It hardly seems possible, six years after its creation of the BERA Blog, that this is its one-thousandth post. The brainchild of BERA CEO Nick Johnson, in 2015 the BB set out to provide research-informed content on key educational issues to policymakers, academics, parents, teachers, educational leaders, members of school communities and anyone interested in educational research. For interested readers, the forthcoming issue of BERA’s Research Intelligence magazine issue will include a feature on editors’ reflections on the BB’s historical development.
Thanks to the fantastic contributions of all of our authors, the blog has flourished beyond all expectations, and is now the leading international blog on educational research. The latest figures show that it has been viewed by people in 225 of the circa 230 countries and territories that Google Analytics gathers data on, and has sizeable audiences in the US, Australia, India, Ireland, China, the Philippines, Canada and elsewhere.
We are delighted to celebrate our one-thousandth BERA Blog post by republishing some of our favourite posts in a special issue. This collection is drawn from among the ‘most-read’ posts across the period 2015–2021, which tap into current issues in the educational landscape and which we, most importantly, have enjoyed re-reading. We hope you do too!
- Carolyn Blackburn (2015) demonstrates that research with young children can be challenging; the issue of consent raises difficult questions, with much depending on children’s prior experiences. She suggests adopting an ongoing process of assent whereby a young child’s, and/or a child with SEND’s, acceptance of the researcher within the setting can be taken as assent to participate in the research.
- Paula Bosanquet (2015) argues that teaching assistants (TAs) are ‘underutilised, inconsistently managed and not always well trained and supported’. She suggests that nationally agreed role titles and descriptions would be helpful, citing the Maximising the Impact of TAs programme as useful support in this area.
- Mark Priestley (2015) argues that an ecological approach to teacher agency sees it as something that is achieved rather than a possession or an innate quality; it is emergent, linking individual capacity with the social and material conditions in which they are acting. The three temporal dimensions of agency are being rooted in past experience, oriented to the future, and acted on in the present.
- Angele Pulis (2016), at the time a deputy headteacher in Malta, examines the question of pupil voice in school quality assurance. Her doctoral research explored the potential of pupils to be quality assessors in Maltese schools, and aimed to bring together two agendas: the pressure for accountability in the Maltese educational system, and the rhetoric in educational policies about including children’s voices.
- Dominic Wyse (2017) considers the nature of a ‘4*’ research publication in the context of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework. He introduces his concept of the ‘writer’s ear’, which involves not only admiring writing and engaging emotionally, but also perceiving the techniques that writers use; in time, this can support the selection of original ideas for world-leading research.
- Karen McInnes (2018) reminds us of the difficulty of researching the curriculum with children in the early years, partly because curricula tend to be play-based, and partly because of the challenges involved in conducting child-friendly, ethical research. She argues that the Mosaic approach, which she links to the activity apperception story procedure, has yielded useful insights into practitioners’ understandings of play.
- Maria Rapti (2018) notes the effects of competitiveness, increasing individualism and the weakening of collective ties on education, arguing that it has become a ‘tug of war’ in which accountability and efficiency trump inclusion. She suggests that education needs to be ’empowered so that it becomes a strong and effective force for social change that confronts disparities and eliminates segregation’.
- Alice Sullivan and Judith Suissa (2019) reflect on academic freedom and education in relation to debates on gender and transgender issues – specifically the position that gender identity trumps biological sex. They suggest that opponents to this viewpoint can experience intimidation, and that ‘misogynistic name-calling’ has entered academic debate, thereby limiting students’ potential exposure to a range of ideas and curtailing universities’ capacity to foster nuanced discussion.
- Babatunde Taiwo Ojewunmi’s (2019) doctoral research discusses the critical nature of an effective pastoral care system in all educational sectors. He argues that a whole-school strategic and operational approach can foster an atmosphere that is conducive to learning for all by promoting tolerance, resilience, fairness, equality of opportunity and respect for self and others.
- In the first of two posts from our successful and ongoing special issue on Covid, Education and Education Research, Steven Courtney and his colleagues from the Manchester Institute of Education (2020) argue that the Covid-19 pandemic has shattered what they describe as ‘five education myths’, relating to surveillance, privatisation and educational leadership, and urge researchers to take this opportunity to challenge the status quo.
- Finally, Jan Barnes and colleagues (2021), in that same special issue, seek to understand the impact that the sudden, Covid-related shift to online teaching had on staff involved in initial teacher education in Wales. Themes arising from their sociocultural study include virtual classroom management, online relationship-building, different pedagogies, wellbeing considerations and positive aspects of using new technology. Most participants welcomed the continuation of blended learning in the future; the authors conclude with a call for effective online pedagogy.
If you have an idea for a future blog piece, please contact members of our editorial team. The blog is open to anyone to make a submission, and our editorial team looks forward to working with an even more diverse group of contributors for the BERA Blog’s next thousand posts!