I am a Lecturer in Education Studies (Primary) at the Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language and Sport and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My first degree is in psychology (BSc), and I hold two master’s degrees: an MEd with a specialism in equality and diversity and a MA in Creative Writing. All of my degrees have been obtained from the Open University. In 2020, I began working towards gaining a professional doctorate in education, exploring the personal and professional identities of Open University Associate Lecturers who teach online. I hope to submit my completed thesis in 2024. My research enhances both my practice and my colleagues’ practice by highlighting necessary Equality, Diversity and inclusion issues and considerations that need to be made for HE practitioners’ professional development and pedagogical choices. Within Higher Education, I specialise in helping teaching staff to understand and implement relational, humanising, inclusive and anti-racist pedagogies when working with marginalised and underrepresented students. I am a member of the Black and Minority Ethnic Staff Network.
I joined the Open University in 2017 as an Associate Lecturer tutoring three modules in the six years from 2017 to 2023, E103 Learning and Teaching in the Primary Years, E103 Introduction to childhood studies and child psychology and E209 Developing subject knowledge in primary years. These modules are counted towards the BA (Hons) Education Studies (Primary). Within my AL role, I provided individual and group tuition, designed on and offline learning opportunities, provided detailed feedback on their written assignments, and provided pastoral support in individual support sessions.
In 1999, I began working in roles with children and young people, starting as a nursery assistant and moving on to youth work and peer education before settling into primary education. As a primary teacher, I worked in mainstream and specialist settings, working my way to middle leadership roles as ICT coordinator, PSHE Coordinator and Behavioural Lead in London schools. I later became a Behaviour Specialist and Intervention Teacher for children struggling to be in the classroom. I drew from my experiences as a specialist primary teacher in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and a psychiatric unit for this role. I worked with children with social, emotional, and psychiatric issues and those excluded from their mainstream schools. In these roles, I worked with multi-agency teams across education, health and social care to provide referrals, advice and training for the maintained, private, voluntary and independent education sector.
Since leaving teaching in 2015, I have written and edited educational materials for Study.com, Shmoop.com and Lyfta, using my understanding of primary and secondary education to write accessible materials that explain complex concepts to children and young people. I have also written articles about race, motherhood and education for outlets like Black Ballad, Huffington Post and OpenLearn.
As stated, I am a Lecturer on the Education Studies (Primary) programme, specifically focusing on chairing the presentation of E209 Developing subject knowledge in primary years and leading the Audio/Visual creation to produce E103 Learning and Teaching in Primary Years. Also, within my role, I create resources and training sessions for equality, diversity and inclusion, specifically humanising and anti-racist pedagogies. I draw heavily from my experiences as an Associate Lecturer to support tutors in working with and assessing our students. I began co-chairing the E209 module in the 23/24 academic year, working with the module team to support students and associate lecturers, planning for new developments, and developing new online content. I have authored content for modules in production, writing study topics and book chapters for the rewrite of E103 and the latest version of E102. I have also authored three articles for the Race and Ethnicity Hub on OpenLearn that examine the intersection between race and neurodiversity, and language learning. The audience for these articles is those working with and/or teaching children and young people. Finally, I am currently authoring free-to-access online professional development materials in the form of a free online course, ‘Understanding Race and Racism in Young People’s Lives’, which will be made available on OpenLearn. My scholarship within this central academic role has involved exploring student use of innovative technologies to increase engagement and the implementation of anti-racist and inclusive practices across the programme.
My interest in digital pedagogies has seen me attend many workshops, seminars and conferences to increase my knowledge. In February 2021, I used my knowledge of these elements of critical digital pedagogy to co-teach a professional development workshop for the planning and delivery of an AL Staff Development session titled ‘Transitioning from face to face to online tutorial delivery’ after a need for this was identified by two senior lecturers. This session was focused on developing ALs’ confidence in delivering online sessions and sharing good practices of online pedagogy. In 2021, I delivered a session titled ‘Making the best use of forums’. My session focused on addressing the barriers to participation in forums. In this session, I shared screenshots taken from my own forums and forum teaching techniques that had been successful and unsuccessful. I finished by asking ALs to set goals for their own forums, which they did. 30 ALs attended this session, and many took the time to contact me personally to tell me that the emphasis I gave to humanising learning in my session was ‘unique, new, and inspirational’. After the event, one AL shared with my staff tutor, ‘This was honestly the best session I have participated in. Mel’s delivery was excellent, and her enthusiasm and knowledge really showed. I appreciated her honesty in discussing the positive and rare negative experiences she has had, and I came away with lots of practical ideas. This workshop led to me being asked to repeat some of the content and tailor it for ALs who worked on the E102 module for the E102 End of Year Conference. The fact this workshop was adapted many times and shared amongst colleagues within various faculties demonstrates both the reach and the impact I could make with it. Further still, I used my research in this area, the workshop discussion with tutors, and my own tutoring experiences to contribute a chapter to the ‘Working with Tutor Group Forums: A guide for Open University Tutors’ devised by my staff tutor. My chapter entitled ‘Bringing the human online: Taking students beyond the screen by ‘humanising’ the way we work on Tutor Group Forums. Finally, in September, I used my knowledge to produce and record a 10-minute PowerPoint/MP4 for the induction of new-to-the-OU ALs as part of a series of induction resources.
My interest in the intersection of race and other social inequities has to led me to contribute to the field of education by developing educational resources on race, sociolinguistics and neurodiversity for articles published on OpenLearn. I am writing a mini-course on how children are socialised on race and racial discrimination. These resources are designed to assist students and educators in developing their understanding of complex issues in accessible ways. Based on the interest in my resources, I was invited to present during the OU Black History Month (BHM) event in October 2022. I gave a talk called ‘How we can teach children about race and why we must do’, and in November 2022, off the back of the BHM, I was invited to be part of a panel titled ‘The importance of language in promoting equity, inclusivity and diversity’ for the WELS EDI Festival. I have significantly contributed to inclusive and anti-racist approaches to assessment in higher education. I have conducted an annotated bibliography of key scholarly publications on this topic, which was used to update the assessment practices and assessment design of a level 2 module on the Primary Education degree. I also led a PRAXIS scholarship project exploring staff perspectives on anti-racist assessment practices within the ECYS faculty and as a co-researcher for the Access Participation and Success (APS) funded Black scholarship project in ECYS to develop a better understanding of how to engage with EDI targets around improving critical metrics for the Access, Participation and Success of students racialised as Black. The research team presented our findings at the Teaching Excellence research day in November 2022, which have been disseminated beyond the University.
I have demonstrated a commitment to innovative pedagogical approaches, including utilising the tool Discord in scholarship to facilitate student engagement through developing a sense of community. I have disseminated my findings to other practitioners through a report at the PRAXIS research day and to the OU Professional and Digital Research Group.
Peer reviewer - Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning
Member of Stakeholder Advisory Group - University College London & Birkbeck University 'Identifying mental health needs & pathways to care SAG'