Department of Education

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The department is pleased to announce it has successfully secured an Athena SWAN Bronze award following a submission to the Equality Charters Unit of Advance HE in April 2020.

This award constitutes external, formal recognition of the positive environment within which our department currently works and our proposed further developments in this regard. Our submission was a department-wide project and consequently we are grateful to all of our colleagues and students who contributed to and supported the submission. We look forward to continuing our work on enhancing inclusion, in all its aspects, within our spheres of work and through our newly-established Inclusion committee.

The award will be valid until November 2023.

To find out more about the Athena SWAN Bronze award, see here.

The report of the International Advisory Panel on Teacher Education in Norway, “Transforming Norwegian Teacher Education”, co-authored by Professor Alis Oancea, was launched earlier this month, on Monday 18 May 2020.

The report is the culmination of three years of activity, including a programme of regular national and regional meetings and events, of the international panel chaired by Professor Marilyn Cochran-Smith (Boston College, USA). It makes two sets of recommendations: one on systemic or policy issues, addressed to the Ministry of Education and Research and to NOKUT (the Norwegian Quality Assurance Agency for Education); the other on collaboration, capacity and joint responsibility, addressed to TEIs and their school & municipality partners. The panel argues that bold and transformative change needs collaboration; active agency of all participants; building research capacity for (student) teachers & teacher educators; enhancing the practice­ orientation of student teachers’ experiences; and efforts to ensure the sustainability of the reforms.

NOKUT’s Director Terje Mørland welcomed the report as “useful for both the teacher education community and the Ministry of Education. The advice will also be important for NOKUT’s further work on education”, he said.

The Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education, Henrik Asheim, commented in the press: “I am very pleased with the knowledge base this report now gives us” and indicated ways in which the government will consider the recommendations of the report.

The report, together with video presentation by each member of the panel, is available at https://www.nokut.no/arrangementer/lansering-apt/

Men have moved further than women before and during the UK’s lockdown, according to data from the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor – an online tool co-developed by the department’s Dr Adam Saunders and an interdisciplinary team of AI and big data researchers at the University. This finding potentially raises questions over whether this could have been a factor in the increased incidence of male hospitalisation and mortality rates from the virus.

The newly-launched Impact Monitor’s analysis, based on anonymised, aggregated and GDPR-compliant location data from mobile phones, provides a unique and in-depth look at life in the UK. Among revelations on life in the lockdown, the data provided by the project’s partner, CKDelta, shows that, during May alone, men moved 48% further than women.

According to the findings, men have largely travelled further from home than women since the lockdown began on 23 March.
After an initial collapse in population movement, both men and women started to become more active just one week after the lockdown began.  But, in every age group, men have moved more than women of the same age – and even, in some cases, than younger women. The research has also shed light on differences in movement by age.

Dr Adam Saunders (Researcher at the department), who co-leads the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor inter-disciplinary project, says, ‘To our knowledge this is the first study which shows differences in population movement not only between men and women but also across age groups during the UK’s lockdown. It clearly shows that men have tended to travel further from home – potentially coming into contact with the virus with greater frequency.’

Men in their mid-20s to early 30s have moved the most, according to the data. By 15 May, this group moved 54% further than women of a similar age.
Even more striking, men in their 50s have moved 28% further than the most active women, those aged between 23 and 24. Men in their 60s also moved 39% further than women of the same age.

As Dr Matthias Qian, co-leader of the project, points out, ‘The extent of differences in movement between men and women offers potential insight into why, in addition to the prevalence of underlying health conditions, men in the UK may have been most at risk from COVID-19. This is highlighted by evidence that many older men have been moving more than women of all age groups.’

The research shows that, in line with the Government’s recommendation for society’s most at-risk groups to shield themselves from contact, both men and women aged 65-plus have been the least active during the lockdown. But this group too began to increasingly move outside their homes by late March, with the gap between men and women in this age group widening on that count as social distancing has continued. By 15 May, pension-aged men moved 30% further outside their homes than women in the same age group.


The methodology that sits behind the Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor tool was developed through work undertaken in the department’s Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE). For more information, see: http://www.skope.ox.ac.uk/

By Imogen Casebourne (Research Student, Learning and New Technologies Research Group, Department of Education)

Over the course of my studies I have been thinking about mobility and place in the context of learning for work. Recent events have thrown some of the issues I have been considering into sharp relief.

Suddenly mobility has been hugely restricted for many, but not for those whose movements between places of work, or whose movement from home to a specific workplace are essential for society to function (even if at risk to themselves). Others who can only work in a specific location, but whose work is not regarded as essential at this time find themselves unable to work at all. Finally there is another group, who may typically travel to a place of work but in theory at least are able to work from home. For this third group of individuals place is, in theory, not especially relevant to their work, which, again in theory can be done anywhere.

But as this third group of people suddenly found themselves confined to their homes, it became very apparent that a formal function of place is to exclude some activities in order to enable others. For example, most workplaces, as well as most places of formal study, such as lecture theatres and University libraries, typically exclude young children, so that activities related to caring for children must happen elsewhere. Today, many individuals attempting to work from home also find themselves attempting to teach and care for their children in their home at the same time.

While the occasional intrusion of children into an apparently non-appropriate workplace context can be charming, as with the BBC commentator who was suddenly joined by his children while live on air, the reality is that households and homes are unequal places. Obviously homes may be more or less well equipped with technology that enables communication with others, which is a problem in itself, but they are also different sizes and shared with more or fewer people. This means that they afford very different opportunities to distance oneself from other activities and other people in the home in order to concentrate on work or learning. Finally, roles within households may be gendered and there are concerns that evidence from previous pandemics suggests that a prolonged period of lack of access to public spaces set aside for work or study during a pandemic may lead deepening gender inequity. For example, there appears to be anecdotal evidence that during the pandemic publication rates may have decreased for female academics.

These types of concern were quickly raised by students and other commentators. For example, final year students asking for the choice not to take exams online, on the grounds that not all students would have access to a quiet environment in which to do so.

Learning technologies have obviously been hugely important in enabling learning to continue through this crisis, and things might have been much more difficult without them. In the first weeks of the lockdown I was invited to online meditation classes and realised that I could take a virtual tour of many of the world’s great museums or national parks. Meanwhile friends started learning languages, taking music classes and educating their children with the help of online resources such as Khan Academy, and for the past weeks, I have taken part in daily live virtual exercise classes.

However, learning technologies cannot by themselves eradicate existing inequalities of access to place or availability of discretionary time, while unequal access to devices and unequal quality of connection may introduce other inequalities. For example, a German study suggested that individuals whose poor bandwidth had the effect of slowing their speech as it was heard by other online participants, might be perceived as mentally slower by those other participants. Perhaps with these types of issue in mind, some commentators on equality have added the term ‘situational impairment’ to their lexicon.

Today in the UK there has been a heated debate about when children should return to school, and alongside all important considerations about the safety of all involved, concerns about the potential disadvantages of online learning for some are rightly a part of that debate. If were to turn out that a return to the previous practices associated with learning at educational institutions remains unsafe for some time to come, a broader debate may be needed about other ways in which current inequalities might be addressed.

Meanwhile, for workers in the UK who are unable to go to work at present and have therefore been furloughed, one of the few work related activities that is currently permitted while furloughed is work related learning. Presumably, that would be demanding for those who are also home schooling, but it is notable that there has so far been relatively little coverage or debate about what, if any, work related learning activities this group may be undertaking and what their experiences have been.

Notes:

BBC Commentator interrupted by his children https://youtu.be/Mh4f9AYRCZY

Online learning resources mentioned in this blog

Example virtual exercise classes, there are many more

https://www.pranayogaoxford.com/

The Khan academy

https://www.khanacademy.org/login

Live mindfulness sessions

https://oxfordmindfulness.org/online-sessions-podcasts/

Online tours

https://www.timeout.com/usa/news/you-can-take-virtual-tours-of-americas-greatest-national-parks-on-google-earth-031720

https://www.virtualiteach.com/post/2017/08/20/10-amazing-virtual-museum-tours

Online language learning

https://begin.babbel.com/en_gb/multilanguage_selection_brexp/

https://www.duolingo.com/

General resources

www.education.ox.ac.uk/recommended-resources-for-teachers-and-parents-home-schooling-during-covid-19/

https://www.marchnetwork.org/creative-isolation

Related studies into work, learning and mobility

Bekerman, Z., Burbules, N., & Silberman-Keller, D. (2006). Learning in Places: The Informal Education Reader. Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

Billett, S. (2013). Mimetic Learning in Circumstances of Professional Practice. In Technology-Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, Practices, and Tools (pp. 85–96).

Cohen, R. L. (2010). Rethinking “mobile work”: Boundaries of space, time and social relation in the working lives of mobile hairstylists. Work, Employment and Society, 24(1), 65–84.

Jamieson, P., Fisher, K., Gilding, T., Taylor, P. G., & Trevitt, a C. F. (2000). Place and Space in the Design of New Learning Environments. Higher Education Research & Development, 19(2), 223–235.

McNeill, B. (2014). Time and the Working Online Learner. In Barbera, E., & Reimann, P. (Eds.) Assessment and Evaluation of Time Factors in Online Learning and Teaching (pp. 24–62). IGI Global.

Schoenenberg, K., Raake, A., Koeppe, J. (2014) Why are you so slow? – Misattribution of transmission delay to attributes of the conversation partner at the far-end. In International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (pp. 477-487).

Sharples, M. (2019). Seamless learning: Continue learning across locations, technologies and activities. In Practical Pedagogy 40 new ways to teach and learn (pp. 54–58). Routledge.

Wacjman, J. (2016). Pressed for Time THE ACCELERATION OF LIFE IN DIGITAL CAPITALISM. University of Chicago Press.

A selection of articles and blogs written in response to changes in working and learning caused by the pandemic

Pandemics and PHDs

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/coronavirus-impossible-mother-tirade-remote-schooling

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/mar/22/coronavirus-forces-medical-students-sit-final-exams-online?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/20/the-guardian-view-on-life-without-school-not-a-level-playing-field

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/03/feminism-womens-rights-coronavirus-covid19/608302/

https://www.thelily.com/women-academics-seem-to-be-submitting-fewer-papers-during-coronavirus-never-seen-anything-like-it-says-one-editor/

https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/04/30/53-of-americans-say-the-internet-has-been-essential-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/?utm_content=bufferfa650&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/women-coronavirus-2020.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/furlough-women-mother-parents-childcare_uk_5ebd2e14c5b6808d3fa35a13?guccounter=1

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/04/if-universities-shift-online-we-risk-more-poorer-students-dropping-out?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/04/i-cant-get-motivated-the-students-struggling-with-online-learning?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ulrikjuulchristensen/2020/03/10/what-companies-can-learn-from-covid-19-remote-learning-experiments/#6819857d2d94

By Ken Kahn

From 2016 to 2018 Niall Winters and Ken Kahn participated in the European eCraft2Learn project whose aim was to apply elements of the Maker Movement to STEAM education. The main task we had was to create resources to enable students (13 to 17 years old) to incorporate AI into their projects. We have continued to work on the programming components, guides, and sample projects since then. Most recently, two teams in India have each decided to build ambitious sequence of lessons and activities using our AI programming learning resources. They both have plans to beta test these resources with thousands of students. One of the Indian teams is also developing a very inexpensive, yet capable, educational robot. We are collaborating with them to adapt our software to interface with the robot. The team in Chennai was sufficiently interested in our efforts to fly Ken Kahn there for a short visit in February (when India had reported only 3 Covid-19 cases).

All the software we have produced has an open source license and the learning materials have Creative Commons licenses. Consequently, we only learn of schools or projects building on our work if they contact us. While we are unaware of any users in the UK (but in June we plan to introduce our materials as part of the Go Girl project), we are aware of users in Greece, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Spain, Germany, Finland, and Cuba. The Chinese team (led by Jingjing Zhang who received her doctorate from our department) launched a project and began gathering data from trials when the coronavirus put everything on hold.

More information about our efforts to enable school children to do AI programming at https://ecraft2learn.github.io/ai/

Congratulations to the department’s Ashmita Randhawa (Research Officer, SKOPE Research Centre) and Ellie Suh (Postdoctoral research officer, Rees Centre) who have both won places on a new programme designed to help social scientists transform their innovative and marketable research ideas into a business or social enterprise.

The SUCCESS programme is a first-of-its-kind opportunity run by ASPECT, a growing network of organisations looking to make the most of Social Science research through business engagement, licensing and ventures. Through engagement with the programme both Ashmita and Ellie will work to turn their research outputs into innovative social enterprises.

Together with co-founder Tracey Denton Calabrese (Postdoctoral Researcher, Go_Girl: code_create, LNTRG), Ashmita will develop and scale up go_girl code+create – a research project that works with disadvantaged young women who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) by helping them to develop coding and digital skills while also addressing their social, emotional and psychological needs. Through its holistic approach go_girl_code+create helps to empower its participants, bringing them back into education, employment or training, whilst also helping local authorities reduce the high number of NEETs requiring support in the long term.

Ellie will work to establish a social enterprise that supports the development of a web-based platform for the Rees Centre’s Cost Calculator for Children’s Services (CCfCS) – a research-based data analytics tool that helps local authorities to make informed decisions by providing analysis on costs and outcomes of care provided to children in need. Moving to a web-based platform will enhance the calculator’s functionality and user-friendliness, whilst improving its power and flexibility through an intuitive user experience design.

Over the next six months Ashmita and Ellie will work to develop their research ideas through the SUCCESS programme. Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts if you’d like to follow their progress.

 

Discover more about the department’s research centres:

The Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) is a multi-disciplinary research centre that examines the links between the acquisition and use of skills and knowledge, product market strategies and performance (measured in a variety of ways). Find out more about the Centre’s work and research here.

The Rees Centre produces research evidence to improve policy and practice in the areas of children’s social care and education. Its aim is to improve the life chances and particularly the educational outcomes of those who are. To find out more about the Centre’s work and research see here.

LNTRG is a research group based in the department working in the area of learning and new technologies. Go_Girl:code+create was created by Professor Niall Winters and Dr Anne Geniets from this research group. To learn more about the group see here.

An intervention programme to improve the language skills of 4-5 year olds who are falling behind in school has been found to boost their progress by +3 additional months, according to the results from an independent evaluation published by the Education Endowment Foundation today. The programme is the result of research led by the department’s Professor Charles Hulme and Professor Maggie Snowling (St John’s College), funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The programme is now fully available through Oxford University Press.

1,156 pupils in 193 schools across England took part in a randomised controlled trial of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention during 2018/19. The trial, supported by the Education Endowment Foundation, was a large-scale effectiveness trial, which tested the programme in everyday conditions. The independent evaluator found the programme to be highly effective and to improve the language skills of four- and five-year olds who are falling behind and boost their progress by three additional months. The evaluators also found that the programme was an effective way of boosting language skills for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). The findings have a very high level of security, and consolidate the findings of an earlier, smaller trial of the programme which found similar, promising results.

Commenting on the evaluation report, Professor Charles Hulme and Professor Maggie Snowling, said: ‘Our research focuses on children’s language and literacy development with a special emphasis on how to help children who find learning language and literacy skills difficult.

‘A strong foundation in oral language is key to children’s success in education and we are delighted that this most recent EEF trial of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention has produced such strong evidence of its effectiveness.

‘We hope that schools will be encouraged to adopt the programme for the benefit of the many children whose educational progress is hindered by language difficulties.’

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention is designed to improve the spoken language ability of children as they begin primary school. Targeted at children with relatively poor spoken language skills, it is delivered to groups of two to four children, three times a week, alongside some individual sessions. Teaching Assistants are trained by Elklan, a specialist training agency focused on speech and language interventions, to run the programme, which lasts for 20 weeks during their first year of school (Reception). Sessions focus on listening, narrative and vocabulary skills. Children were selected for the trial using an innovative school-administered app-based assessment of oral language skills (LanguageScreen), developed by the project team.

Early language skills are vital for children’s long-term success in education and other areas. Research has shown that children with more advanced language skills at the age of five are more likely to have better qualifications and subsequently be employed in adulthood compared with their peers. However, disadvantaged children are more likely to have fallen behind before school starts.

With current school and nursery closures likely to widen the early language gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, it is clear that the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, a low-cost and effective, school-based intervention will be crucial to closing the ‘disadvantage gap’ which will inevitably widen whilst schools and nurseries are closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Download the EEF NELI Project Summary and NELI Brochure for more information. The full report on the trial is here.

See the Nuffield Early Language Intervention being used in school at Our Lady of Muswell Primary School in London and Carmountside Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent.

Details of the published programme can be found at Oxford University Press.

Congratulations to the department’s Jeyda Simren Sekhon Ataç (MSc in Education – Comparative and International Education) and fellow University students Dhruv Gupta (Blavatnik School of Government), Charlotte Notaras (Department of Social Policy and Intervention) and Sophie Sikina (Said Business School), who successfully made it to the semi-final of the 2020 Map the System Challenge for their project focused on exploring the inequality of education for refugee children in Lebanon – a country with the highest ratio of refugees in the world.

Map the System Challenge is a global competition run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School (University of Oxford) that challenges systems-level thinking about social and environmental change, exercised through research and a report created on a global problem of choice.

An excerpt from the group’s report depicts the importance of this issue, both to Lebanon and the world:

“Globally, the number of displaced individuals is growing exponentially, with climate migrants projected to reach 1 billion by 2050. Per capita, Lebanon has the highest ratio of refugees in the world. In 2018, the United Nations estimated that one in five people living in Lebanon was a Syrian refugee. As of 2019, 58% of refugee children in Lebanon (approximately 385,000 individuals) were out of school and 48% of children (roughly 319,000) did not have access to any learning opportunities. Educating the vast numbers of refugee children in Lebanon not only constitutes a cornerstone to enable national integration, but also acts in the hope of working against promulgation of a “lost generation” and safeguarding the prosperity and security of generations to come.”

The interdisciplinary team of four students competed against over 60 submissions to secure a place in the semi-final, which involved a virtual presentation followed by a live Q&A.

This group came together through their shared passion for education and belief in its transformative potential for the world whilst on the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship’s ‘Leading for Impact’ programme – a personal development programme that aims to develop a small cohort of high potential individuals as future impact leaders.

Jeyda Simren Sekhon Ataç studies on the Masters in Education (Comparative & International Education) at the department – a full time, one year, master’s course that aims to develop students’ understanding of the factors that shape educational systems in different parts of the world and the research skills to compare policy choices and critically evaluate major debates, policies, histories and practices of education globally.

Commenting on the success of the project, Simren said: “There is no doubt that my time on the department’s Comparative & International Education programme has expanded my knowledge of the educational world and enhanced my critical thinking skills, all while exposing me to a number of perspectives. My Masters dissertation looks at the utilisation of technology for Syrian refugee education in Lebanon and so Map the System proved itself the perfect opportunity to deep dive my understanding of the context even further. I would like to thank Dr Niall Winters, Dr Yasmine El-Masri and Dr Ellie Ott in particular, who have all been extremely supportive of my research and helped connect me with people whose insights have proven all the more invaluable to both projects.”

To find out more about their project, “ Children in Crisis: The Challenge of quality education for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon” contact jeyda.sekhonatac@education.ox.ac.uk.

To find our more about the MSc in Education (Comparative and International Education) at the department, see here.

Photo courtesy of Al Zoubi, Saja. Lebanon 2016-2017.

In this new BERA blog, the department’s Niall Winters (Professor of Education and Technology) together with Paul Kirschner (Open University of the Netherlands) preview the content of two complementary virtual issues published by their respective journals, the British Journal of Educational Technology and the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, which focus on the role of technology in online education.

The issues have been published in light of the quick shift from traditional teaching and learning to technology-enhanced teaching and learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The papers selected address key issues in designing and implementing Online Learning to help those new to method to realise its potential for themselves and within their own learning contexts. It is hoped that these will be useful to teachers, lecturers, practitioners and researchers looking for resources that can help them design and implement online learning within their own institutions and settings.

Read in full here.

Access the British Journal of Education Technology’s ‘COVID-19: Online Teaching and Learning Virtual Collection’ here.

Access the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning’s ‘COVID 19: JCAL online distance learning resources during emergency remote teaching’ issue here.

 

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