Gender and sexualities research carries unique sensitivities and challenges that can create a range of barriers for postgraduate and early career educational researchers. Our event ‘Researching Gender & Sexuality in Educational Settings’ aimed to support, sympathise with, and guide postgraduate and early career researchers working in this area. This BERA Blog special issue showcases the work of six postgraduate researchers who presented at the event, including their reflections on the barriers they are encountering in their work.
Creative methods such as art, poetry and dance have the potential to create new and powerful forms of knowledge in educational research. However, as Lis Bundock’s contribution points out, creative methods continue to be subordinated to the dominance of the interview in qualitative research. This is a particular challenge when they are used alongside more traditional methods, creating an internal struggle for what counts as ‘proper’ data. Lis’s work prompts reflection on why the interview continues to dominate in qualitative research and what it might look like for creative methods to take ‘centre stage’.
Using creative methods in arts-based practice can be challenging. Elizabeth Ascroft’s post provides five helpful tips for using arts-based approaches drawn from her PhD research. Elizabeth discusses the importance of working with participants’ existing creative interest and the power of ‘curating the space’ of the session. These could be invaluable for researchers and teachers getting started with arts-based approaches.
Adam Brett is also interested in LGBT+ teachers’ experiences, and his piece is a timely reminder of the powerful potential of photo elicitation for engaging with teachers’ experiences of navigating their gender and sexuality identities at school. Adam reflects on how empowering participating in the research was for the teacher – another reminder of how educational research can be of profound benefit for participants, beyond simply ‘providing data’.
Rochelle Mallet’s contribution stands within the growing body of work drawing on a feminist new materialist approach to gender and sexuality educational research. Her research shows how seeing familiar educational objects differently (in this case, chairs in primary education settings) can provide us with powerful and important insights into how gender is worked and reworked in schools. Rochelle ends by describing chairs as ‘objects that transcend being a place of rest for bodies’ – one wonders whether there may be many more familiar educational objects that could be viewed in the same way with further insights to be gained.
In her post Kate Marston reports on a pilot project working with the Museum of Wales to open up their fungi collection for youth engagement workshops with LGBTQ+ young people. The project highlights the potential of fungi for supporting young people to critically interrogate binary notions of sex and gender. Kate’s work highlights the creativity and variety of approaches present within sexualities and gender educational research and will hopefully inspire more ‘out of the box’ methodologies.
In the final blog post in this special issue, Kim Snider continues the focus on LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences as she wrestles honestly with the ethics of research with LGBTQ+ young people and questions around the boundaries and borders of inclusivity within her research. Kim’s contribution is an important reminder of the intellectual and personal challenges of questioning, while being in some ways limited to, ‘categorical’ ways of thinking about sexualities and gender in educational research.
Overall, both the conference and the blog posts collected here are a clear illustration of the health and vibrancy of postgraduate educational research in gender and sexuality. It is evident that the community being built around the Sexualities and Gender special interest group (SIG) is growing, both numerically and in its positive impact in providing spaces for support, sympathy and advice for the unique challenges of this area of research. We are excited for what the future holds and how the SIG can continue to grow its effectiveness in this area.