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Research Projects

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Michelle Edmondson

I am recruiting participants for my research project which forms part of my MSc in Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. The purpose of the study is to consider the identities which are created and maintained by those who speak up, and how people interpret power as part of their motivation for speaking up. The project will provide suggestions for organisations to learn from stories within the UK education sector, which could benefit their speak up cultures.

I am inviting those working or volunteering within the UK education sector to take part in this study. To participate you should have at least one of the following:

  • Past (not current) experience of speaking up
  • Past experience of being part of a speaking up investigation
  • Past experience of observing speaking up in an organisation
  • Past or current experience of working on policies and practices of speaking up

Those currently in an active speak up situation should not participate.

The method is to write a story of your experience circa 500-1000 words, which may take up to an hour. Guidance will be provided. There is an option to follow this with a research interview if you additionally consent to this. Participants can access the survey here to provide a fully anonymous submission or can email for more information at medmon02@student.bbk.ac.uk

This study has received ethics approach from Birkbeck and all responses will be confidential and anonymous.

Paul Maiden, Curriculum Leader, King Edward VI Sixth Form College

What’s the idea?

Using guiding metacognitive principles as a basis for planning lessons, rather than topics and subject content, has potential to improve
student motivation. This guide offers practical suggestions for embedding metacognition in the classroom, and the benefits which a small-scale study suggested this could bring.

What does it mean?

The EEF (2018) find metacognition to be the most effective way in which schools and colleges can improve student progress, with a high amount of data supporting this view, and a relatively low cost of implementation. In their research into initial teacher education, the DfE (2020) note that the most successful training providers value a depth of focus on key concepts rather than a superficial coverage of the teachers’ standards, which can in less successful providers lead to a ‘toolbox’ approach. Quigley and Stringer (2018) define metacognition for students as requiring knowledge of themselves as learners, knowledge of appropriate strategies to employ, and knowledge of the task set. They argue that metacognition as a result of reviewing and monitoring their own understanding, then feeds in to their planning to improve their overall understanding going forwards.

How does it work in practice?

Introducing the eight guiding principles to classes, and referencing these, and how they would be developed each lesson, led to
ongoing meaningful conversations around metacognition with my own groups. By asking four trainee teachers to plan one lesson around a ‘toolbox’ approach to demonstrating each teaching standard, and a second, with the same group, around these eight principles, the benefits and drawbacks of each style of planning for trainee teachers and their students could be monitored. The trainee teachers agreed the principles-based lesson was more enjoyable for students, for them to plan, and more effective in preparing students for life after college. The only area where the standards-based lesson was preferred was in preparing students for formal assessments.

Students rated the principles-based lesson as more effective for each criterion by which it was measured. The principles-based lesson was rated most significantly ahead of the standards-based lesson in building students’ intrinsic motivation in the subject concerned. When the criteria by which the lessons would be judged were put to a vote for students and staff, the relative importance attached to building intrinsic motivation also had the biggest difference in perceived importance between the two groups. Students rated this as the most
important criterion of all; for staff, it was seventh. By planning more explicitly around metacognitive principles, the research suggests, we can improve trainee teachers’ experience and also improve the learning experience for students – most significantly, in the area which they perceive as most important: building intrinsic motivation.

Want to know more?

Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Building Great Teachers? Initial Teacher Education Curriculum Research: Phase 2. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/initialteacher-education-curriculum-research/building-great-teachers (accessed 23 April 2021).
• Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) (2018) Teaching and Learning Toolkit. Available at: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/%20teaching-learning-toolkit/ (accessed 23 April 2021).
• Quigley A and Stringer E (2018) Making Sense of Metacognition. Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/quigley-stringer-making-sense-metacognition/ (accessed 21 April 2021).

Scott Buckler and Harriet Moore, Holy Trinity School, UK

What’s the idea?

Shinrin-yoku is translated as ‘forest breathing/bathing’ and was developed in Japan during the 1980s, integrating the senses through mindful practice, while immersed in a forest environment (Hansen et al., 2017). The Chinese character for ‘mindfulness’ comprises five characters: eyes, ears, heart and mind, along with undivided attention, all of which encompass how to engage with shinrin-yoku.

What does it mean?

The difference between shinrinyoku and just going for a walk is that the former is a purposeful, mindful engagement through specific guided intervention focusing on the senses. Research has demonstrated that shinrin-yoku is a way to reduce both educators’ burnout and students’ biological stress response. Specifically, shinrin-yoku:

  • reduces blood pressure while increasing heart rate
  • reduces anxiety, acute and chronic stress, also chronic depression
  • enhances spiritual wellbeing, such as Maslow’s ‘plateau experience’.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, restrictions on normal recreational activities, and concerns about student and staff wellbeing, engaging with shinrin-yoku is a high value, limited cost, activity which can be engaged with in local green spaces such as parks or wooded areas.

How does it work in practice?

While there is no set criteria for shinrin-yoku engagement, through synthesising research from numerous resources, some suggested activities are provided below:

First 10 minutes: Walk in silence while focusing on breathing naturally. This helps to calm the mind, settle
thoughts, and orientate to the time in the forest environment. Focus on how you are moving, how your muscles work in unison, etc.

Mindful exercise 1: Focus on mindful breathing. As you breathe in, say in your mind the word, ‘calm’. As you breathe out, say in your mind the word, ‘relax’. Repeat this at least nine times. As you breathe in, be aware of what you can smell.

Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk in silence, again focusing on breathing. Focus your attention on the path, bushes, trees, leaves, what you can see in the distance, what you can see close up.

Mindful exercise 2: Open awareness. Stop and focus on one tree, the shape, the formation of the branches, the texture of the bark, the shape of the leaves. Expand your perspective to how that tree sits among many others. Be aware of what thoughts, images, impressions, feelings, come to mind. Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk in silence, again focusing on your breathing. Focus your attention on what you can hear: the wind gentling rustling through the leaves, birdsong, scuttling in the bushes, and so forth.

Mindful exercise 3: Pebble meditation (click on link below for further information).

Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk insilence, focusing on your breathing. Just ‘be’ in the moment. Send compassionate thoughts, to others you know, perhaps someone you have passed, etc., then expand this to a wider concept of humanity.

Want to know more?

• A detailed programme used for the research may be found here.

• Hansen, M.M., Jones, R. and Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy: A state-of-the-art review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 851.

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