On Friday I received an email from Sense Publishers saying that my monograph proposal was positively received and that a book contract was on its way. What a great way to start the Easter break! It’s been three years since The PMLD Ambiguity was published and I’ve been keen to write a follow-up. The new book (based on research undertaken for my postdoc fellowship) will draw on phenomenological theory and case studies to explore the meaning of ‘inclusion’ as it relates to children with PMLD. Given the distinct lack of theory, research and knowledge in this area the book will hopefully become a catalyst for future debate.
The experience of being and belonging: a phenomenological account of inclusion for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities will be out in 2018.
I was clearing my desk at work and stumbled across a report from the Everyday Maths Project (something I was involved with as an RA before my postdoc). The Everyday Maths Project was a fascinating piece of work, led by Tim Jay (now at Sheffield Hallam University) and Jo Rose, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The project essentially involved working with parents of primary school children in order to develop maths workshops that support parent-child maths interaction. The project was controversial in nature as it went beyond abstract, school-based maths to explore the (potentially latent) practical maths that parents employ on a daily basis. Through a series of workshops, parents maths knowledge was made explicit and we explored ways that this can be used to support children’s maths learning within everyday contexts (e.g. travelling to school, playing in the park, shopping for food). As dad of two small kids this work was timely and my own maths confidence developed during the project. If you are number shy and would like to learn more about innovative ways of introducing maths in everyday life, then you can download the final report. There are further resources on the website including conference proceedings (www.everydaymaths.org), as well as a paper due out in spring 2017.
Pictured: Pero’s Bridge in Bristol. (Can you find the maths?)
It’s a cold and frosty start to the new academic term but it’s always lovely to meet students again. This term I’m down as the convenor and tutor for an undergraduate unit called Education, Schooling & Diversity for the BSc Childhood Studies, and I’m literally about to leave the office for the first tutorial. If I was a student again this is the kind of unit I would want to study – 24 lectures, delivered by 10 member of staffs, group projects, visits to Bristol’s learning centres, and a critical assignment pulling it all together in the end. Given that this is a first year unit I suspect that students will be new to special and inclusive educational theory, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into teaching over the coming weeks.
Picture: Brandon Hill, Bristol.
Today was my last seminar for the BSc unit Education & Society. I was a tutor for the unit, which consisted of leading a seminar group for 10 weeks and giving an interactive lecture in the middle. I’ve not taught undergraduates before and have been impressed at the level of debate in seminars! Each week two students present key readings which we then critique as a group. The readings are typically anchored in sociology of education and revolve around issues of social justice, which we found to be a controversial concept! I’ll miss the gang, but look forward to marking exam papers and assignments after Christmas to see how debates have fed into assessed work.
Next semester I’ll be teaching a year 1 unit (Education, Schooling, & Diversity) so it will be interesting to see how the newer students get on. Watch this space!
Phew! That was a lot of reading. 15 dissertations and an MPhil/PhD upgrade. This is the first time that I’ve supervised MSc dissertations and I was rather naive with regards to the amount of second marking. Fortunately the dissertations exude the passion of students in the fields of SEN/inclusion and many were a joy to read. An added perk was the informative nature of the work – I learned so much during marking!. Great work, class of 2016!
I recently gave a couple of presentations on interpretivist research for the Introduction to Educational Inquiry Research Awareness Day. The idea was to provide a philosophical and methodological contrast to postivist research (presented by Dr Sarah Meadows). There was doubt in the department that such an old school binary existed at the GSoE but Sarah and I managed to resurrect an intellectual conflict that had been dormant for a while! It was good fun, though a bit surreal as our M-Level cohort was so big I had to present the same material twice (running down 5 flights of stairs between presentations).
The essential message was that interpretivism is a complex beast which is tricky to define. Positivism is more clear cut, but text books sometimes present interpretivist philosophy as literally the epistemological and ontological opposite of positivism when, in fact, interpretivism is a broad term which can be used to refer to a collection of philosophies, some of which may compliment positivism. (For example, core phenomenology is a normative project.) Still, wrestling with these ideas allows us to get away from a tedious qualitative/quantitative divide abstracted from philosophical thinking which is a benefit in and of itself. I hope the students agreed!
(Pictured: GSoE’s home in Berkeley Square, Bristol)
We are midway through the MSc unit Controversial Issues in Special & Inclusive Education. 12 hours of input in four seminars! This year’s group is fantastic – international, engaged, experienced, and critical. I’ve been a bit cheeky and redesigned the unit around some personal interests in the field of SEN. Each week students tackle big questions and major themes, which so far consist of:
- Are all children ‘people’? (drawing on bioethics and personhood debates)
- Are all children ‘educable’? (drawing on psychological theory from the PMLD field)
- Are all children ‘researchable’? (drawing on research philosophy from disability studies)
- Are all children ‘includable’? (drawing on international debates about inclusive education in the Global North & South)
The sessions finish at 7.30pm which is tough-going, but the depth of discussions about such significant topics keeps me awake and keen for more. (Literally – I find it difficult to sleep when I get home because my head is buzzing with thoughts about the discussions). Next week we have guest doctoral researchers presenting their work which should be fab!
(Pictured: Inside of Wills Memorial, University of Bristol)