Congratulations to Jessica Briggs Baffoe-Djan and Neil Harrison who have both been awarded the title of Associate Professor. Each conferment recognises their substantial contribution to and progress in their fields of research, as well as their high standards of teaching and supervision.
Jessica Briggs Baffoe-Djan is Course Director of the MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (ALSLA) and a member of the department’s Applied Linguistics and English Medium Instruction research groups. Jess lectures and supervises on the MSc ALSLA, the MSc Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching, the MSc Learning & Teaching and the DPhil Education. Her research interests derive from a situated cognitivist theoretical perspective and centre on non-instructed second language learning among adults.
Neil Harrison is a senior researcher and deputy director of the Rees Centre – a research centre dedicated to children’s social care and education based in the department. Neil’s primary area of research interest is around access to higher education, especially for groups of people who are disadvantaged or marginalised in society. He has recently led commissioned projects for the Office for Students (formerly the Office for Fair Access) and the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers.
The Conferment of Title of Associate Professor was approved by the University’s Social Sciences Division during Trinity Term 2019.
To discover more about Jessica’s work and research see: www.education.ox.ac.uk/people/jessica-briggs-baffoe-djan/
To discover more about Neil’s work and research see: www.education.ox.ac.uk/people/neil_harrison/
The Rees Centre and The Alan Turing Institute will be partnering with the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care for the ethics review of machine learning in children’s social care.
The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care commissioned an external review of the ethics of researching machine learning in children’s social care. This review accompanies the Centre’s technical work on machine learning and ongoing engagement with the sector on the acceptability of applying machine learning in the context of children’s social care.
The review will be conducted by two partners with deep combined knowledge of the sector, research and machine learning: The Rees Centre (Department of Education, University of Oxford), who produce research evidence to inform policy and practice in children’s social care; and The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.
The purpose of the project is to review existing ethical frameworks and assess their applicability to current machine learning practices in the sector as well as to identify specific complexities of children’s social care which would influence the ethics of using machine learning in the sector.
The output of the review will be recommendations for the ethical use of machine learning in children’s social care, for example, exploring technical and non-technical solutions to the problems of AI explainability, bias, discrimination, inaccuracy, and poor data quality. The project will include a literature review and engagement with the relevant research communities in the UK and internationally. It is expected to be available in Autumn 2019.
Vicky Clayton, Senior Researcher, What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care: “Machine learning is already being used in the children’s social care sector in the UK but without a solid ethical framework to help practitioners make decisions about when and importantly when not to use machine learning. We are excited that The Rees Centre and The Alan Turing Institute will be combining their expertise to provide a map across what can be rocky terrain.”
Dr Lisa Holmes, Director, The Rees Centre (Department of Education, University of Oxford): “I am pleased to be working on this project with colleagues at The Alan Turing Institute. We recognise the need for transparency in this area and welcome the opportunity to interrogate the issues related to the appropriateness of machine learning in children’s social care”
Dr David Leslie, Ethics Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute: “This joint effort to assess prospects for the responsible design and deployment of machine learning systems in the children’s social care sector couldn’t be more timely or critical, given that these systems are currently in use across the UK. Our work will include engagement with researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to ensure we deliver results that will encourage well-informed and ethical decisions be made about the application of these powerful technologies in real world scenarios.”
Care leavers’ transition into the labour market in England
This new study, led by the Rees Centre with the University of York and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, will be the first large scale, national statistical research to be undertaken in England looking at the relationship between care leavers being in education, employment, training or being NEET at age 21, and their earlier experiences of care and education. In addition, the perspectives of care leavers, young people and key adults in their lives on what influences the transition from education to employment will be explored through interviews and focus groups.
This research will be used to identify ways to better support care-experienced young people into employment and mitigate the risks of their becoming NEET. More on this project
Development of Investment Care for Sustainable Community-Based Foster Care in Jordan
Lisa Holmes is leading a new UNICEF funded project, in partnership with colleagues at the German Jordanian University, Amman to develop an investment case for foster care in Jordan. The project utilises the conceptual framework for the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services and includes a time use study to explore the necessary support for foster carers and children in placements.
Outcomes for care experienced students in Higher Education
Neil Harrison is leading the quantitative data analysis for this new project, led by Sheffield Hallam University and funded by Unite Foundation. The project aims to find out which care experienced young people go to Higher Education, who persists and where they go after they graduate. More on this project
Separated child migrants and care
Ellie Ott is a co-investigator on this new ESRC funded project led by the Open University. Researchers will investigate how separated child migrants and those involved in their care, make sense of, value and take part in care relationships and caring practices. More on this project
Following publication of the Timpson Review of School Exclusion and the Government’s response on 7 May 2019, Deputy Director of the department’s Rees Centre, Dr Neil Harrison said “Edward Timpson’s wide-ranging report on school exclusions has once again highlighted that children in care and children in need are disproportionately likely to be excluded, amplifying the educational disadvantages that they face.
We increasingly understand that a vital ingredient in avoiding exclusions is for schools to adopt an attachment and trauma aware approach. This seeks to understand the underlying reasons for young people’s behaviour with reference to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect. Informed by the latest research in neuroscience, there is clear evidence that these impact on the development of human relationships and frame how young people experience the world.
We are delighted that the report makes specific reference to these approaches and hope that their use in schools will be extended as a result. Given the strong evidence base assembled by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is perhaps slightly disappointing that the recommendations are not stronger.
More broadly, we hope that the renewed focus on behaviour – which is already being unhelpfully billed as a ‘crackdown’ in some parts of the press – will be research-led and challenge the ‘zero tolerance’ approaches adopted by some schools that just serve to marginalise vulnerable young people even further. We also note that the report recommends steps to limit the powers of schools to exclude young people and we welcome these.
Finally, we welcome the report’s recommendation that attachment and trauma awareness should be integrated into initial teacher training, as well as into the professional development of senior leaders. This is a very positive step and we are heartened that the Government has accepted the need to review the content, albeit without a firm commitment at this stage.”
The Rees Centre evaluated three attachment and trauma awareness projects between 2016 and 2018 in Bath and North East Somerset, Leicestershire and Stoke-on-Trent. These studies broadly supported a focus on attachment and trauma in schools in order to improve behaviour and wellbeing, reduce absences and support learning and attainment. Staff and pupils generally also reported that schools had developed a more positive and calm environment as a result.
UK examinations regulator Ofqual and the department’s Centre for Educational Assessment have this week published the findings of a three-year joint research project on the impact of modular and linear exam structures at GCSE.
Academics and researchers from both organisations collaborated on the project, titled ‘Examination Reform: The Impact of Linear and Modular Examinations at GCSE’. The research considers whether change in the structure of GCSE exams has affected standards, fairness, teaching and learning practices, cost, and students themselves. The project included a systematic review of existing literature on the advantages and disadvantages of modular and linear structures; extensive analysis of GCSE outcomes between 2007 and 2014, focusing on English, maths and science; and research into teachers’ views.
The research is part of Ofqual’s ongoing work to ensure that exam reforms are operating well for the young people who take them. In summary, the researchers conclude from the range of evidence gathered that in the current educational context, linear exams – taken at the end of a course – are more suitable at GCSE than modular exams. In particular:
- Overall, the literature review points to claims that linear exams favour longer-term retention of information and deep learning, whereas modular exams allow regular feedback on performance which can be motivating for some students. However, reflecting a number of caveats, the quantitative evidence suggests that modular and linear GCSEs lead to similar outcomes overall.
- The research did not support claims that modular or linear exams tend to favour male or female students, or affect the outcomes of low and high socio-economic status students differently.
- During interviews conducted between April and November 2015, and again in May 2017 following the introduction of the first reformed GCSEs, many teachers reflected positively that student performance could be assessed with greater fairness and validity through linear GCSEs.
- Teachers had mixed views on the subject of stress. Some expressed concerns about the potential impact of linearity on the wellbeing of those students who require additional support, while others noted that the elimination of the continual testing associated with modular GCSEs may reduce stress for some students.
Teachers and education leaders discussed the findings at an event in London this week that aims to further our understanding of the effect of assessment structure and policy on students in England.
Dr Michelle Meadows, Executive Director for Strategy, Research and Risk at Ofqual, said: ‘Teachers were concerned about the change to linear GCSEs when we spoke to them before the recent reforms. How they adapted during the period of this research has been impressive. We have been able to look at the effects of the changes on teachers’ practices, and many can see benefits to the introduction of linear examinations. They also report that they would now like a period of stability.’
Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Professor of Educational Assessment in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Our findings have been really surprising in a number of ways. We might have expected to see that modular examinations were easier, or at least easier for some of the groups we investigated, but we found no such differences. The comparable outcomes approach to setting standards has played a key role in this.’
To find out more about this research project and download the final report see here.
Department academic Sibel Erduran has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of Science & Education Journal with effect of January 2020. Her role will include the strategic and academic leadership of the journal as well as the day to day management of the review process for the 10 issues published annually.
Established in 1992, the journal focuses on research on the applications in education of history, philosophy and sociology of science and mathematics.
Sibel Erduran is Professor of Science Education and Deputy Director of Research at the department. Her research interests focus on the applications in science education of epistemic perspectives on science in general and in chemistry in particular. Her work on argumentation has received awards from NARST and EASE.
For more information about Professor Erduran and her research: http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/people/sibel-erduran/
Further information about the journal of Science & Education:
Dr Harry Judge, who died on Friday, was the Director of the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Brasenose College Oxford, from 1973 to 1988. He had, before his undergraduate studies, attended Cardiff High School, from where he went to Brasenose College Oxford with which he remained closely associated all his life.
That long period as Director, following twelve years as head teacher of the very large Banbury comprehensive school, prepared him well for creating the close partnership between the local secondary schools, the local education authority and the University, resulting in the unique Internship Scheme in which teachers in the schools were integrated with tutors in the department both in preparing future teachers and in researching their classroom practice. And that legacy still thrives.
Dr Judge gained an international reputation for his contribution to work on educational policy and practice, producing books on faith schools, comparative education (with special regard to France and the USA) and teacher training. He therefore was a frequent member of national commissions, in particular the influential James Committee on Teacher Education in 1972. Prior to that, he had been a member of the politically sensitive Commission in 1965, following Circular 10/65, which was established to advise the Government on the best way of integrating the public schools with the State system of education.
Dr Judge had clear political views on the conduct of education. In opposing the gradual political centralization of education during the 1980s, he wrote that the root error is that Government (any Government) should be in charge of education. … It is this error which is the cause and magnifier of all our ills. Schools are not outposts of the State.
Dr Judge’s contribution to education, through practice and through writing, is sorely missed. The funeral will be at St Mary’s, Kidlington on Wednesday 10th April at 2.30pm.
Obituary by Richard Pring (Emeritus Professor, Department of Education)
The department is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Julie Selwyn, CBE as Professor of Education and Adoption, joining the Rees Centre on 2 April 2019 to lead the Hadley Research Programme.
Julie joins us from the University of Bristol and brings with her a wealth of experience and expertise of research in children’s social care, with a particular focus on adoption and children’s subjective wellbeing. Her current projects include: ‘An Evaluation of the Regionalisation of Adoption Agencies’ in partnership with Ecorys, ‘Bright Spots: understanding the subjective well-being of looked after children and care leavers’ in partnership with Coram Voice, and ‘Improving the matching of children with adoptive parents’ with Adoption Central England. Julie is also a member of the National Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board.
Senior Researcher Sandra Mathers has been successful in securing joint funding for a ground-breaking project that aims to enhance socially disadvantaged children’s language skills. The project will be jointly conducted with Professor Julie Dockrell (UCL Institute of Education) and Professor James Law (Newcastle University).
Social disadvantage is closely associated with language delay and language delay impacts on social emotional and behavioural development and the ability to access the curriculum. Four-year-olds from the poorest 30 per cent of neighbourhoods are 11% less likely than their peers to reach expected levels in language and communication and 9% less likely to reach the expected level in social and emotional development.
Awarded by the Nuffield Foundation, ‘Empowering staff to enhance oral language in early years’ will build on the evidence-based Talking Time intervention, enhancing it to include professional development for teachers and their teams. The enhanced programme will support practitioners’ understanding and practice in relation to supporting young children’s oral language development. Taking place in the south east and north east of England, the project will begin in May 2019 and run until the end of 2020.