potentially feel a bit daunting to some of you. I will add ideas about that as we go, but for now, I would like you to digest what he says and understand the purpose and importance of thinking creatively. Don’t be afraid of it. Have a go at embracing it! Secondly, Clay Shirky is fascinating from the perspective of the power of social media.

Robinson, K. (2006). Do Schools Kill Creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talks. [online] YouTube. Available at:

Clay Shirky – Here Comes Everybody: the power of organising without organisations

And, here are a couple of pieces specific to us. Please look at these. I think it was clear that we all agreed on Saturday that social media can be a very positive thing as can technology in general.  Finding a way to explore the issues and concerns that you brought up whilst thinking about how to create a positive learning experience for the students you work with will be the challenge! I am interested to hear your thoughts what Simon Sinek and  Bailey Parnell have to say:

Finally, make sure you head over to ZArts to meet up with Gill and have a look around. They have fantastic resources that we are very lucky to have access to. Her email is Please make sure you organise a time with her, rather than just turning up.




Interrogating Pedagogy


Pedagogy is the word that educationalists use to describe the relationships between the approach that teachers use (and the strategies and structures they employ) and the conceptual underpinnings of those approaches. These foundations are made up of all sorts of theoretical influences – including the teacher’s political/ethical commitments; their philosophical and empirical position on the qualities of effective teaching and learning, together with ‘big theories’ which have influenced that thinking. Interrogating ‘pedagogy’ and your own pedagogic positions is, therefore, a critical feature of development as an educational professional. To extend your thinking about the nature of pedagogy further, you might want to read the following online article, and pursue some of the readings identified in its bibliography:

Smith, Mark (2012). What is Pedagogy.

EdLab has a Pedagogy

The work we do (and you do) as part of EdLab is also underpinned by particular pedagogies. Most fundamentally, it is about doing things – we evaluate our success, in part, on the basis of having created engaging and exciting educational experiences for our local communities. But it is also about thinking about things; about using your experience ‘doing stuff’ as a means to generated situated understandings of what education is and does and can or could b

This positions the relationship between theory and practice in a particular way – and this carries implications for how you should think about your learning (and how we have to assess that learning). It disrupts a pretty dominant theory-to-practice convention – in which you’d be taught some ‘big ideas’, expected to demonstrate a competence in them and only then apply them to practice (incidentally, think about the apprenticeship model of a degree in these terms). This is based in on a mind-to-body construct of the learner – something that the emphasis on enactment in EdLab rejects. Instead, we think you can do stuff, and that the act of doing allows particular understandings to coalesce and emerge.

This doesn’t negate the importance of theory, of course; it is absolutely critical that you leave the unit not just with a warm feeling of having done nice things, but also with some critical ideas about what education can be. You need to be active in producing theory as you go along, reflecting on your activity in order to arrive at some transferable positions and understandings. The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire puts this really nicely;

Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

The importance of student-level theorising does not, of course, negate the value of big external theory – or reading the thoughts of others. This becomes critical as a mechanism to enhance and extend your own thinking – in ways we will explore later in the course.

This positioning then, brings with it expectations of you – but also of us. It means that we’re not really looking for ‘facsimile’  in our assessments. In other words, we don’t need to see that you have understood any particular theory or idea. What is more important is the productive elements – the ideas you have generated, and the ways they interact with a broader community of thinkers practitioners. Of course, some people may well see this not very innovative at all … it sounds a bit like a description of how academic communities are meant to operate.

Task #2: Reflection Activity

With all of this in mind, now is a good time to start to think about your own pedagogy – about the kinds of commitments and orientations you may have as a practitioners. We would like you to produce a blog post exploring this in reference to the project with which you are involved. What kinds of quality of educational experience are you hoping to deliver? How do these things correspond to your commitments and principles about what education can and should be in general.

In producing this blog post, we do not expect evidence of extended reading. However, it might be helpful to find some educational thinkers who have ideas which seem to resonate with your own commitments. Here is a useful source to support this;

Palmer et al. (2001). Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey. London: Routledge.