Farewell, And Thanks For All The Fish

This is a final well done message, and a reminder about submission requirements for assignments.

Full details of your assignments and how to submit are on your Moodle areas. But here are the key links so you have them all in one email.
–          And this is an exemplar.


EdLab Conference #3

EdLab Conference 24th March – 10am to 3pm
Agenda for Conference #3

10.00 Introductory Lecture: Assessment Orientations (Mark Peace and Mick Chesterman) Lecture Theatre 3

In this introductory session, we will revisit the assessment principles and requirement for the unit, and give some guidance on the kinds of forms that assessments can take.

11.00 Assignment Workshops

You will then move into your project teams, to begin to interrogate the substance, focus and form your assessment submissions will take. We want this session to give you space to actually get stuff done – so please bring along a device, and anticipate making a dent in working on your submission. Groups will report to the following rooms:

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House – BR 2.15 with John Lean
Early Years Explorers – BR 2.10 with Sean Mitchell
Environmental Play – BR 2.19 with Rachel Summerscales
The Language of Clay – BR 2.16 with Elle Simms
The Oubliette – BR 2.17 with Mark Peace
Mobilise Grimm and Co – BR 2.17 with Lauren Ash
The Game Makers – BR 2.18 with Mick Chesterman

In addition, we put on an additional workshop in BR 2.18 for students who have not engaged well enough in the process so far to feel confident in producing their assignments. It is important that you have identified yourselves to Mick Chesterman (m .chesterman @ mmu.ac.uk) ahead of the day.

13.00 Project Team Meetings / Working Lunch

The final hour of the day will be given over to project teams to continue any final development work on their planned outreach activity. Bring a packed lunch so that you can continue to work through this hour!

14.00 Ad Hoc Tutorials / Focused Session for the Students ‘Catching Up’ – 2.18/2.17

The remaining hour will be given over to allow further one-to-one support for students who need it, and for students ‘catching up’ with Mick to continue their development work.

If you do not need extra support, at this point, you are free to work independently on your assignment either in the spaces we have booked, or elsewhere.

15.00 END




Safe Guarding and Ethics of Project Work

It is a legal requirement that anybody working with children, young people or vulnerable adults is appropriately briefed on safeguarding. As such it is important that all EdLab students engage with this post carefully.

By its very nature your work in EdLab will put you in contact with external partners and individuals outside the university – and often, these will be children and young people. Whilst you should never be put in a position by which you are responsible for a group of children, it is important that you appropriate briefed and considerate of the responsibilities this brings to you for child protection, and more broadly for ethical and professional conduct.


The term ‘safeguarding’ is used to describe the processes and measures which are put in place in order to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults. This protection includes, of course, extreme instances of abuse and maltreatment – and the current legal framework was put in place in response to highly publicised failures of public bodies to respond to warning signs that children were in danger. Safeguarding does mean something a bit broader, though. The UK Government defines the term as;

‘The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’

(DERA, 2014)

This extends the reach of safeguarding beyond child protection to incorporate the additional aims of preventing adverse impacts on health and development, and the promotion of circumstances is which children can thrive through to adult life.

Responsibility to assure safeguarding lies with both organisations (in our case, with the university through EdLab) and individuals (your project coordinator and, importantly, you). There are some basic implications of safeguarding policy for you. These are very simple, and should not be complicated;

  • It is important that all EdLab students have completed a full DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have one, and our responsiblity to pay for it and to limit access to outreach activity without one. In rare situations in which it isn’t possible to gain a DBS (for some international students) alternative arrangements will be made for the student
  • At no point should an EdLab student be left in sole responsibility – the lead for the space you are working in should be the project coordinator, a class teacher or equivalent or the parents of children (who should remain with them at all times
  • If you are concerned, tell your project coordinator. One of the golden rules of safeguarding is that communication is important, and you should flag up any concern (even if you think it might be silly) about young people you are working with immediately with your project coordinator (let them decide whether further action should be taken). It is important to remember that there is no right to confedentiality in law … if a young person starts to disclose something to you, tell them that you will have to tell somebody, and then do tell somebody else, even if they don’t disclose anything.

At this point, we would like you to follow this link and confirm that you have read and understand your responsibilities regarding safeguarding.

Risk Assessment

Whilst the guidance above ensures that you are compliant with fundamental safeguarding commitments, there are additional responsibilities which you should be aware of. Most notably, you are responsible for ensuring that any participants are kept safe within the activities that you run for them. Risk assessment can sometimes get caught up in slightly silly rhetoric, but the fundamentals are pretty simple. The usual process goes something like this…

  • Identify all of the hazards associated with your work. This is anything which might feasibly pose perils to physical or psychological health.
  • Consider which of these hazards constitute risks. Hazards only become risks if they are likely to occur, and if they would be unsafe if they did. This is the process by which you ensure your risk assessment is both effective and sensible, by identifying the things that are most likely to need planning for
  • Finally, you should establish precautions which will be taken in order to prevent risks turning into genuine dangers. What will you do in order to minimise the danger posed by hazards?

Usually, risk assessments are recorded in forms that look something like this – and shared with everyone involved in running the activity.

Professional Conduct

Work on educational outreach projects also has broader implications in terms of your personal conduct. It hopefully goes without saying, but we expect you to behave in professional ways – it is very easy to accidentally damage external relationships if not, and this makes arranging future projects very difficult. Everybody involved, including the outside guests who attend your project work, understands that you may well be inexperienced and novice at ‘doing education’ – and nobody expects that things will be perfect. Equally, though, there is basic level of professional conduct which is expected of our students in how you conduct yourselves within your teams, and in your interactions with those outside the university. Critical to this is effective communication and reliability; other people are often relying on the work that you do, whether its your project team or guests who are attending your activities – and it is therefore critical that you meet your commitments and deadlines. It is also important that you keep communicating with your project team throughout the process … even if things are going entirely to plan.

Quality Assuring your Work

The final dimension of this blog post relates to the importance of taking every reasonable precaution to ensure that your activities and events run smoothly and effectively. As noted above, we don’t expect everything to always run as you expect (indeed, education rarely works like this!) – however there is an extent to which, with some careful though, you can plan for the unexpected. In lots of ways, this process mirrors that of safeguarding, in that it follows these steps (but focused on things that might disrupt the smooth-running of your work, rather than responding to danger)…

  • Work out everything that could go wrong when your run your activity.
  • Audit each hazard in terms of how likely it is to go wrong, and how damaging it would be if it did.

You can then prioritise responses according to this framework:


… In which you would have very definite fall-back plans to respond to anything red (high likelihood and high impact), and be aware of the possibility of anything yellow. The stuff in green, can be fairly safely deprioritised to give more space to focus on the more risky stuff.

EdLab Conference #2

Welcome back to university, and the next phase of your EdLab engagement. In the first conference in December, project teams met to begin to generate possible ideas and directions – and you should have sustained this work, with support through your project coordinators blog – since this point. Our next conference will take place this Saturday (13th) between 10 and 3. Through this day, you will start to form some more concrete plans for the development and execution of your projects, set some milestones and establish responsibilities for the delivery of them.

The agenda for the day will take the following structure:

9.45 – Arrival

10.00 – Keynote: The Seven Deadly Sins of Education – Mark Peace (Lecture Theatre 3)

10.45 – Project Workshops

  • The Oubliette – 2.18
  • Elizabeth Gaskell’s House – 2.17
  • Mobilise Grimm and Co –  2.16
  • Environmental Play –  2.15
  • Early Years Explorers – 2.19
  • The Language of Clay – 2.31
  • The Game Makers – 2.07

12.00 – Working lunch: During this hour, you should work independently in support of tasks developing your project. In addition, the following workshops are available.

  • 12.00 to 12.30: Support with blogging – 3.68 
  • 12.30 to 13.00: Applying for Teacher Training (third year students only) – 2.18

13.00 – Project Workshops (various rooms)

  • The Oubliette – 2.18
  • Elizabeth Gaskell’s House- 2.17
  • Mobilise Grimm and Co – 2.16
  • Environmental Play –  2.15
  • Early Years Explorers – 2.19
  • The Language of Clay – 2.31
  • The Game Makers – 2.07

14.30 – Plenary: Briefing on your assessed work (Juliette Wilson Thomas) – LT3

Important: Please make sure that you have undertaken any preparatory tasks for your project ahead of this day.


How Does Reading Fit In

In previous posts, we have discussed the pedagogy that underpins EdLab – the ways in which it encourages you to generate theoretical understandings of education on the basis of your enacted experiences running projects. There is no pre-defined knowledge, and you are not expected to demonstrate any specific understandings of content or ideas – what matters is the way in which you develop a rigorous and critical sense of what it is you are producing through your projects.

This is, however, not to say that we do not expect you to undertake outside reading in support of the unit. In part, this will take the form of sleuthing other educational initiatives from which you can take inspiration. It should, however, also involve more conventional academic reading which should be used to inspire deeper analysis of the work that you do, and provide languages to talk about that work in more sophisticated ways. Here are some quick and dirty tips for engaging with reading in ways which will support the EdLab process;

  • Its not what it says, its what it makes you think. Try to avoid an impulse to be able to describe what the author is saying verbatim. Instead, find bits of the writing that make you think things (particularly if they affect how you are thinking about your project).
  • One sentence is enough. Often, students find themselves trying to respond to the whole paper. In some cases, this is appropriate – but equally it might be that one particular thing that the author says (it might even be just one statement) is enough to provoke a useful response.
  • Don’t punish yourself. If you are finding reading hard going, don’t blame yourself! Often, it’s because it is dense (and badly written). Don’t read and reread the same paragraph over and over again if you don’t understand it – read on, and find the bit that does talk to you.
  • Stop and write – particularly if you find yourself struck by a thought. Don’t lose that thinking by finishing the paper; go and write a blog post which starts with a quote from the article, and proceeds with a brain-dump of your thoughts. Then finish the paper.

In the next post, your project coordinator will share a couple of sources that might get you started in this process … but do try to do some independent hunting for sources too!

Interrogating Pedagogy


Pedagogy is the word that educationalists use to describe the relationships between the approach that teachers use (and the strategies and structures they employ) and the conceptual underpinnings of those approaches. These foundations are made up of all sorts of theoretical influences – including the teacher’s political/ethical commitments; their philosophical and empirical position on the qualities of effective teaching and learning, together with ‘big theories’ which have influenced that thinking. Interrogating ‘pedagogy’ and your own pedagogic positions is, therefore, a critical feature of development as an educational professional. To extend your thinking about the nature of pedagogy further, you might want to read the following online article, and pursue some of the readings identified in its bibliography:

Smith, Mark (2012). What is Pedagogy. Infed.org

EdLab has a Pedagogy

The work we do (and you do) as part of EdLab is also underpinned by particular pedagogies. Most fundamentally, it is about doing things – we evaluate our success, in part, on the basis of having created engaging and exciting educational experiences for our local communities. But it is also about thinking about things; about using your experience ‘doing stuff’ as a means to generated situated understandings of what education is and does and can or could b

This positions the relationship between theory and practice in a particular way – and this carries implications for how you should think about your learning (and how we have to assess that learning). It disrupts a pretty dominant theory-to-practice convention – in which you’d be taught some ‘big ideas’, expected to demonstrate a competence in them and only then apply them to practice (incidentally, think about the apprenticeship model of a degree in these terms). This is based in on a mind-to-body construct of the learner – something that the emphasis on enactment in EdLab rejects. Instead, we think you can do stuff, and that the act of doing allows particular understandings to coalesce and emerge.

This doesn’t negate the importance of theory, of course; it is absolutely critical that you leave the unit not just with a warm feeling of having done nice things, but also with some critical ideas about what education can be. You need to be active in producing theory as you go along, reflecting on your activity in order to arrive at some transferable positions and understandings. The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire puts this really nicely;

Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

The importance of student-level theorising does not, of course, negate the value of big external theory – or reading the thoughts of others. This becomes critical as a mechanism to enhance and extend your own thinking – in ways we will explore later in the course.

This positioning then, brings with it expectations of you – but also of us. It means that we’re not really looking for ‘facsimile’  in our assessments. In other words, we don’t need to see that you have understood any particular theory or idea. What is more important is the productive elements – the ideas you have generated, and the ways they interact with a broader community of thinkers practitioners. Of course, some people may well see this not very innovative at all … it sounds a bit like a description of how academic communities are meant to operate.

Task #2: Reflection Activity

With all of this in mind, now is a good time to start to think about your own pedagogy – about the kinds of commitments and orientations you may have as a practitioners. We would like you to produce a blog post exploring this in reference to the project with which you are involved. What kinds of quality of educational experience are you hoping to deliver? How do these things correspond to your commitments and principles about what education can and should be in general.

In producing this blog post, we do not expect evidence of extended reading. However, it might be helpful to find some educational thinkers who have ideas which seem to resonate with your own commitments. Here is a useful source to support this;

Palmer et al. (2001). Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey. London: Routledge.