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The coolest of yules and festive frivolity to all our readers and authors, wherever you may be. We start this end-of-year celebration of posts by thanking all of you for your continued support, enthusiasm and engagement with the BERA Blog. Now in its eighth year, the BB is a leading international blog on educational research with over 1,386 posts published to date. This year, the blog has been viewed by readers in 202 of the 230 countries and territories that Google Analytics gathers data on. The expansion of our editorial team this year reflects this success, with Kathryn Spicksley and Naomi Flynn already safely cocooned in their editorial saddles, and Elizabeth Rushton and Jennifer Agbaire joining our wonderful team early next year.  

This year’s sagacious gallimaufry includes memorable posts on: 

Over the last 12 months, we have published six special issues on:

Our latest BERA Blog series is on artificial intelligence in educational research and practice, and this year we published our eighth edition of downloadable BERA Bites teaching resources: Toward a digital future of curriculum, pedagogy & assessment.

But what else has arrived in our inbox this year?

We are excited by the significant growth in UK cross-nation commentaries (in addition to the special issues and posts highlighted above), including Ian Collen on language trends in Northern Ireland; Jodie Trotman on widening participation in South Wales; and Marie Beresford-Dey, Stella Howden, Linda Martindale, Ana Elizabeth Bastida and Jackie Malcolm on education for sustainable development in Scottish higher education. There is also a lovely post from the Orkney Islands by Islean Gibson and Rhona Black on learner-led research.  

Inclusive education spawned cracking contributions from Alison Eason; Hiroko Hara; Johny Daniel; Catherine Latimer; and Nicola Preston. Climate change, inevitably, produced prodigious posts from: Sarah Clayton; Nicola Walshe; Kate Greer, Heather King and Melissa Glackin; Elizabeth Rushton, Lynda Dunlop and Lucy Atkinson; and Smriti Safaya. Sophie Atherton and Janina Suppers; Poppy Gibson; and Brittany Wright fermented the BB’s ongoing commitment to postgraduate and early career researchers who may find of interest an emerging new strand of BB posts on researcher positionality from Jingyun Zhang; Lisa Reed; and yours truly

Back in 2019, BERA launched the Education: The State of the Discipline initiative to offer a comprehensive account of the state of education, as an academic discipline, field of practice, and pivotal element of social and political policy across the four nations of the UK. To get a flavour of this initiative, Dina Belluigi, Jason Arday and Joanne O’Keeffe’s post on the inequalities in the discipline of education in UK higher education provides deeply uncomfortable yet essential reading. Institutional racism in a post-92 higher education institution is tackled by Denise Miller. The visibility of structural injustice in early childhood degrees receives shrewd handling by Micky LeVoguer and Jennifer Robson. And while it is too soon to say we are in a post-pandemic world, Rita Hordósy uses the Covid crisis to focus on inequality and dysfunction in research and teaching in higher education. 

For those interested in all things policy related please read Paul Ashwin and Charles Clarke’s brilliant editorial to their scintillating special issue from a seminar series that brought policymakers, educational practitioners and researchers together to address this most fundamental question: what are we educating for?  

The field of teacher education provides some answers, triggered in part by the Department for Education’s early career framework reform and initial teacher training market review. Posts by Ania Atkinson; and Mark Innes, Lisa Murtagh and Elizabeth Gregory offer stark warnings to policymakers about the state of play in initial teacher education (ITE) in England. Rachel Lofthouse asks (and answers): what do universities contribute to professional learning now and in the future? A cautionary ITE note is struck by Australian colleagues (Ellen Larsen, Katie Burke, Melissa Fanshawe, Mark Oliver and Yvonne Salton) where constraints may be negatively impacting a focus on developing the intellectual virtues of preservice teachers as part of their readiness to transition into the teaching profession. Decolonial and anti-racist pedagogies and curricula in teacher education receive deft delivery from Haira Gandolfi and Elizabeth Rushton; and Rachel Robinson. And if you ever thought about crafting a cutting-edge, persuasive recruitment game aimed at raising awareness of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teaching as a career choice, look no further – read this fabulous post by Rebecca Snell, Michael Saiger and Robert Klassen.  

While death, grief and bereavement are not necessarily topics any of us want to engage with, particularly over the festive season, Anna Lise Gordon’s challenging piece draws on research funded by the BERA Small Grants Fund, highlighting the need to equip teachers with approaches to supporting grieving pupils. The pandemic continues its legacy of reflection with notable pieces from Mette Anwar-Westander on lessons for universities from Covid-19; Sarah Gillie on family transitions, special education and home education; and there is a wonderful post on carers in academia by Marie-Pierre Moreau and Lucie Wheeler. Wellbeing, a topic for research emerging so powerfully during the pandemic, also provided excellent contributions from Michelle Jayman; Rosanna Wilson; and Nicola Currie.  

The curriculum, always a popular BB topic, provided terrific posts from Syafiq Mat Noor, Roslinawati Mohd Roslan and Hardimah Mohd Said on incorporating indigenous funds of knowledge into curriculum-making practices; Mary Woolley on the purpose of RE; the resurgence of discussion and debate on a baccalaureate curriculum from David Scott; and the Irish primary curriculum framework by Nika Maglaperidze. Jo Warin’s existentially reflective piece asks, ‘What are we educating for in early childhood education?’ Those seeking an answer may be drawn to two posts from Weipeng Yang on the power of culture in shaping early childhood curricula and robot programming in early childhood education.  

Recruiting senior school leaders within an increasingly fragmented and competitive education system in England is the topic of a powerful post from Helen Gunter, Belinda C. Hughes, Steven J. Courtney, Paul Armstrong, Alexander Gardner-McTaggart, Amanda Heffernan, Mark Innes and Craig Skerritt. As is Julie Blake’s study exploring the lives and experiences of Black Caribbean girls in secondary schools in England, which asks why so many of these girls are underachieving (within the education system). It’s a terrific (if deeply troubling) post on the dangers of institutional racism, teacher stereotyping, microaggressions, a national curriculum that fails to acknowledge these girls’ identity, harsher punishments than their White peers, sexual harassment and misogyny.

One of the many difficulties in producing edited highlights is not being able to include all of our amazing authors, but in drawing this year’s round-up to a close I must mention other notable pieces from Helen Bushell-Thornalley, Clare Lawrence and Lyndsay Muir on teaching gender-questioning students in sport, physical activity and dance; Megan Whitehouse on the erosion of care and primary school exclusion; Lucas Walsh, Joanne Gleeson, Beatriz Gallo Cordoba and Blake Cutler on research that explored the career choices of young women and what shapes them, indicating that many are stressed and potentially disconnected from the realities of the contemporary job market. We don’t often get contributions on systematic reviews (SRs), but a piece on teachers’ professional lives and identities by Elizabeth Rushton, Emma Towers, Emma Rawlings Smith and Sarah Steadman is worthy of attention because of the lack of SRs in this field. Finally, looking to the future, Rachel Wallis considers the design of education as it could or should be; and Joshua Fullard offers thoughts on designing more robust experiments to improve educational research. 

As always, we welcome future contributions from teachers, practitioners, academics, policymakers and all who have a stake in lifelong learning. While we continue to attract writers from the four nations of the UK, we also welcome contributions from all parts of the globe. If you have an idea for a future blog post, please contact members of our editorial team. The BB is open to anyone to make a submission, and our editorial team looks forward to working with an even more diverse group of contributors next year. Our downloadable BERA Bites teaching resources continue to grow in popularity as do our BERA Blog special issues, with more issues planned for the coming year. If you would like to curate one of either of these collections, please contact a member of the BB’s editorial team or BERA’s Publications Manager Hannah Marston.

We hope you have enjoyed this annual BB round-up and we are sorry – particularly to the authors whose work could not be included here – that we can’t cover all of the many themes that the blog has engaged with over the last 12 months. However, we do hope that this overview has given you some sense of the diversity, depth and impact of the work we publish.

In addition to Kathryn Spicksley and Naomi Flynn, a huge thanks from me to my wonderful longer-term BERA Blog co-editors Alison Fox and Barbara Skinner (not least for putting up with me!). We also want to say a special ‘thank you’ to Rowena Passy. Rowena retired this year from the BERA Blog’s editorial team and has played such a major role in the BB’s success – we all miss you hugely! Massive thanks too to BERA’s Publications Manager Hannah Marston, BERA’s CEO Nick Johnson (for dreaming up the BERA Blog in the first place), and everyone in the BERA office for their work supporting the BB. Most of all, though, we would like to thank all our authors – your creativity, inspiration and patience lie behind the success story that the BERA Blog has become.

We wish all our readers and authors a safe, joyous and relaxing festive season, and let us hope that 2024 brings happier times to one and all.

BERA Blog end of year highlights series

All from this series