Talk on Quaker Schools

28/02/2018, 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

at Woodbrooke, Selly Oak, Birmingham

You are invited to this talk from Nigel Newton, an education reseacher at the University of Cardiff:

Quaker schools and what they teach us about the importance of school culture to educational engagement & student well-being

Schools are multifaceted organisations, comprising complex people, engaged in diverse activities with multiple aims and priorities.  Identifying and isolating the way a school environment, and the culture within it, affects a student’s learning, as opposed to other factors external to the school, is problematic. However, school culture does exist.  Different schools create different expectations and behavioural norms, form different hierarchies of values and engage in distinct social, artistic and academic activities.  It is not unreasonable to hypothesise that students’ experiences within these different cultures will affect the ways they perceive and engage with the educational opportunities provided. Better understanding the relationship between school culture and students’ perspectives relating to their educational experiences was a key aim of research carried out in five Quaker schools in England.

Mixed-methods research was carried out in Quaker schools, including analysis of school generated text, group interviews with students and teachers, and administration of a survey to over 800 students. Although different, each participating school shared a common set of values based on Quaker beliefs.  Adopting an exploratory methodology, the research sought to find data which would allow significant aspects of the schools’ cultures which may affect student educational engagement to be examined.  Significant factors emerged using an iterative heuristic, where triangulation of evidence formed part of the process of verifying findings. The research drew from the philosophy of Michael Polanyi both in its conceptualisation of values and methodology.

Findings include identification of shared values and cultures within participating schools and significant statistical relationships between students’ perspectives of their schools and students’ self-reported approaches to learning.  Two sources of qualitative data provided a means to elaborate the meanings of these relationships, leading to important insights concerning the relationship between a disposition towards inclusiveness, the valuing of equality and students’ learning orientations.  The presentation will present an overview of the research and its findings as well as consider some of the potential impacts from this research for further investigation into school culture and student well-being.

Nigel Newton

Nigel was a teacher for 15 years, mostly working in a further education college teaching a range of subject but specialising in English and Classical Civilisation.  He wrote for the TES FE Focus on a range of subjects including college marketing, lecturer professionalism and the ‘skills economy’.  He’s conducted research on graduate employees, student course choice and school culture.  For several years, Nigel provided teacher training in relation to student leadership, learning motivation and helping student transition from KS4 to 5. He also worked as senior consultant and director of projects for a social enterprise which administered a tool and method developed at the University of Bristol called ELLI (the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory). This has involved supporting projects across education, public and corporate sectors in the US, Turkey, Spain as well as in the UK.  Nigel is currently working as a researcher on a project at WISERD, Cardiff University, looking at the impact of curriculum reform in Wales on children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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1046 Bristol Road Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 6LJ