Research Interests

Intercultural Engagement and Global Education

I am Interim Theme Lead for Intercultural Engagement and Global Education in the new Research Centre for Global Learning: Education and Attainment, at Coventry University, which I started work within on 1st August, 2017. Previously I have been working in the DMLL, Coventry University. Close synergy will continue between these two centres going forward.

The overarching focus of my work in the on new Research Centre will be about how higher education institutions, with a particular focus on the Coventry University Group, are integrating an international, intercultural and global dimension into the purpose, functions, design and delivery of learning experiences. This involves conducting research on the effects of strategies, initiatives and practices aiming to develop intercultural engagement (based on knowledge, attitudes and skills) and a global outlook among students and staff. More generally, it requires looking at the role that intercultural dialogue plays in addressing global issues and inequalities within wider society.

Three key sub-themes will guide this work :

  1. Interculturality in teaching and learning
  2. Global education and the curriculum; building capacity and quality into course design and pedagogical practices
  3. International collaborations and our capacity to influence transnational education (TNE) in its broadest sense

Two current research projects connected to this theme include:

OpenMed

Graduate preparedness for an uncertain world

Both projects are considered in more detail here


Research into pedagogic practices

My research and pedagogic practices in the Research Centre for Global Education focus on ways to provide opportunities for students to develop qualities and dispositions required to cope with complexity, uncertainty and newness including, interaction, criticality, resilience and integrity. I have been influenced by Ron Barnett’s work on supercomplexity, flexibility in learning, and the importance of pedagogical spaces (immersion; reflection; criticality; interaction) which enable students to examine and take up their own stances and ‘felt responses’ to their learning.

My research and project work has focused on the disconnect of ideas students as well as graduates can experience in their learning.  Through the studies we have been conducting I have been exploring what type and scope of support students require, as well as promoting learning that seeks to challenge, provoke, evoke, so that students can experience what it is to be vulnerable as a learner in order to support them to be better prepared for managing situations of not knowing.

I see the university’s role in this learning process to support students to be reflexive, autonomous, perceptive and resilient practitioners. This requires a pedagogic approach that promotes praxis; praxis being critical thinking with theory, which does not separate itself from creative action (Freire 1970).

 


Creativity and uncertainty – exploring the imagination gap

I am interested in research which offers space for openings, for other voices, for findings ways to deliver the best of what Higher Education (HE) teaching and learning should offer (and for large cohorts) through new media. I have been questioning and seek to re-frame perspectives about HE.

I am interested in creative pedagogies, which is not about anything new per se, but arguably is perhaps about being radical[1]. Creative learning as radical learning requires an acknowledgement of foundational understandings of engaging in seeing, feeling, thinking, experiencing, exploring whilst being consciously aware of our humanness.

Dewey (1964) wrote about creativity promoting ‘variability, initiative, innovation, departure from routine, experimentation, the manifestation of genuine nisus in things’ (p.86).

Creativity enables us to engage and experience with curiosity and respect (Sealey & Reason, 2008), and to embrace moments for yet to surface understandings to occur.

Exploring creative pedagogies has enabled me to better appreciate the value an extended epistemology and to acknowledge the learning gained from practical, experiential knowing as well as propositional knowing in order to develop a greater awareness of self and other.

I am interested in exploring learning which is not cut off from our senses, but learning that enables a richer sense of engagement; to be aware, to receive, to say, to write, to play, to learn. I have been researching how the artistic process in learning (and out with the arts disciplines) provides a rich and fertile means of looking at learning from alternative directions. This includes learning as improvisation and learning as ‘becoming pedagogical’ (Irwin et al, 2008), exploring difficult and challenging concepts and ideas; being careful not to flatten the complexities of complex situations; embracing embodied knowing, thinking and imagining, valuing and sensing.

I get excited about learning as playful, remixed, pervasive, anti ‘intervention,’ rather learning as inter-disciplinary, interdependence, embodying vitality, dwelling upon possibilities, being attuned, being vulnerable, exposed, creating uncertainty – all of which gives rise to creative thought.

Creativity is personal, it is not linear, and for it to flourish it requires motivation, and an appetite for discovery without the constant fear of failure or being penalised.

 

The origin of the word radical is, ‘radix’ – root, radical – ‘forming the root’

https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research

May, R. (1994). The courage to create. New York: Norton. First published in 1975.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/17/to-encourage-creativity-mr-gove-understand

See productive failure http://proxima.iet.open.ac.uk/public/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf

Play Building Joe Norris http://www.joenorrisplaybuilding.ca/?page_id=1329

James, A. & Brookfield, S. D. (2014) Engaging Imagination. Helping students become creative and reflective thinkers, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


Creative arts pedagogy

One area of research and practice I have been developing is creative arts pedagogy and arts-informed educational research, which presents exciting opportunities for enlivening teaching and learning practices and the translation and sharing of knowledge (Lea, Belliveau, Wager et al., 2011; Barone & Eisner, 2014; Savin-Baden & Wimpenny, 2014; 2015).

Creative (arts) pedagogy is a means of transforming any subject (discipline, course, and programme) into a creative teaching process, to ‘produce’ creative learners. Such practices seek to engage students as active learners through use of an aesthetic interaction as art forms are integrated to inspire making, doing, critical reflection and praxis.

The contribution of the aesthetic dimension is to encourage learners to take notice, to see afresh and to revisit the world from a different direction (Barone & Eisner, 2012). This bringing together of the self and other, inside and outside influences, inter and intra relationships through the experiential, the visceral, the artistic, draws on ideas around relational learning, where learning is not based on predictive, linear or deterministic models, but ‘from the associative relations amongst complex interactions’ (Sumara & Carson, 1997:xix). In creative pedagogy then, the subject matter is explored through alternative, imaginative ways, to challenge, evoke, provoke and capture the learners attention whilst creating uncertainty (Gouzouasis, 2008). Learning in this way is about one’s ‘participation in the world; a co-evolution of learning together’ (Irwin & Springgay, 2008: xxvii). This transformation of the traditional classroom into a creative space can be a means of encouraging the learner to consciously explore their ‘openness and closedness’ to the world (Florida, 2003; Barnett, 2005).

Creative arts pedagogy presents a distinct proposition at Coventry University, an opportunity to understand how student, academic, artist and researcher creativity can be harnessed through stepping outside of disciplinary comfort zones. Through current and past project work in collaboration with staff and students, we have been experimenting in designing teaching and learning projects to promote creative participation, creative confidence and creative understanding; to consider risk-taking through learning from situations of uncertainty, of being open to ‘not knowing’, in order to heighten learning experiences, promote creative problem-solving, and encourage learners to be inventive so that they may contribute to shaping and improving the places, spaces and communities in which they live (Dewey, 1934).

  Example research projects I have led:

  1. Shakespeare Disrupted’ involved staff and students from Occupational Therapy and Law working with an artist/educator from the RSC, exploring how Shakespeare could be used to examine complex course concepts to harness creativity through stepping outside disciplinary comfort zones.
  2. Curious Oddities involved students from Motor Sports and Health, working with a Coventry graduate and artist, during induction week, to create curious forms, using materials, scratch-built, from found objects, to stir their imagination and represent perspectives about the start of their learner journey.
  3. The Geese Theatre and problem-based-learning project involved nursing tutors sharing content with a Theatre company who performed a complex family scenario to 200+ nursing students. The performed content was then used in seminar groups interpreted through an evidence-based practice lens.
  4. We Have A Situation, Coventry! involved humanities students and an artist-in-residence, in dialogue with community residents and academics, exploring the relationships between the university and city and new models for active citizenship through creative praxis.
  5. Films To Make You Feel Good. This project provided second year Media and Communication students with the opportunity to work with Phoenix, Leicester’s independent cinema and arts centre and Leicester City Council’s Neighbourhood Management team to get hands on experience in supporting me to evaluate a programme of screenings as part of the ‘Films To Make You Feel Good’ project, in which community members, particularly those who may be more isolated or vulnerable, could enjoy high quality curated cinema experiences.

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