Education Research – Spring 2020


During the first few months of 2020 a number of colleagues working in Education have had research published with a variety of topics covered. Below we introduce some of this research by providing the abstracts for these papers and the links to the publishers websites.

The Embodied Nature of Physical Literacy: Interconnectedness of Lived Experience and MeaningDurden-Myers, Elizabeth, Meloche, E S and Dhillon, Karamjeet K

Abstract: This article discusses the embodied nature of physical literacy with specific attention given to the interconnectedness of embodiment, lived experience, and meaning (assemblage). Through the exploration of these concepts, it is possible to understand how physical literacy is centered on monist, existential, and phenomenological philosophical schools of thought.

School Principals at Different Stages of Adult Ego Development: Their Sense-Making Capabilities and How Others Experience ThemGilbride, Neil, James, Chris and Carr, Sam

Abstract: The way school principals make sense of the context of their work shapes their actions. As in all adults, principals’ sense-making capability is a function of the ego and can change over time. Adult ego development (AED) theory describes distinct, qualitatively different stages of sense-making ability. The research reported here assessed the AED stage of 20 school principals in England using the Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Principals in the Self-Aware, Conscientious and Individualist stages of AED were identified. The research used a critical incident technique to analyse principals’ sense-making capabilities and how others experience them in their role as principals. The findings show substantive differences between those in different stages of AED in relation to their sense-making processes, the feelings they experience and display as emotions, how they involve others in the sense-making process, and how others experience them. There is a discernible trend in the behaviours of school principals and how others experience them that relates to the transition from the Self-Aware stage, to the Conscientious stage, to the Individualist stage. These findings have significant implications for understanding the practice of school principals.

Pivoting the seesaw? Negotiating the tensions of balancing ethical and methodological considerations in designing research that involves children and young peopleKay, Lynda

Abstract: CYP fall within the range of groups classified as vulnerable. The aligning of vulnerable with notions of incompetence, risk of harm and poor skills and abilities elicits a heightening of tensions surrounding perception of risk to CYP regarding their involvement in research. This paper explores the factors related to ethical principles and methodological choices that must be balanced by researchers throughout the research process for research involving CYP and other vulnerable participants. The decision-making processes in relation to ethical and methodological considerations throughout the design and implementation of the research are likened within this article to balancing a seesaw. A framework, containing prompts and questions, to support reflexive ethical decision-making is proposed to support researchers with balancing the seesaw to protect CYP and to facilitate opportunities for them to articulate their views and experiences. This paper contributes to the debates surrounding the involvement of CYP in research and adds support to greater weighting towards ethics, upon the pivot of the seesaw of decision making in research design

Don’t Forget the Parents: Preparing Trainee Teachers for Family-School PartnershipJones, Chris

Abstract – The value of strong collaborative relationships between schools and the families of their pupils has been consistently highlighted through research and has been found to benefit all parties involved. Trainee teachers in England however have continued to report feeling unprepared to ‘communicate with parents/carers’, a sentiment that has been supported by the findings of wider-ranging research. This study therefore aimed to determine which elements of family–school partnership (FSP) should be considered as core content when covering the subject in ITE. The findings suggest that home-school communication is the most valued element of FSP for inclusion in the taught content of ITE, specifically the preparation for and running of home-school meetings, dealing with difficult conversations and communicating effectively. Whilst the significance of communication is widely understood, this research argues that setting out a rationale for the importance of FSP and challenging trainees to reflect on their attitudes towards parents foregrounds the development of effective communication skills.

Researching Young Offenders: Navigating Methodological Challenges and Reframing Ethical ResponsibilitiesShafi, Adeela

Abstract: Young offenders’ perceptions of their educational experiences are little researched not least because of methodological and ethical challenges. These include being difficult to access, questions on their reliability as interviewees and their ‘doubly vulnerable’ position, due to the secure locked context and their age. This article draws on doctoral research, which sought to re-engage young offenders with education and learning whilst in a custodial setting, to discuss navigating such methodological challenges and managing emergent ethical responsibilities. It is argued that interview methods which are based on the principles of connectivity, humanness and empathy (CHE) are crucial methodological tools when interviewing ‘doubly vulnerable’ participants. Using the principles of CHE contributed to rebalancing the power dynamics between researcher and participant making it possible to elicit rich and credible data. This was especially relevant in a custodial setting where the autonomy of participants is deliberately restricted. These shifting power imbalances gave way to a range of additional ethical responsibilities of research with participants who have already experienced challenging social, economic and educational circumstances leading up to their incarceration. This article contributes to a reframing of the notion of being ethical and suggests ways of reconciling the dilemmas of research with participants in challenging contexts. These include extending a researcher’s ethical responsibilities to beyond the research and the use of the researcher’s greater power to advocate for less powerful participants. The use of CHE and other rapport building techniques to improve data elicitation gave way to further ethical responsibilities. Guidance on how to reconcile these is little explored. As we move further into sophisticated methods of qualitative data collection, the more likely we are to face additional ethical responsibilities which go beyond the research itself. Some would argue that this is not the job of researchers, however researchers are not neutral, value-free objects but carry with them power to give voice to the vulnerable. Greater awareness of these issues may stimulate further research further, thereby increasing methodological and ethical knowledge on under-researched groups.

Beyond the ‘green bling’: identifying contradictions encountered in school sustainability programmes and teachers’ responses to themVare, Paul

Abstract: As schools seek to implement frameworks of education for sustainable development it is inevitable that they will encounter contradictions between their own aspirations and external demands. To analyse these contradictions through the lens of teachers-in-context, this research uses Cultural-historical Activity Theory that views schools as activity systems and reveals contradictions within those systems. Interviews with teachers and headteachers from a sample of twelve schools (primary, middle and secondary level) in England highlight contradictions that occur at different strategic levels in the school. A perspective document, comprising contradictory statements gathered from interview transcripts, reveals the extent to which these contradictions are shared among interviewees. A striking feature of the data is that teachers do not recognise these contradictions themselves. Analysis of the data reveals how teachers respond to contradictory situations. Responses include a sense of powerlessness, varying degrees of accommodation and a reframing of contradictions through ‘expansive learning’. This paper proposes a process for identifying and assessing contradictions in schools and suggests that, by making their responses to contradictions explicit, teachers can present learners with authentic examples of contextualised learning.