Superman was a foundling: art that draws on childhood

2Angela Barrett, Snow White’s Mother, 1991 @ Angela Barrett

Heather Elliott

Superman was a foundling.  Ann Shirley was adopted. James Bond was fostered. The poet, Lemn Sissay, who spent some of his teenage years in care, has covered the walls of the cafe of the Thomas Coram Foundling Museum with the names of fictional heroes who grew up outside nuclear families. This work is the starting point for the museum’s current exhibition, Drawing on Childhood, which explores why literature’s most beloved sons and daughters are all alone in the world. The show is bookended by illustrations of foundlings Tom Jones and Jacqueline Wilson’s Dustbin Baby, taking in along the way Rapunzel and Snow White, Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, Roald Dahl’s  James Trotter  and Harry Potter.

The Foundling Hospital was established by Thomas Coram in 1739 as a home for London’s abandoned children and the museum is the perfect setting for this exhibition. It also has a special connection with the Institute of Education. Our Thomas Coram Research Unit has been researching children in the city and the institutions and families who care for them for 40 years. We focus, in particular on the marginalised and displaced and how their lives are storied, children who are migrants and who are in care, for example, or living in poverty. 

The Foundling Museum Cafe featuring Lemn's Sissay's mural 'Superman was a Foundling' (c) The Foundling Museum

Lemn Sissay’s mural Superman was a Foundling

Coram’s campaigning concern for London’s children is reflected in the exhibition, too.  Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Social sciences and social policy, Uncategorized

What is the point of comparative studies?

aurora borealis

Brian Creese. 

I was recently complaining bitterly to friends about the refusal of government to actually view any research evidence before embarking on some huge innovation which will disrupt the lives of teachers, parents and children without the slightest idea if it is actually going to work. I was surprised when a highly intelligent, well-informed friend simply shrugged off the idea of evaluations in education, particularly comparative studies. “Too complicated, can’t be done…”

That brought me up short. I admit that much educational research leaves me a bit queasy; I used to squirm when speakers confidently proclaimed that ‘on average’ people with Level 2 numeracy earn £5,000 a year more than those with lower qualifications. While this may well be ‘true’, there is no causal link; if you pass GCSE maths no-one is going to come along and give you a pay rise – though as a result of this you may, in time, achieve higher pay than you would have done otherwise (though again, that is impossible to prove). Untangling the complexities of lives is a constant problem for all involved in social science research.

Comparison studies are  complex in a different way. In the research into the impact of curricula in nine ‘high achieving’ jurisdictions, led by Dr Tina Isaacs and funded by the Read more ›

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Posted in Evidence-based policy, International comparisons

Research into practice: a 5-point checklist

Chris Brown

Last week, delegates to the American Educational Research Association held its enormous annual conference in Washington DC. Engaging with research and evidence as part of effective professional teacher development is an obvious topic for such a gathering of teachers, academics, school leaders and students. It has benefits for teacher practice and pupil outcomes. At the same time school leaders often require help with understanding how to harness these benefits. As I note in Leading the Use of Research and Evidence in Schools, however, school leaders can support evidence-informed practice by addressing the five key checklist items set out below.

CHECKLIST ITEM 1: does your approach to research and evidence use demonstrate your own commitment as well as facilitate the efforts of others?

School leadership must actively and demonstrably buy-in to research and evidence use for it to become part of a school’s ‘way of life’. This means that school leaders must not only promote the vision for and develop the culture of a research engaged school, they must Read more ›

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Posted in Leadership and management, Research matters, Teachers and teaching assistants, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

More than marking: what is ‘assessment literacy’?

Teacher with School pupil[467]

Gwyneth Hughes

Nobody would dispute that teachers should have a high level of literacy and be able to read and write well. But what about ‘assessment literacy’?

It is well known that assessment is a tricky business. But being able to mark students’ work fairly and accurately – in other words knowing the rules – is not enough; assessors must also ensure that students learn from assessment. Being able to give students helpful feedback and making sure that they make good use of it is as essential to assessment literacy (or assessment know-how) as spelling and grammar are to writing.

Research at the UCL Institute of Education in the Assessment Careers project showed, surprisingly, that even experienced postgraduate students merely read their feedback and Read more ›

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Posted in Research matters, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment

The hundred languages of childhood know no age bounds

100 languages

Peter Moss.

Loris Malaguzzi (1920-94) was one of the great educationalists of the 20th century. He was a thinker, but also a doer, a council employee who played a leading role in the evolution of a network of municipal schools in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, 70 kilometres west of Bologna. Today, the schools and Malaguzzi are  an inspiration to those who resist the spread of neoliberal and neoconservative education policies.

Most educationalists won’t have heard of Reggio Emilia or Malaguzzi. This is in part because both are Italian, and most of his work is in Italian. A newly published book – ‘Loris Malaguzzi and the Schools of Reggio Emilia’ – edited by myself and colleagues in Reggio Emilia, aims to rectify this, with English translations of a selection of his writings and speeches, starting in 1945 (when, as he wrote ‘everything seemed possible’). But there’s another reason. Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia are world famous for early childhood education, a field largely untrodden by the rest of education. Yet Malaguzzi was convinced that he was engaged in a project of educational renewal, which knew no age bounds.

What lessons does Malaguzzi have for all education? He insists that education is, first and Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, Teaching, learning, curriculum & assessment
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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