Moving school-university engagement beyond the role of recruiting sergeant

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Photo: Michael Francis.

“The science faculty in your local university needs you!” could have been the headline on the recent Guardian article about the RCUK-funded School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI).

There is much to commend in the article and in the activities fellow SUPIs have developed, delivered and assessed over the previous four years.

Is there a problem with the article?

I argue that this article is part of a wider discourse that limits how school-university engagement with research is planned for, enacted, represented and, ultimately, valued. But why should we care?

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Developing mathematical resilience in teachers

Dr Clare Lee, The Open University

Dr Clare Lee, The Open University.

During the academic year 2015-16 I worked with a group of 22 teachers from 12 different schools (primary and secondary) across the Enigma Maths Hub. I’ve recently published a report about this work (Lee, 2016).

The purpose of the programme was to support teachers in applying some of the ideas from research about Maths resilience to their practice and therefore to improve the classroom experiences of children learning Maths.

The teachers took part in a year-long action research project to introduce mathematical resilience into their classrooms. The teachers worked in pairs in their schools supporting and challenging each other to work differently and to make a difference.

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The Dragons’ Den of School Partnership Sustainability

The Dragons Den workshop facilitators at Engage 2016

The Dragons Den workshop facilitators at Engage 2016

A few weeks before Christmas we facilitated a workshop to discuss the benefits and sustainability of collaborative partnerships at the annual NCCPE Engage Conference in Bristol.

The workshop was developed and delivered by staff from the OU, working alongside colleagues from the School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI) based at the University of Bristol, University of Southampton and Lancaster University.

This post explains the planning, preparation and performance of the workshop, and includes a few reflective comments on what worked and what could be done differently next time.

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Mountains under the microscope

Eleni Wood, The Open University

Eleni Wood, The Open University

Unlocking the secrets of the Himalaya

I’ve always been a bit of a mountain addict, so when I began my studies in Earth Sciences, I was overjoyed to find that I suddenly had a legitimate reason for being a bit mountain mad. I discovered that, in detail, the geological processes responsible for the formation and evolution of mountain belts are fascinatingly complex. I also found that there are likeminded people, who are, like detectives, conducting research that aims to uncover the million year old mysteries of the mountains.

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Been there, Dunedin that

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

It has been a very productive couple of weeks in New Zealand. Thanks to my wonderful host Nancy Longnecker (and family) I’ve had a chance to explore the local environment. New Zealand is clearly a very beautiful place, interwoven with many cultures.

I’ve had opportunities to meet with staff and students from the Centre for Science Communication during my stay in Dunedin, and more widely from the University of Otago as we’ve explored aspects of culture change in relation to engaged research.

We have discussed aspects of New Zealand’s National Science Challenges, at a time when these islands and their citizens have been facing the very immediate challenge of responding to a series of earthquakes.

Collectively, these challenges require us, as science communicators, to re-double our efforts to create a reflective culture of evidence-based practices as we connect scientists, citizens and other stakeholders in ways that are meaningful and relevant.

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Empowering lifelong citizenship

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

In a recent post on the Guardian Science Policy blog I wrote, among other things, about the need for a vision for citizenship that moves science communication and engagement programmes beyond activities designed for ‘gifted and talented’ children and young people.

‘Cloned’ approaches to public engagement with research
In part, my concerns about this lack of diversity can be traced to research findings that showed how academics limit their framing of publics, purposes and processes when they plan their public engagement activities (Holliman and Jensen, 2009). My concerns were also born out of experience, working with teachers during my PhD research.

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