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Critical perspectives on educational policies and professional identities: Lessons from doctoral studies (symposium)

Waller, Richard; Andrews, Jane; Clark, Tim


Richard Waller
Professor of Education and Social Justice

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Dr Tim Clark
Director of Research and Enterprise


This symposium, which showcases an edited collection of work by recent UK doctoral graduates (Authors, forthcoming), begins with a short introduction setting the scene for the wider project. It demonstrates the unique contribution of ‘insider’, practice-based doctoral studies in aiding our understanding of the rapidly changing professional and policy contexts confronting education doctoral candidates, their peers and the wider practitioner/researcher community. The innovative process of curating the collection is an example for developing early career researchers (ECRs) and maintaining supervisory mentoring relationships in the post-doctoral space.

The presentations feature original, cutting-edge, contemporary work in a range of educational settings from three graduates of our Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) programme and one Education PhD graduate. The collection itself includes 14 chapters co-authored by the ECR and an experienced academic, usually from their supervisory team. The doctoral graduate is lead author in all instances, with this process offering ECRs a supported pathway into academic publication; a series of workshops, seminars and writing retreats scaffolded its development and production. This symposium is the first ‘public’ presentation of their research for some participants.

The symposium concludes with thoughts from a leading academic in the field, who will discuss the contribution of the presentations and wider edited collection in furthering our understanding of the interplay between educational policies and professional identities and offer reflections upon the potential of doctoral studies to explore topics across various educational contexts.

Further Education Sports Lecturer Professionalism: ‘Freedom to play’ or ‘Do as I say?’
Jake Bacon
Performative contexts have sometimes created cultures of terror for teaching staff (Ball, 2017). This doctoral study investigated the experiences of FE sports lecturers, focusing on their workplace contexts and how this informed their sense of professionalism. Initial findings demonstrated that lecturers defined their professionalism as something externally imposed; a sort of ‘service level-agreement’ (Evans, 2007). However, a notion of ‘competitive mediation’ was subsequently generated, highlighting additional complexities when defining professionalism for FE sports lecturers. The research revealed how professionalism was heavily influenced by structure and compliance, but that lecturers often operated in ways commensurate with their own competitive sporting values, mediating these tensions (Wallace and Hoyle, 2005).

Teaching and Learning as Complex Phenomena: Implications for policy and teacher professionalism
Ben Knight
Widespread support exists for the view that teaching is a complex task (Schulman, 2004), that learning is a complex, dynamic phenomenon, and that classrooms are ‘complex systems’ (Hardman, 2010). Systems behaving in complex, emergent ways cannot be successfully ‘managed’ by rigid, scripted practices, but demand flexibility, responsiveness, and in-situ judgement. However, the development of teacher judgement, instinct and intuition appear only fleetingly, if at all, on professional standards rubrics and statutory descriptors of effective teaching. Discretionary judgement is implied, but rarely emphasised. Drawing on my doctoral study of ‘emergent learning’ in a primary school classroom, I demonstrate the importance of pre- and in-service teachers developing expert in-the-moment professional judgement, and argue that professional judgement should enjoy a more prominent, less tacit, position in pre-service ITE and in-service CPD.

Changing the Narrative of Mental and Emotional Health Training in Further Education: Explorations of transformational learning
Georgie Ford
Policy highlights the importance of supporting student mental and emotional health in FE, however there is a dearth of training and research aiding this ambition. As an Advanced Practitioner in mental health and wellbeing, I immersed myself in the context of FE change agency and developed an affective training model for college staff. Utilising Goleman’s (1995) and Mezirow’s (2000) theoretical frameworks, my doctoral study sought to redefine professional development by introducing transformational learning for affective education. A diverse range of pastoral and academic staff believed that FE student mental and emotional health support must not be the sole responsibility of pastoral staff. The study recommends regenerating the labelled ‘whole’ approach to mental health training, including universal and/or mandatory programmes.

Ball, S. (2017) The Education Debate (3e). Bristol: Policy Press
Evans, L. (2007) Developing the European Educational Researcher: towards a profession of ‘extended’ professionality.
Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. London: Bloomsbury
Hardman M. (2010) Is complexity theory useful in describing classroom learning? In: Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER); 23-27 August 2010; Helsinki, Finland.
Kitson, A. and McCully, A. (2005) ‘You hear It for real in school.’ Avoiding, containing and risk taking in the history classroom. Teaching History. The Historical Association 120.
Mezirow, J. (2000) Learning to Think like an Adult: Core Concepts of Transformation Theory. In J. Mezirow, and Associates (Eds.), Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress (pp. 3-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schulman, L. (2004) The wisdom of practice: Essays on teaching, learning and learning to teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Wallace, M. and Hoyle, E. (2005). Education Leadership: Ambiguity, Professionals and Managerialism. London: Sage
Waller, R., Andrews, J. and Clark, T. (forthcoming) Critical Perspectives on Educational Policies and Professional Identities: Lessons from doctoral studies Bingley: Emerald Press


Waller, R., Andrews, J., & Clark, T. (2023, September). Critical perspectives on educational policies and professional identities: Lessons from doctoral studies (symposium). Paper presented at British Educational Research Association Conference 2023, Aston University, Birmingham

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name British Educational Research Association Conference 2023
Conference Location Aston University, Birmingham
Start Date Sep 12, 2023
End Date Sep 14, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2023
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