The Power of Research, Participation and Publication

The Power of Research, Participation and Publication (free conference)

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We would like to invite you to an event at University Centre Blackburn College based around some ideas from the recent publication, The Principal: Power and Professionalism in FE. 

Attendance is free but numbers are limited.  contact Peter Shukie at to reserve your place.

This will be a vibrant, affirming and positive event and we are looking forward to interest from any one with  an interest in Further Education and college-based HE, community education and adult learning.  Educators, students, community all welcome.

More details below:

Thursday November 30th 1 – 4:30pm (with lunch 12 – 1); Lecture Theatre, University Centre, Blackburn College


We are pleased to welcome five excellent speakers who have recently contributed chapters to an exciting publication The Principal: Power and Professionalism in Further Education.   Each speaker brings a vibrant and powerful energy to their experiences as educators working across adult education in the UK.  They bring a recognition of the challenges and what often seem Machiavellian approaches to how we operate our educational systems and do not hold back in providing honest and revealing accounts of what it means to be an educator.

Professor Stephen Ball describes The Principal as ‘ingenious, fresh and challenging’ and in this afternoon of discussion we will explore some of the ideas from the authors and have opportunity to ask questions and relate to our own experiences.   A crucial feature of the afternoon is the acknowledgement that all of us have a part to play, a voice that needs to be heard. The speakers will describe their own approaches to participation, include their routes to publication, the impetus for research and their approaches to becoming educator.

You are invited to come along and be inspired, challenged, involved and to be part of the discussion.  Admission is free for internal UCBC students and educators. All you need is an open mind and a willingness to consider your own approach to what we mean by learning.


Rajiv Khosla has worked in the post compulsory education sector for almost twenty years as an assessor, lecturer, manager and additional inspector. His current research is focussed on examining alternative systems of classroom observations.

Joel Petrie has worked in post compulsory education for over two decades as lecturer, teacher educator, manager and trade union activist. He is currently undertaking an educational doctorate focussing on leadership in FE at the University of Huddersfield.

Dr Craig Hammond was recently appointed Senior Lecturer in Education at Liverpool John Moores University. He worked for eighteen years across all aspects of FE provision at Blackburn College, and has published Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education: Pedagogical Tactics for Alternative Futures (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Dr Vicky Duckworth A former FE student and teacher, is a Reader in Education at Edge Hill University. She is committed to challenging inequality through emancipatory approaches to education, widening participation, inclusion, community action, and research with a social justice agenda. She is leading a UCU-funded research project which aims to evidence how FE transforms lives and communities.

Peter Shukie is a Lecturer at UCBC who has recently submitted his PhD thesis at Lancaster University based on open, online learning that exists beyond the institutions. Peter has worked in adult literacy, with excluded and marginalised young people, language learners in Greece and community and workplace education prior to his current role in Higher Education.  He is the founder of COOCS ( a free to anyone learning and teaching platform.

Abstracts for the afternoon

Performance management and chicken psychology – Rajiv Khosla 

According to Knapton (2017) even chickens can exhibit Machiavellian tendencies. In human terms the ‘ability to take the perspective of another individual is a complex cognitive capacity that allows an individual not only to respond to conspecifics, but also manipulate them. The most basic form of visual perspective-taking requires taking a viewpoint other than one’s own, sometimes using that information to one’s advantage. This capacity is often referred to as Machiavellian Intelligence (Whiten and Byrne 1997)’ (Marino, 2017).

Drawing on my chapter from The Principal: Power and professionalism in FE, this presentation aims to explore the impact of performance management practices upon staff within the FE Sector by making a unique (and possibly Machiavellian) comparison between FE management and chicken psychology.

From princesses to princes: a tale of collegiate FE research – Joel Petrie

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Once upon a time there was an underfunded and ignored educational sector called FE; commentators often described it as a Cinderella service (that never got to go to the ball). For a group of FE teachers and sympathetic HE researchers this Grimm gendered metaphor of powerlessness was unacceptable; so we collaborated on a book that celebrated the secret spaces in FE where teachers and students could be dancing princesses (a better Grimm fairy tale to describe FE). Later we realised that secret dancing was all very well behind locked doors guarded by a king, but we needed to directly interrogate the power of princes (and principals) – so a collegiate sequel came about. We discovered that researching and writing these two books together was a form of professional resistance to the undervaluing of lifelong learning; that it is high time our sector’s cinders are reignited; and that if we can do this, so can anyone else in FE…

Thus whilst the presentation will outline how these books came about, more importantly it will suggest lessons learned for an inclusive engagement in research for all FE professionals.

‘Knowledge, Freedom and Creativity in Higher Education?’ – Dr Craig Hammond

The consumer-based pressure for academic providers – such as Colleges, HEIs and Universities – to produce a standardised and equitable product, belies a reductive potential to dilute and quash the creative dynamism inherent to open, creative and unpredictable learning environments. Increasingly, a regimented, sanitised and technologically controlled type of spectator-based knowledge, cascaded through the ‘standard’ of Direct Instruction, serves to stifle creativity; the subsequent boredom and conformity can only serve to produce a disengaged army of knowledge-voyeurs. This is a problem – and one that we all should take seriously – as this quite specific type of tightly structured and regulated knowledge, functionally churned out, is anathema to creative and critical thinking. Such standardised learning experiences, based on the delivery of tightly controlled information, stringently measured and meted out to uninvolved participants, produces a mould for uncritical conformists. This does not bode well for the future; we are supposed to nurture and mentor critical and free thinkers, to tackle the intimidating problems of the future. If we wish to nurture, or become, radical and innovative problem solvers, independent and capable operators that can tackle projects and obstacles in new and adept ways, we must become and instigate the change that we wish to see.

Adult education / Literacy, (in)equality and rupture: creating transformative critical spaces for social justice – Dr Vicky Duckworth

The research pulls on a sociological and critical educational lens to contest the instrumental model and in doing so recognises the political, social, and economic factors that conspire to marginalise and silence learners, offering a transformative approach to adult literacy whilst also locating the model in an underpinning philosophy. Rich empirical data is probed to offer a justification for the model, including narratives from the recent Transforming Lives and Communities research project led by myself and Dr Rob Smith from Birmingham City University (Duckworth & Smith 2017, 18). The research offers perspectives on the relationship of the learners to the state and the social values which underpin this (Duckworth, 2013). The data illuminating a need to probe issues of symbolic violence and trauma, such as the ones exposed in the narratives of the learners in the studies presented, not as isolated accounts, but as expressions of the structural inequalities in people’s lives. For example, many participants experienced the misrecognition of certain dispositions that ‘legitimatize’ classed and gendered inequalities.

The analysis suggests that a different value position from the dominant curriculum, yields different approaches to practice. This is illustrated through transformative and emancipatory literacy, which derives its values from a libertarian, equality and justice base (as against an instrumentalist base) (Ade-Ojo & Duckworth 2014, 16). The findings expose how affirmative and ‘differential’ educational spaces involve a conscious engagement with learners’ biographies and foreground issues of social (in)equality. Adult literacy/education that creates a critical space for contextualised and emancipatory learning challenges policy and practice and empowers learners, their families and their diverse communities.

Action Research – The art of becoming educator through finding yourself – Peter Shukie

In this presentation Peter describes the ways in which his own PhD project was formed through recognising how our own ideas and motivations need to be embedded in what we do as researchers. Becoming Educator is a concept that suggests teaching might not be easily located as a series of professional attributes but is instead the development of often intangible qualities, of individual and personal factors that infuse learning with passion, purpose and love. Using COOCs as a basis, this presentation explores the value of research being something that makes a difference and starts with each of us, not only segregated groups of specialists.