Supporting Excellence in Engaged Research

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

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

I’ve recently agreed to take on a new role at the Open University (OU) as the Academic Lead for Engaged Research. I’ll be based in the OU’s Research and Academic Strategy (RAS) Unit for half of my time from 1st August 2017.

A key objective for my work in this new role will be to align the principles and practices of engaged research with the OU’s recently-approved Academic Strategy for External Engagement, in particular addressing the following aim:

“We will create new knowledge through research, scholarship and professional practice that meets the needs of external stakeholders and extends the reach and impact of our research on society, culture, economy and governments across the UK and internationally.”

Through this work, the OU will also fulfil its commitment to the RCUK Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, and the NCCPE Manifesto for Public Engagement (of which the OU is a signatory).

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Mission Possible: Milton Keynes students can handle the pressure

Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes

Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes

On 12th July we ran a day-long completion where five teams from three schools across Milton Keynes competed to build a water-powered rocket.

The challenge was organised by researchers from the Open University (OU), working with teachers from Denbigh School. Together, we sought to build on the success of previous competitions.

Key among the organisers was Alice Dunford, from the OU’s School of Physical Sciences. Alice is studying for a PhD in astronomical imaging. She put her research aside for the day to act as our resident rocket scientist, offering advice and guidance to the competitors.

Alice was ably supported by Vic Pearson and Richard Holliman from the OU, Leanne Gunn from Science Made Simple, and myself and Adele Makki from Denbigh School. These contributors each helped to make the day a success.

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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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