RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy
Newman College is a small College of approximately 1,100 students, 65% of whom are following an Initial Teacher Training programme. Subject areas are staffed by relatively small numbers of staff who all carry substantial teaching commitments. Nevertheless, the majority conduct research. Research is promoted by the College in terms of finance and negotiated time. Grants for small-scale research (£3,000 per annum) are open to competitive bidding by members of staff and allocated by the Research Co-ordinator. Currently, two members of staff are working on a project of developing students’ writing skills that had the initial financial support of college funds and is now a Widening Participation project. Financial support is given for conference presentation to a maximum of £500 pa.
The College has a policy of offering research studentships through a competitive process. There are currently students in receipt of studentships in Physical Education and Sports Science and Geography. The research students have a supervisory team including a Director of Studies who is responsible for maintaining regular contact with the research student usually at weekly intervals. One of the many advantages of a small College is that meetings with members of the supervisory team happen more frequently than the stated minimum. The Director of Studies provides detailed academic support, including access to appropriate research modules. Research students have many staff privileges; they have access to Staff Development and Research funds (for attendance at conferences and presentation of papers), in-house staff development meetings and research seminars and Inter-Library Loans on staff terms. They are expected to publish and present papers at refereed conferences and are encouraged to run seminars with undergraduate students in the College. They are staff-equivalent in all social aspects of College. Time available for staff research is arranged within departments in agreement with the Head of Subject. Staff development on research related issues is organised by the Staff Development Co-ordinator and includes writing for grants, conducting research and supervision of research students. Interdisciplinary and single subject research is promoted. The Centre for Narrative and Story is one good example of where interdisciplinary interests and research projects are discussed. Regular research seminars are held throughout the year. Contributors are college staff, research students and colleagues from other institutions. The College is a member of a recently formed Birmingham Research group, which seeks to encourage collaboration between institutions for research in Birmingham educational settings. It is developing a Centre for Catholic Research for conducting research in Catholic schools and has a Visiting Professor, Professor Peter Ribbins. The College has a history of training teachers although it has broadened the remit in recent years to the provision of Honours Degrees without teacher training. All academic members of staff have a strong commitment to teaching that includes substantial contact time with students. As a consequence, all research undertaken has a bearing on teaching either for the training of teachers or for the academic subject content. The research group identified for this RAE in English is Narrative. Narrative has emerged as a strong, interdisciplinary focus, although it is not necessarily colleagues’ strongest research interest. The submissions in this Unit of Assessment derive from the work of Dr M Moore (Education), J Daniels and Dr Thomas (English), Dr M Robinson (Directorate) and Dr S Bulman (History). The interest incorporates the educational benefits of narrative and the exploration of narrative as an analytical tool. The educational benefits are explored through the work of members of the Education and English subject areas and from the member of the Directorate. Dr Moore’s Bookstart research, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, explores how the early introduction of narrative through giving books to babies enhances the educational potential of young children. The very positive results of the published research led to national and international interest and to the donation of 6 million pounds by Sainsbury’s to Book Trust (London) to enable the gift of a book to be made available to every baby in Britain over a two year period. International interest has been expressed by New Zealand and Spain. In addition, representatives from Japan and Korea have visited to discuss Bookstart and have returned to their country to introduce a Bookstart equivalent in targeted areas. Research on Reading Recovery and struggling readers has also explored the role of narrative in learning to read and in enabling children to write narrative effectively. Current research interests include an evaluation of a Bookstart initiative in one local authority and the effectiveness of Writers in School for the Arts Council of Great Britain. The research referred to here feeds into the work of the Post Graduate Certificate in Education and the BA Early Years degree.The interest in children’s narrative and narratives for children is also a theme with Dr Robinson and J Daniels. J Daniels’ research interest is gendered reading and popular fiction. She has explored what narrative offers in a psychological sense with the recognition of Vygotsky’s work (eg Thought and Language, 1962) in social and collaborative learning. Her focus is on children’s reading in school, girls’ networking, what reading offers at individual levels of experience and what girls at primary schools are reading. This has lead to an interest in alternative readings (popular media), for example, comics. These are texts that are not normally accepted in schools although many are read repeatedly, especially by boys. The research interest focuses on the multiple readings and meanings of such alternative media that have to be read in particular ways. The research has obvious links with the teaching of Initial Teacher Training students and the academic modules in children’s literature. Current research is leading towards the social pressures and accusations that children do not read appropriate texts and get little from what they read (published as 'Harming Young Minds' in Where texts and children meet, Berne and Watson (Eds)). Current research interests are Language and Gender, Young Children and Play and 18th Century writing for children. Dr Robinson’s research has similar narrative themes to that of J Daniels and connects with the same teaching elements listed above. She is concerned with the links between text and other media and the possibility of broadening the range of texts to make cognitive connections between reading and alternative media, for example watching television might be useful rather than problematic if similar strategies to those of reading, such as making predictions, empathising, semantic and syntactic awareness, are used. Current research interests focus on primary and secondary texts and the implications for inexperienced readers of encountering narratives in a range of media. Dr Robinson is currently the main supervisor for a PhD student nearing completion who is exploring narrative in different media in an Israeli kindergarten. This study builds on Dr Robinson's own research (reported in Children Reading Print and Television) and extends this by working with younger children and a wider range of media. The research considers the impact of the medium and discourse and children's understanding of, and engagement with, a range of narratives. Dr Bulman’s research has an historical focus and is strongly oriented around the structure of the oral narrative. The focus is not on word for word memory, but on the use of formulae. The narrative structure, such as in the myths and legends of Greek and India, has been well-documented and within and across cultures there are similar life events, clichés and formulae, even pertaining to real historical characters. Dr Bulman, therefore, researches narrative from the historical point of view as to whether the narrative formula is used to distort history by fitting events into the narrative structure and by analysing cultural, local and personal levels of interpretation. His History research student focused on oral narrative. The research enables specific analytical discussion to take place in teaching sessions. His current interest is analysing stories from historical and cultural interests and perspectives to determine their validity as historical sources and how they are used as carriers of meaning. He has a strong research interest in West African Oral Literature and History. Dr Thomas is a well-established and published poet who also has a research interest in narrative, specifically that of William Trevor, that feeds directly into his teaching. He is currently researching the place and significance of narrative in modern (especially Irish) fiction. Future research focuses on novelists and their approach to their art (for a collection to be published by Everyman) and other research interests lie in 18th Century literature and post-war literature.
STAFFING POLICY -The College is committed to taking young as well as experienced research and teaching staff. New members of staff are encouraged to conduct personal research for PhD award and to research collaboratively with other members of the subject area. Established researchers are encouraged to follow individual research, but also to contribute to any collaborative research within or cross subject areas. New members of staff appointed in the subject area during the assessment period have included those with an established research record (for example, Dr Robinson and J Daniels) and others for whom research had not been part of their previous employment. These have usually been appointments from schools, that is, teachers who have been able to offer appropriate professional experience for teaching Initial Teacher Training students. However all have had some experience of research as a result of their Masters degrees and all have been encouraged to start a PhD after their first year of teaching. Dr Robinson was appointed to the Directorate primarily for her managerial capabilities and experience, but the research profile was taken into consideration. J Daniels was appointed as Head of Subject on several counts, including experience of managing a subject area, relevant expertise in teaching and research profile and potential.
Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL
Last updated 17 October 2003