Posted by & filed under Author blogs, New books.

Science is now being taught to more pupils than at any time in history. This has come about in part because governments across the world have acknowledged the importance of science and technology to economic wellbeing and prosperity. It also owes something to the need to educate a population that is scientifically literate and can engage with a range of science-related issues, ranging from health, global warming and the environment to nuclear power, genetic counselling and safety at work.

The implications for school science teaching seem clear. Schools are to help safeguard the future supply of those with scientific qualifications while ensuring that all pupils receive an education that will prepare them for the world in which they will eventually live and work. What is less clear, however, is how to translate these goals into practical curricula.

One response, common to many countries, has been to give pupils an insight into how scientific knowledge is generated by involving them in practical investigations in a school laboratory. Such an approach has come to the fore at different times and, in essence, has sought to teach pupils how to think scientifically. It was fundamental to Henry Armstrong’s heurism (Brock, 1973), to the global science curriculum development movement of the mid-20th century (DeBoer, 1991), and to more recent initiatives designed to help pupils understand the nature of scientific processes and methods. It has also been supported by different learning theories, from faculty psychology and discovery learning to constructivism.

This approach presents several problems. Scientific thinking, as distinct from rational thinking, is appropriate only when dealing with scientific problems. These are not the sort of problems that most adults encounter, and there is a risk of emphasising scientific processes at the expense of scientific knowledge. More fundamentally, the work of historians, sociologists and philosophers has shown that such an approach reflects a simplistic and unsustainable view of how scientific knowledge is established and validated.

A different approach to curriculum construction starts not with science itself but with the everyday concerns, interests and experiences of pupils. This ‘science of common things’ has often underpinned the education of those judged unlikely to pursue a science-related career, many of whom have attended schools intended for a different section of society from most of those receiving an academic education (Layton, 1973).

The General Science movement of the interwar years was a laudable but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ‘bring science into the homes of the people’ and to offer a science curriculum that was not designed with reference to the needs of future scientists or engineers. This approach also has limitations. Constructing a science curriculum on the basis of pupils’ interests may do little or nothing to enlarge their horizons, although it underpins the concept of urban science education directed towards equity, social justice and the development of a sense of place among the disadvantaged in society (Barton, 2003). However, devising or adopting a science curriculum to meet the needs of different social groups or communities within pluralistic societies is a conundrum.

Whatever approach is being considered must answer the fundamental question, ‘What is school science for? Studies show that the answer is socially, politically and historically contingent. In England, enthusiasm for teaching ‘scientific method’ declined as experience of the first world war highlighted the ignorance of elementary scientific knowledge among government ministers and army officers and their men. It returned to favour a generation later when the cold war emphasised the need to greatly increase the numbers of qualified scientific personnel. ‘Working scientifically’ underpins England’s national curriculum and, differently worded, can be found in curriculum statements in many other countries. The scientific education of girls has been, and remains, susceptible to changed assumptions about the role of women in society. Personal and professional factors may also be involved: some primary school teachers were reluctant to accommodate science in the curriculum because they saw it as incompatible with the progressive pedagogy that sustained their professional expertise. Others welcomed it because scientific investigation could be readily allied with a discovery approach to learning (Jenkins, 2019).

Understanding how and why the school science curriculum changes is of more than academic interest. It can shed light on the role of individuals and institutions in effecting, or hindering, reform, and help inform and shape contemporary initiatives or minimise the risk of error. It is regrettable, therefore, that curriculum history is no longer a focus of research attention.

Edgar Jenkins has just published a book called Science for All: The struggle to establish school science in England (Trentham Books, February 2019). It ‘offers a thoroughly researched account of the long battle to establish school science in England, and addresses the underlying question of what school science is for, and reveals when, how and why the answer to that question has changed’.


Barton, A. C. (2003). Teaching science for social justice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Brock, W. H. (Ed.). H. E. Armstrong and the Teaching of Science 1880-1930 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DeBoer, G. E. (1991) A History of Ideas in Science Education: Implications for Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Jenkins, E. (2019). Science for All: The struggle to establish school science in England. London: Trentham Books.

Layton, D. (1973) Science for the People: The origins of the school science curriculum in England. London: Allen and Unwin.

Edgar Jenkins taught chemistry in schools before joining the University of Leeds, where he became head of the School of Education, director of the Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education, and professor of science education policy. He has served on several national and international committees and organisations concerned with school science, and was editor of the research review journal Studies in Science Education. His publications reflect a longstanding interest in the educational function of science in a variety of social and historical contexts: they include From Armstrong to Nuffield (1979) and (with B. J. Swinnerton) Junior School Science in England and Wales since 1900 (1998).

‘Published on the BERA blog on 18/03/2019. For all the BERA blogs, upcoming events on every aspect of educational research and how to submit a blog visit

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By Don Rowe and Anne Watson

Writings about faith and education tend to fall into particular longstanding debates about: the teaching of religious education in schools; the act (or not) of assembly; the use of religious texts in lessons and around the school; the roles of faith-specific schools in society and their practices; the nature of truth in science, and similar themes (see for example Copley, 2008). There is, however, a dimension of faith and education that is almost entirely missing, and that is the faith-orientated beliefs of those who work in education, and how these are enacted in, and impact on, their work (for a rare example, see Palmer, 1998; see also Rowe & Watson, 2018).

Yet many young people enter teaching because their faith leads them to want to ‘give back’, or because they want to help young people to develop in a holistic, not merely intellectual, way, or because they have a faith-based view of society that attaches great importance to values such as care, justice, truth and integrity in public service. These reasons for entering teaching are not confined to those who have a religious faith, of course, but apply also to young adults for whom the same human values are important lodestones.

Social media and teacher-facing publications frequently include stories of people who have left the profession, or stayed in education but left the classroom, because the way in which they were expected to do the job clashed with their principles and preferred ways of working to such an extent that they were unable to continue (see Murrer, 2018; Buchanan, 2018). In the recent past, we have heard from a young teacher who was forbidden to put up wall displays because her teaching room was also hired out for conferences; a teacher who was told to prepare all her lessons for the year ahead, before even meeting those she was to teach; a teacher who was put into competence procedures for not conforming to paperwork norms while students (many from other teachers) flocked to her classroom for extra help during lunch time; we could go on. The practice of teaching is inescapably values-rich and schools are prime sites of value conflict – certainly between teachers and parents (Stengel & Tom, 2006), but also between teachers themselves and the school authorities.

Quakers are one example of a faith group which has a long history of involvement with education – from the seventeenth century, originally with schools for girls as well as boys (O’Donnell, 2013).Currently few Quakers attend or teach in the independent schools that are historically Quaker; most Quakers who work in education do so in the state-maintained system. In recent years, the Quaker Values in Education group ( has heard many stories from individuals whose work in education is difficult to sustain because what schools expect them to do, as well as the workload issues that impact one everyone, is beyond what they feel is right, just and caring.  This is not only true for Quaker teachers of course (Bousted, 2016). In our meetings, time and again teachers have said, ‘this is not why I came into teaching’ when describing practices such as zero-tolerance regimes; frequent testing; prescriptive marking expectations, and many other imposed practices which make it hard for them to respond to individual children’s needs and difficulties in a life-enhancing way (Murrer, 2018).

And yet, schools are and always have been communities as well as knowledge factories, and no community exists without values (see for example Halstead & Taylor, 1996). Although official curriculum documents rarely mention values alongside all the other desirable learning outcomes, there is abundant evidence, including in our recent book (Rowe & Watson, 2018) that teachers place huge importance on embedding values in the curriculum as well as throughout the ethos of the school.

We therefore set out to collect essays from Quakers who work, or have worked, in the state system. We have found ways to work and think about education while maintaining integrity – that is, while basing one’s work soundly in the Quaker testimonies to truth, equality and justice. The result is a collection of papers, mainly grounded in practice, that are critical and visionary about education and schools, but based in real experience so that the accounts do not describe, ‘this is what I wish it was like’ but rather, ‘this is what it is like, or has been like, or can be like, somewhere’.

The result is Faith and experience in education: Essays from Quaker perspectives edited by Don Rowe and Anne Watson, published by Trentham Books at UCL IOE Press in May 2018.


Bousted, M. (2016, April 19). Our children are being set up for failure, stress, disappointment and disaffection. Times Educational Supplement. Retrieved from

Buchanan, M. (2018, June 27). Happy pupils perform better in school and in life. Times Educational Supplement. Retrieved from

Copley, T. (2008). Teaching Religion: sixty years of religious education in England and Wales. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.

Halstead, J. M. & Taylor, M. J. (eds.) (1996). Values in education and education in values. London: Falmer Press.

Murrer, S. (2018, April 19). Emotional head resigns from education system. Milton Keynes Citizen.

O’Donnell, E. A. (2013). Quakers and education. In Angell S. W.& Dandelion P. (eds.) The Oxford Book of Quaker Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Courage to Each: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Rowe, D. & Watson, A. (2018). Faith and experience in education: Essays from Quaker Perspectives. London: UCL IOE Press.

Stengel, B. S. & Tom, A. R. (2006). Moral matters: Five ways to develop the moral life of schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Don Rowe taught a range of subjects in secondary and middle schools for ten years. In 1984, he became director of the National Curriculum Council’s Law in Education project which pioneered law-related education for all upper-secondary students as an entitlement. He was involved in establishing the Citizenship Foundation, becoming its first director in 1989 and, subsequently, director of curriculum resources. He was very involved in the introduction of Citizenship Education into the curriculum in 2000. He also worked for many years as an international consultant specialising in education for democracy and human rights. He has published a range of teaching and training materials, plus a number of academic papers in citizenship and moral education. As a Quaker, he has a particular interest in education for peace, justice, values-based education and moral development, not merely within the curriculum but as a whole-school practice.

Anne Watson has two mathematics degrees and a DPhil in mathematics education. She taught mathematics in comprehensive schools serving some fractured communities, before moving into academic work, training secondary mathematics teachers and researching mathematics education. With a social justice agenda, she has focussed on how young adolescents can become empowered through inclusion in mathematics. While professor at the University of Oxford she worked internationally and nationally with teachers and teacher educators and, more recently, has developed a critical and informed position towards policy and curriculum matters in England. See for more information.

‘Published on the BERA blog on 22/02/2019. For all the BERA blogs, upcoming events on every aspect of educational research and how to submit a blog visit

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By Sarah Porter

Last year, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute a chapter to the book ‘Second Language Learners in International Schools’ by Maurice Carder. The book, now published, presents a clear vision for the teaching of ESL / EAL students, and one key part of this model is the establishment of ESL departments as ‘centres of expertise’.

But what does this mean? Surely all academic departments should strive to be centres of expertise? However, for ESL departments this path can be trickier to follow. Many people, myself included, find themselves teaching ESL as a result of being the ‘trailing spouse’ because there is no room for them elsewhere in the school at that time. They then often end up moving quickly out of the ESL department when a vacancy becomes available in another department and the next candidate is moved in, thus perpetuating a vicious circle of inexperienced teachers who ‘do a bit of EAL’. However, will this ensure the best possible deal for our ESL students?

To become a centre of expertise, and thereby give ESL students the best possible education, we need to fill ESL departments with qualified staff who are committed to teaching ESL and who will stay. Fortunately for me, I fell in love with ESL teaching, have been in my school’s EAL department for five years now and am starting an MA in Applied Linguistics this year in order to be able to lead our department as best as I can. ESL departments as centres of expertise must be managed by a qualified ESL professional who is passionate about their subject and about delivering consistent and high-quality lessons. Our ESL students deserve nothing less, after all.

A further, major step is to ensure that as well as teaching English grammar and vocabulary, a content-based approach is taken whereby ESL students are taught academic language linked to the schemes of work they are following in their academic subjects. The ‘Second Language Learners’ book regularly discusses the difference between BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and CALP (Cognitive and Academic Language Proficiency); phrases coined by Jim Cummins in 2001. Bearing in mind that it takes between one and two years to achieve BICS (being able to chat to friends, for example) but up to seven years to achieve CALP (academic language competency), ESL teachers must ensure that they devote a significant amount of time to teaching academic vocabulary and helping students to use it confidently in a variety of contexts.

It can, however, be difficult to find and to build up a base of content-based resources that focus on the language rather than the content itself. When we compare this to the absolute wealth of ‘pure ESL’ resources that are available today, we can see why many ESL teachers may turn away from teaching content language. Departments staffed with professional, long-term ESL teachers are in a much better position to develop, maintain and teach a content-based scheme of work. It made it all worthwhile recently when a smiling Year 7 student arrived at his EAL lesson saying ‘We just learned the types of energy in Science, and I knew all the words already!’ All ESL students deserve to be instilled with confidence in academic language; as Janzen writes, ‘The academic uses of language as well as the meaning of individual words needs to be explicitly taught for students to…understand the material they encounter’ (Janzen, 2008: 1030, quoted in Scanlan and Lopez, 2012: #601).

It is all too common for ESL teachers to hear comments such as ‘She chats away to her friends in English with no problem, surely she’s ready to leave EAL lessons?’. By recognising the amount of time needed to attain academic competency, ESL teachers are in a much better position to fight against ‘premature exits’ of students from ESL. In many schools, Level B1 (PET) is seen as the exit point from ESL lessons. Too many times this can lead to students becoming disillusioned as they struggle to understand academic language or to use it to produce a piece of homework. An ESL centre of expertise with qualified staff would help students to remain in ESL lessons for the correct length of time, since the ESL staff will be in a position to give a clear argument in favour of this. The transition from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 brings its own linguistic challenges, and exiting ESL too early could result in students achieving one or two (or, sadly, even more) grades below what they could have achieved at IGCSE.

It could be argued that the importance of having ESL departments as centres of expertise is even more important than for other departments, given the overarching nature of ESL in the whole school curriculum.

Sarah Porter is EAL Co-ordinator at the British School of Bucharest.

Second Language Learners in International Schools, by Maurice Carder with Patricia Mertin and Sarah Porter, published by Trentham Books, UCL IOE Press. Please visit the UCL IOE Press website to order paperback, eBook and inspection copies.

Source: EAL departments as centres of expertise | COBIS blog 

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By Arthur Chapman

Over the last year and a half or so, my colleagues and I in the UCL Institute of Education’s  Subject Specialism Research Group have been thinking together about schooling and about how children develop and build their knowledge. We have been doing this in collaboration with colleagues from research groups in Karlstad and Helsinki, drawing on differing curricular experiences and traditions of thinking about schools and schooling – work that began to bear fruit in the London Review of Education and that we continue this week through an open seminar at the Institute.

We are fortunate to be engaging in enquiries into subjects and knowing subjects at a time of curriculum innovation and renewal apparent, for example, in the Chartered College’s journal Impact and in Ofsted’s curriculum research. All of this is very encouraging – particularly in contrast with the enthusiasm for generic competencies and the breaking down of‘subject silos’ that was in vogue 10 years or so ago.

I worry about some contemporary messaging about curriculum, however: particularly messaging that makes too strong a distinction between ‘what’ is to be taught and learned and ‘how’ it is to be taught and learned, and messaging that models curriculum in terms of a contrast between substantive ‘bodies of knowledge’ and ‘skills’. Both are present, for example, in some of Ofsted’s recent training slides on curriculum.

These contrasts aim – and succeed no doubt – to do good work by, for example, drawing attention to the importance of a deep foundation of factual knowledge to reading comprehension and to the mastery of subject disciplines. If pushed too far, however, these messages may do as much harm as good – particularly as they become subject to processes of simplification that inevitably occur as messages are telegraphed through something as complex as the school system. There are at least two reasons for concern, I think.

First, subject disciplines are complex entities – not simply ‘bodies’ of knowledge. They have form as well as body. Knowing a subject discipline involves understanding questions as well as answers as well as understanding the kind of enquiry that a discipline represents and how it can be conducted. Crudely put, this involves understanding such things as the differing roles played by Bunsen burners and discursive prose in the sciences and in the humanities. It also involves – for example – understanding both knowledge and ideas about knowledge: understanding what ‘evidence’ is in history, the kinds of ‘proof’ that are possible when making knowledge-claims about the past and how one can establish such claims.

Too strong an emphasis on ‘bodies of knowledge’ may result in a neglect of disciplinary concepts and processes that are integral to making sense of information about the middle ages, about climate change, and so on. Focusing on disciplinary form only would be ill-advised – form without body is spectral; equally, however, body without form will, inevitably, fall apart.

It is useful, of course, to distinguish between what one wishes to teach and how this is to be taught and learned. The distinction is intuitively obvious but, ultimately, analytical – reality is messier than this. Coming to know history or maths or any other subject entails processes of reasoning – this ‘what’ can only emerge through particular kinds of ‘how’. Knowing that there was a ‘revolution’ in France – for example – means exploring forms of change and continuity present in a complex narrative of events and not simply knowing that ‘this happened’, then ‘this happened’ and then ‘this happened’.

It also entails binding together historical particulars (e.g. the Tennis Court Oath, the storming of the Bastille, the abolition of Feudalism, and so on) into a larger ‘whole’ (‘The French Revolution’). The subject matter that we want children to learn when they learn disciplines is integrated subject matter – not isolated items that stand alone but material linked through inferential bonds. What one is doing, when one learns it, is building a representation. This representation is not a picture or copy of something ‘out there’ but a web of mental connections forged through processes of reasoning and knowledge building. Whatever is possible analytically, in practice the connections cannot be separated from the process of making them.

Source: Enquiring minds: building a picture of how children learn to understand subjects | IOE LONDON BLOG


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By Hugh Starkey

While politicians and pundits tear themselves apart over the Brexit negotiations, it’s worth bearing in mind that European cooperation in education precedes UK membership of the European Union.

As the UK transitions to a new political and diplomatic relationship with Europe, the London Review of Education (LRE) is planning a special feature and has put out a call for papers that reflect on, celebrate and critically appraise ways in which education has evolved in the UK and in mainland Europe in response to opportunities offered by European cooperation.

The Council of Europe, which the UK played a leading role in founding in 1950, now includes 47 member-states. It promotes educational and cultural cooperation based on principles articulated in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), itself explicitly derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Council of Europe has influenced education policy and practice not only in Europe but across the world through programmes such as the Common European Framework for Languages and the Charter of Education for Democratic Citizenship / Human Rights Education.

As the demographics of Europe have evolved with the arrival of new citizens from former colonies and neighbouring states to provide essential labour and support, particularly for transport, health, social care and hospitality services, European ideals have been put under strain. A Council of Europe report identified eight specific risks to Council of Europe values: rising intolerance; rising support for xenophobic and populist parties; discrimination; the presence of a population virtually without rights; parallel societies; Islamic extremism; loss of democratic freedoms; and a possible clash between “religious freedom” and freedom of expression.

Alongside the Council of Europe, the single market economic bloc that became the European Union following the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 started to develop its own education policies. The Bologna process, initiated in 1999, aims to introduce a more comparable, compatible and coherent system for European higher education. Its focus on common standards for quality assurance has been highly influential in universities.

The EU has provided funding for research and curriculum development projects through its Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo and Gruntvig programmes.  Activities included university and vocational student mobility and exchanges and cooperation between schools and teachers. These are ongoing in the Erasmus+ programme that provides opportunities to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad and funds consortia or partnerships aimed at innovating and modernising teaching and youth work practices.

The European Commission also funds educational research currently through its Horizon 2020 programme and previously through its Framework programmes. The strategic framework for Education & Training 2020 (ET 2020) addresses the challenges in education and training systems and prioritises equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship; lifelong learning and mobility; open and innovative education and training, fully embracing the digital era.

Education and training in the digital era was also the agenda of the Global HR Forum, that I attended in Seoul this month, along with over 3000 mostly Korean participants. The Forum confirmed my view that citizenship education still remains essential in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution. In my contribution I noted many indicators that neoconservative agendas have gone too far, quoting the recent intervention from the head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, that the inspection focus on testing and examinations had harmed schools in drawing attention away from the curriculum.

I proposed that in our globalising world education for cosmopolitan citizenship based on understandings of human rights and particularly the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides an agenda for schools based on children as citizens now rather than future citizens. I gave the example of the Rights Respecting Schools movement where 4000 schools in England are working out the implications of this. Another contributor, Pasi Sahlberg argued for greater emphasis on non-technological dimensions of education to provide a critical counterweight to a digital obsession that has led to current high levels of children’s mental illness.

European projects have often provided an impetus for innovations based on humane values. I hope this will form a significant strand in the LRE’s forthcoming special on European cooperation, and I look forward to reading your submissions.


Source: Europe: educators across the continent have always worked together | IOE LONDON BLOG


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By David Lambert

Teachers, generally speaking, work incredibly hard. They work under highly controlled and high stakes conditions, and very publicly. So how do teachers feel about their work? Is teaching a confident profession?

I believe that the profession, at least in secondary schools, may have collectively lost the plot in terms of its core values and purposes. It is buffeted this way, then that way, and in trying to keep up it has lost its heart to the empty process of delivering performance indicators. I don’t blame the teachers themselves, but I do argue that teachers can and should take a more active role in curriculum leadership – a theme in a forthcoming special feature of the London Review of Education (16.3) which I have had the privilege of guest editing.

Recently, I had the great pleasure to spend the afternoon with some enormously impressive, mostly young, new teachers. I spent the entire time challenging their expectations, sometimes showing and explaining, often debating with them … as to what it means to teach geography well, and why this is so important. Possibly not the geography you remember from school. Maybe not even the geography they experienced as students. But worthwhile, engaging geography lessons exhibiting the highest quality engagement with knowledge. That is, geography that is appropriate for young people in this day and age.

Those final sentences are very demanding. For what exactly is high quality geographical knowledge? And pursuing this question with these new teachers ignited a disarmingly natural and intense curiosity. It was clear that they could see my point. Clear was their readiness to accept the responsibility of teaching, expressed as their role as the source of the curriculum experience of their students.

I can compare this pre-service context with my recent experience leading whole school workshops exploring the idea of ‘powerful knowledge’ across all subjects. It is fascinating to see the alacrity with which experienced teachers address this question, resulting in truly illuminating discussions about teachers’ motivations and sense of moral purpose. Without exception, teachers said how much they valued (a) thinking about what they were teaching and why and (b) listening to other subject specialists thinking out loud about their subjects.

This is reassuring, for the plaintive question teased out of the new teachers near the end of my afternoon’s work with them was heart-breaking. “This is fantastic, and refreshing,” they said, “but it is hard to see how we can apply this thinking to the PowerPoint slides and the lesson plans we are asked to deliver.” They told me that the ‘source of the curriculum’ was not them at all, but the materials and instructions on the school’s internal drive. In the same breath they made it clear that they knew this was intolerable – at least in the context of the professional responsibilities we were discussing.

How has the teaching profession managed to lose sight of its moral purpose in this way? I contend that one reason is that curriculum thinking, by which I mean the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of teaching, has almost been forgotten. Many of us grew up so to speak with the post-modern turn, which overturned traditional ways of seeing. Its impact was to undermine rigid grand design – such as objectives-led, rational curriculum planning.  Whilst not a bad thing in itself, however, teachers’ curriculum thinking has been a casualty. It is no longer encouraged.

But it seems that  Ofsted has recognised this in their new concern for the ‘quality of education’. Perhaps the government’s much-vaunted ‘knowledge-led’ school policy is also a post, post-modern response. It will be interesting indeed to follow the extent to which Ofsted’s widely publicised rebalancing will result in their making distinctions between high and low quality knowledge-led curricula in schools. And it will be interesting to see where exactly they see the responsibility lying for making high-quality curriculum experiences for students.

Some of these issues are opened up in the London Review of Education (16.3).  The seven articles that make up the special feature arise in part from the Subject Specialism Research Group recently set up in the UCL Institute of Education’s Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. We hope there will be further articles a debate on the rescue of curriculum thought and its significance on the quality of education.


Source: Thinking allowed: teachers must reclaim their moral purpose | IOE LONDON BLOG

Photo by Frank Balsinger via Flickr Creative Commons 


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By Arthur Chapman, Hilary Cooper and Jon Nichol

At a time of growing polarisation among politicians and the public, when people are increasingly entrenched in their views, and with nationalism on the rise – history is surely one of the most crucial subjects in the curriculum.

That is why a new journal launched this week by UCL IOE Press is so significant. With its online open-access publishing, the History Education Research Journal (HERJ) aims to fulfil an important civic function. History education is a hotly contested area of the curriculum – prone, for example, to highly polarised and embittered political battles over canons, personal and national identity, national history curricula and cultural transmission. Here politically HERJ has a major role internationally in establishing an informed discourse with politicians and policy makers who often have limited knowledge and understanding of history beyond its role in inculcating national identity, patriotic loyalty and nationalism, in ignorance of its crucial role in educating pupils to become questioning, informed and sceptical citizens of liberal democracies. HERJ’s educative mission is to raise the power and impact of public debates on history education by making high quality history education research findings and their policy, curricular and pedagogic implications freely, fully and publicly available.


HERJ  – published twice a year – will build on the legacy of its precursor, the International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research (IJHTLR) a path-breaking enterprise since 2001.

As the journal’s editors, we are delighted to introduce the launch issue, HERJ 15.2, which reports cutting edge research and development in history education from around the world, including papers from Australia, the USA, Ghana, Canada, China, Malta and Switzerland. Good history teaching helps pupils confront their conceptions and misconceptions, and to think afresh about the way they see the world, so the subject must be far more than a parade of chronological facts. Articles by academics from Singapore and Germany, examine how children learn to think like historians, using primary sources and interpreting evidence.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore used an incident from the Cold War to engage students in developing ‘deeper awareness of the ways knowledge about the past is constructed, and the central role that historians play in that process’. This controversial incident, Operation Coldstore, is one about which most Singaporeans hold partisan views, so using historians’ methodology enables students to see how different interpretations can be drawn about the same event. The authors advocate more widespread teaching about historical controversy to enhance students’ understanding.

Primary children, too, can use historical methodology to help understand the nature of the discipline, say researchers from the Universities of Paderborn and Osnabruck in Germany. Children encounter history every day, and even young primary children are aware of the way ‘sources’ – for instance swords and shields found at a dig – tell us about the past. So schools should teach the methods of historical enquiry from the outset, they recommend.

National identity, and how it is built and challenged, forms a theme of several articles. These include: The history canon project as politics of identity: Renationalizing history education in Denmark; History and citizenship: Does the reformed Greek Cypriot primary history curriculum include myths and legends that represent the ‘other’?; and how to ensure heritage education is inclusive from Spain and Portugal.

HERJ is launched partnership with the Historical Association (HA) and the History Education International Research Network (HEIRNET). As an international, open-access, peer-reviewed journal HERJ focuses on the global significance and impact of history education. It covers all aspects of history education theory, scholarship and research in its own and related fields. Overall, HERJ aims to illuminate contemporary and controversial history educational issues, concerns, policies and practice, drawing upon its eclectic research methodologies.

The link between academics and the worlds of policy makers, curriculum developers, assessment bodies, teachers, parents and children is crucial. HERJ is interested in articles and reports on innovative, creative and exciting practitioner, case-study and action research involving both teachers and academics. Contributions are also welcome on large-scale research or research and development projects aimed to improve history educational policy, curricula, their implementation, and, crucially, pedagogy – the history teacher’s craft. For information about how to submit papers, visit HERJ’s page at the UCL IOE Press website.

HERJ 16.1 will focus on history education research in Germany and Austria, providing a fascinating insight into extensive, well established, rich and rigorous research on history education that is largely unknown in Anglophone countries and communities. The HERJ editorial team hope this will be the start of a mutually enriching and rewarding dialogue between the German and English-speaking history education communities.

Photo: detail of mural depicting Crusaders battling Saracens, Clermont Ferrand Cathedral, France, by Holly Hayes via Creative Commons

Source: Making History: new journal will raise the level of debate on national identity, culture and the canon | IOE LONDON BLOG

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By Amanda Arbouin

I have just returned from one of the most inspirational events of my career as a black academic in the UK. The International Colloquium on Black Males in Education (ICBME) is a high profile, annual event that brings together a wide range of (predominantly) black academics. They share their research focused on improving the educational experiences and outcomes for black males specifically, and black communities generally.

This year’s venue was Dublin, Ireland and contributions were forthcoming from local Irish activists, who shed light on the significant parallels between the Irish struggle against English oppression and the black struggle against racism.

For example, Shane Curry, Director of European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland explained how the civil rights movement led by African Americans in the 1960s inspired the civil rights movement against English domination in Ireland. He described how Bernadette Devlin, an Irish civil rights activist, was honoured with a golden key to the city of New York by the Irish American Mayor Lindsay. The irony of accepting this highest of honours from the American establishment that was actively oppressing African Americans was not lost on Devlin. Consequently, in an act of solidarity with the black liberation and socialist movements of America, Eaman McCann, Chairman of the Labour Derry Party, returned to New York in 1970 and presented the key to Robert May of the Black Panther Movement.

Similarly, Irish activist and author, Don Mullan, gave a Grassroots Leadership Keynote that explored the activism of Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell. Douglass was a formerly enslaved African American at the forefront of the Abolitionist movement. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was a bestselling book that played a significant role in the abolition of American slavery. In 1845 he visited Ireland and struck up a mutual respect with O’Connell, an Irish nationalist who is also known as ‘the Liberator’  in Ireland. Both men gave powerful lectures that galvanised support for their fights against oppression.

These stories that link black and Irish anti-oppression movements could serve as rich material for a decolonized curriculum in the UK.

My own keynote provided an overview of my recent publication Black British Graduates: Untold stories and explored some of the ways we can begin to decolonize our British education system.












This would involve de-centring the colonizer viewpoint and injecting a more rounded world view that celebrates the hitherto hidden contributions of minoritized communities and individuals. In turn, this would

  1. provide minoritized learners with a positive reflection of themselves in the curriculum, so that they can experience pride rather than shame when learning about minoritized cultures, values and communities
  2. combat insidious racism by exposing white learners to counter-narratives that challenge the invisibility and negative stereotyping of minoritized people, which currently dominates our education system.  

The event encourages student participation, so that fledgling black academics can witness the revolutionary work that other black academics are undertaking in the struggle for equality in education. I was both inspired and disturbed by the attendance of an undergraduate who, following a refusal of financial support from his institution, became a student volunteer to gain free entry. His enthusiasm and delight at being part of this powerful display of black excellence in the academy was heart-warming, but he could not hide his growing concern as his travel and accommodation costs escalated.

What I found disturbing was the lack of institutional support. Why were no institutional funds available to encourage a high achieving, dedicated and hardworking student of colour to attend this event? Are we so invested in perpetuating narratives of deficit that we cannot bring ourselves to nurture black potential when we see it?

The National Inclusive Leadership Academy’s intensive training program for higher education (HE) leaders equips diversity officers, deans, human resource managers, administrators and academics with knowledge and skills to promote access and equity in their institutions. Dr Damon Williams from the Academy shared the quotation ‘Commitment without currency is counterfeit’. He’s right. We would not expect medical researchers to make significant advances without funding. Likewise, if we truly want to cultivate success among black learners we must invest in it.

It is time for our institutional leaders to make realistic levels of resources readily accessible for activities that can have a lasting positive impact on minoritized students. The ICBME event brought together a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the experiences of black learners. It also shed light on a number of successful interventions that are gradually moving that narrative from one of struggle to one of empowerment and transcendence against the odds. Some of these interventions that educational institutions can invest in include:

  • Supporting students and staff to attend conferences that centre black experiences
  • Building partnerships with educational institutions in countries that have a significant and influential black presence (eg USA, Caribbean, Africa)
  • Supporting international exchanges that target minoritized students and staff
  • Facilitating research that gives voice to black experiences.

The strength of these types of initiatives is that they would develop understanding of how black learners and educators transcend the barriers they encounter in education. It would simultaneously enable black students (and staff) to experience and model black excellence.

So, this is a call to action for our institutional leaders. Your support is needed to move beyond alluring sounds bites and rhetoric, to meaningful action. Internationalisation and improving social mobility for disadvantaged communities are high priorities in HE. If we accept that racism is a lived reality, we must acknowledge that black learners are deserving of support to help transcend the systematic disadvantage they encounter.

As I write, I am heartened by the news that the University of Glasgow has launched a ‘reparative justice programme’ in a positive response to research that exposed their massive financial benefit from slavery. The transatlantic slave trade is the origin of modern day racism. The programme will fund scholarly and research activities, as well as student exchanges with the University of the West Indies.

The University of Glasgow’s example should encourage other HEIs to do their part in righting the wrongs of our society. Black communities are made up of black individuals, and by supporting individuals in their pursuit of academic excellence we can support communities in their struggle for equity.

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By Maurice Carder

Spending a lifetime in the same career is becoming rare. However, it is what I chose – my career being teaching English as a second language. After spells teaching in universities, British Institutes and schools around the world, I spent a large part of my career heading the ESL and Mother-Tongue Department at the Vienna International School, secondary. Building up the department and searching for the best provision for the many students led to involvement with various curriculum agencies and accreditation services which, while at first welcoming input from knowledgeable and well-qualified practising professionals, turned increasingly to the models of provision of the national education systems of the Anglosphere, especially those of England. This led me to ‘dig deeper’ into how and why these models had developed. I was then fortunate enough to pursue an EdD (International) at the UCL Institute of Education, and the massive amounts of reading involved provided the answers I had been searching for.

It appeared that politics had played a large role in ESL provision in England. While ESL students had initially been given separate classes for specialist classes, various incidents had occurred in England concerning racist attacks, and the government was accused of separating races in schools. Thus all students were integrated into the same classes, and ESL as a term and as a programme was eliminated. Class teachers were now given the task of teaching ESL students while also ploughing through the curriculum for native speakers. The term ‘English as an additional language’ (EAL) was introduced in 1997, and the concept of inclusion was promoted, whereby no-one would be excluded and EAL students given ‘support’. Professional training for ESL was gradually eliminated, and in schools EAL and support were subordinated to the special educational needs (SEN) department, and taught by Teaching Assistants.

In an international school there are many differences from national systems: often the majority of students are second-language speakers of English; the host-country language is usually not English; the students do not have to integrate into the local community; they often return to their own country after being in the international school, and therefore have to maintain and develop their mother tongue; their parents are from high socioeconomic backgrounds, on a par with fluent speakers of English. Therefore a professional programme of second-language instruction, along with mother-tongue lessons wherever possible, is the ideal one for these students, as detailed long-term research shows that this is the key element for second-language students to develop their English.

Those responsible for curriculum and accreditation in international schools chose to ignore these facts, and found it more convenient to follow the national models of the Anglosphere, especially as a majority of the uptake of their programmes was now coming from that home base. Maintaining the professional model best suited to international schools meant fighting for survival: there was consistent pressure from ‘above’ to adapt to prescribed models. Incoming directors were largely native English-speakers with knowledge of the systems they had grown up with. In addition, ‘support’ and unqualified ESL teachers were cheaper than a department of professional ESL teachers, teaching a separate programme that seemed to defy the apparently unassailable term of ‘inclusion’.

A further marketing strategy has been to emphasise that a school only has ‘native speakers of English’. In fact, ESL teachers who have learned English as a second language often have greater insights and empathy for teaching second-language learners than mother-tongue English teachers. They have been through the same process themselves, and now belong to the majority of speakers of English worldwide – that is, those who speak it as a second language. They have also been reported as speaking more clearly. As Shin (2008) surmises:

‘Despite a great deal of training, non-native speaker teachers may be viewed as inadequate language teachers because they often lack native speaker competence in the target language and culture. However, non-native speaker teachers possess distinct advantages over native speakers including a deeper understanding of learners’ first languages and an ability to explain second language features in ways that students can understand.’

– Shin 2008:57

They also present more realistic role-models, as second-language learners will, by definition, never be native speakers.

Readers who would like to see these issues discussed in depth can read the new book, Second Language Learners in International Schools, published 16th November 2018.


Shin S (2008) ‘Preparing non-native English-speaking ESL teachers’, Teacher Development 12(1): 57–65

Maurice Carder graduated with a BA honours degree in Spanish (Bristol), followed a PGCE with a focus on ESL (Institute of Education); an MA in Linguistics for ELT (Lancaster); and completed an EdD (International) on linguistic pluralism issues (UCL Institute of Education). Between 1967 and 1981 he was teaching English in various parts of the world in universities, institutes and schools, and from 1981 to 2009 headed the ESL and Mother-Tongue department at the Vienna International School, secondary. He worked closely with the IB on developing various language programmes, and was an examiner for the IBDP. He has served on many CIS accreditation teams around the world, also co-chairing them. He chaired the ECIS ESL and Mother Tongue Committee for many years, organising several conferences. He has given workshops on ESL and MT issues at international schools worldwide. His book, Bilingualism in International Schools (2007) details a successful model for second language learners.

Published on the BERA blog on the 10th October 2018. For all the BERA blogs, upcoming events on every aspect of educational research and how to submit a blog visit

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By Phil Stevens

One of adult learning’s most respected figures retires this summer after 40 years of dedication to the sector, firstly as a mature student, then a teacher, and finally as Principal of the Northern College in Barnsley, one of the most prestigious adult centres in the UK. We can ill-afford to lose people of the calibre of Jill Westerman, TES FE Lifetime Award winner, who spent her career fighting for the rights of adults to have access to high quality learning.

Westerman is in a long tradition of fine figures who have defended adult learning against a punitive financial environment and political interference. Fred ingles, cultural theorist and great defender of our strange expensive institution describes adult education as:

… one of the most impressive achievements not only of national education but also of the nation’s democracy.

There are few more qualified witnesses than Ingles, biographer of Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart. Jill Westerman, and others like her, have both protected and extended the enormous success of adult learning over its 150 years history. Her career is testament to her commitment to the cause. Progressing from community work on a Hackney housing estate, to teaching literacy and numeracy in London, she moved to Barnsley and the Northern College where she flourished. In this sense she is in a line that runs from RH Tawney, Hoggart and Williams who dedicated their lives to what Ingles refers to as our militant tradition. These towering figures were no functionary bureaucrats but had years of experience teaching adults before producing a small library of books between them. Unlike these legendary adult educators, Westerman did not produce a body of writing to support her exemplary vision. As Principal of one of the busiest adult centres in the country she would have hardly had the time. But impending retirement has given her the opportunity to share some thoughts on the future of adult education.

In the TES (24 June 2018) Jill Westerman outlined what she believes are grounds of optimism for the future of AE. In an article to mark her retirement the Principal of the Northern College reflects on her time in adult learning, which despite the austere climate in which it operates, continues to illuminate our culture and society with its far-reaching and gentle light. What is interesting, and which links her to her distinguished predecessors is her thoughts on the aims of adult learning. It is this that provide her grounds for optimism.

Westerman’s glimmers of hope are based around her claims that adult learning can promote and extend social cohesion and social mobility. The claim that adult education can create social capital is held by many teachers, managers and policy-makers, particularly in inner-city areas where social divisions are most apparent. Outreach teams have been assembled to find common ground among disparate sections of our cities. Building on the idea of social cohesion being one of the most pressing aims of adult learning, Westerman further argues that the divisions in the country revealed by Brexit have triggered what she sees as a renaissance of this kind of work. These are grand claims for the sector. Should adult learning with its image of primary school classrooms, working men’s institutions, and echoing upstairs rooms in pubs have a moral duty to try to help resolve the problems of our troubled towns and cities? And, lastly, is Westerman right to be so optimistic?

In The Long Revolution, Raymond Williams argues that the modern British education system acts like a ladder. People go up one at a time, often pulling the ladder up after them. Nothing much has changed in the 35 years since Williams’s book was published that would challenge his account. The former Cambridge Professor of Drama proposed an alternative view that education should be seen more as a broad highway through which we travel together in a collective endeavour. This seems to be how Westerman sees adult learning today and in the future: as a guiding principle for programming, curriculum design and pedagogical innovation.

During the research for my book Rita and Gerald: adult learning in Britain today (2014) I discovered some outstanding examples of attempts to promote community learning and build social capital. One example should suffice. The Mary Ward Centre in Camden have an outreach team who work with diverse ethnic groups, health professionals and community activists. Their aim is to bring together diverse section of the community around adult and family learning, in this case through art. The project culminated with a colourful exhibition and activity day at the British Museum. I think Jill Westerman would have applauded the Mary Ward team’s efforts. And, of course, there are many other examples.

These projects are not simply community events, they are very much learning activities, expensive to organise and funded from income attracted by individual students on the project completing a programme of learning. The success of programmes like those at Mary Ward are what gives Westerman her optimism for the future of the sector. The aim of community learning is to liaise with external agencies and community groups to help ease tension in disparate communities and give individuals the time and space to develop. In this sense she is right, there is real potential for creative adult learning programmes that give purpose and hope to disadvantaged communities with a complex set of needs and aspirations. On the issue of divisions caused by Brexit I am less certain – this seems both too early and too ambitious even for the most creative of our adult educators.

Fred Ingles argues that adult learning makes the connection between individual sensibilities and formal arrangements for learning and scholarship, and of the moral imagination of society and life itself. This has been the triumph of our work, but the political and cultural advances of the past 150 years are in real danger of being lost. The processes of self-education and democratic access, typified by the heroic work of The Open University, are under threat. Adult learning is a vital resource of hope for communities and neighbourhoods up and down the country and is needed now as much as ever. At this time, we can ill afford to lose people of Westerman’s stature.

To mark her retirement the Principal of the Northern college calls for rigorous long-term planning for the sector in which her ideas can play out. We can sense her enthusiasm when she calls for:

… a national adult education strategy that thought 10, 20, 30 40 years ahead and looked at things like demographics, disadvantage, labour market needs, social needs, and the needs of an ageing population … a real coherent strategy.

It is too easy to be cynical and say, good luck with that. But Westerman’s optimism must be seen at a time when funding for adult learning has been cut to the bone and LEAs have lost the will and the means to support a service which was once a jewel in their crown. But she is to be applauded for leaving on a hopeful note – why not? She might have also issued a warning about the future of the sector, but that’s not her style. One might hope that this most energetic and thoughtful practitioner should be given the job of developing the strategy she so eloquently argues for the glimmers of hope she recognises grow into full maturity. It would be a fitting testimony to her contribution to the noble tradition and to an exemplary career.



Stevens, P. Rita and Gerald: adult learning in Britain today (2014) Trentham Books/IOE Press

Times Educational Supplement (24 June 2018)

Williams, R. The Long Revolution (1961) Penguin Books