Education in a Post-COVID World: Creating more Resilient Education Systems

Education in a Post-COVID World: Creating more Resilient Education Systems

Schools across Europe have been at the forefront of dealing with the COVID crisis since it began in 2020, coping with different systems of attendance, new methods of learning, and changing government guidance on how to operate. Many education systems have found themselves under pressure in these circumstances. Not all have fared well.  Data from our research[1] tracking how primary teachers in England responded to the disruption provides some insights into whether and how COVID-19 can lead to more resilient education systems. Revaluing local knowledge is a vital element in rebuilding, reconnecting, and reimagining education after the pandemic.

Our data shows that local knowledge provides a more accurate guide to exactly what the problems are and, on that basis, can help determine what the most useful next steps might be.

One key decision that governments faced at the start of the pandemic was whether to close schools or keep them open, at a time when governments found it was hard to judge the risks for children’s health and well-being. Many governments resolved this choice by looking at what others were doing first. 

Here in England, the government opted for closure during the first wave, with schools staying open only for children of key workers or those judged vulnerable. In June, just a few age groups were allowed to return. Since the start of this academic year, all schools were instructed to stay fully open, even in regions with the highest number of infections. Staff or pupils who fell ill and their close contacts were expected to self-isolate.

To cover gaps in provision, the government passed emergency legislation which gave schools “a legal duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children unable to attend school due to coronavirus”. This decision has proved controversial in a system which is not equipped with sufficient digital devices and connectivity to ensure all pupils can benefit in this way. 

These decisions show how far politicians emphasised returning the education system to normal functioning as quickly as possible, fuelled by reports quantifying learning lost during the lockdown. Modelling the consequences of lessons lost, or volume of work returned has certainly created alarming scenarios of widening attainment gaps with severe consequences for the students involved. If teaching and learning are imagined as steady delivery of curriculum content to time and test dates, then “catching up” seems crucial. But is this the right reaction, or a product of insufficient local knowledge to make the right calls?

Research into teacher responses and priorities

By focusing our research on what was happening in real schools in real-time, we and colleagues at UCL Institute of Education have built a clearer picture of how primary teachers responded during the pandemic, their priorities as schools began to fully reopen, and the lessons learnt for the longer term. 

Our survey and interview data demonstrated that teachers were most concerned about pupil wellbeing.  On schools reopening, 76% of teachers thought pupil wellbeing was central with only 8% prioritising “Enabling students to catch up for missed learning”. Teachers thought parents’ priorities would broadly be in line with their own, with the benefits for children of socialising with their friends (54%) and the normality of settling back into school routines (65%) holding more importance than reassurance that children would catch up quickly in core areas of the curriculum (28%). Schools are about much more than curriculum delivery.

Strengthening school communities

Our research showed that teaching during lockdown was changing teachers’ perceptions of their school communities. Many teachers felt more aware of the impact of poverty on pupils’ lives, and recognised the difficulties some families experienced in supporting pupils’ learning at home. Feedback on home-learning highlighted the importance of creating tasks that children would enjoy.  Teachers worked hard to ensure that children without internet access had opportunities to learn offline. 

Many teachers working with our most disadvantaged communities played a key role in supporting families and communities by checking that families were not going hungry, that they had access to other avenues of support, where needed, and that the most vulnerable children were as safe as they could be. This kind of direct support for communities matters, yet it is often overlooked in the public debate on the value of education which frames it as a private rather than a public good.  

Looking ahead – the impact of testing and importance of community resilience

If the COVID crisis has revealed the depth of educational inequalities in societies where economic gaps have widened disproportionately, it can also lead to a re-evaluation of the good that schools can do. Looking ahead,

  • 77% of our respondents agreed with the statement, ‘If testing and inspection goes ahead as normal next year, schools serving the most disadvantaged communities will be unfairly penalised’.
  • 72% agreed ‘Schools have an important role in building community resilience that should be both recognised and funded’ and 73% considered ‘Primary education needs to begin again, with a broader definition of curriculum values and purposes’.
  • Only 4% thought ‘The best approach to supporting children through the crisis is ensuring they reach the expected standards in KS1 and KS2 assessments next year’.

Our research tells us that a narrow focus on repairing test scores is counter-productive. Slower processes of recuperation create firmer foundations for future learning, particularly when they build upon the knowledge teachers have gained from working with their communities during a period of disruption. 

Revaluing local knowledge is a vital element in rebuilding, reconnecting, and reimagining education after the pandemic.  Research can help in making more visible the voices of teachers and their communities and thus creating more resilient education systems.

References and Further Reading

[1] The research project, “A duty of care and a duty to teach: educational priorities in response to the COVID-19 crisis’. Funder: UKRI/ESRC Rapid Response to COVID call, project no. ES/V00414X/1. Researchers: PI: Gemma Moss. Co-Is: Alice Bradbury, Sam Duncan, Sinead Harmey, and Rachael Levy.  See 

Professor Gemma Moss

Professor Gemma Moss

Professor of Literacy, UCL Institute of Education

Gemma Moss is Professor of Literacy at UCL Institute of Education and Director of the International Literacy Centre.  She has written extensively about the evolution of literacy policy, gender and literacy, assessment, and the emergence of new knowledge networks in education.  She was a member of EERA council between 2016-18.

Dr Alice Bradbury

Dr Alice Bradbury

Associate Professor of Sociology of Education, UCL

Alice Bradbury is Associate Professor of Sociology of Education at UCL Institute of Education and Co-Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11 years). Her research focuses on the relationship between policy and classroom practices and subjectivities in primary and early years education.

Caring for Those who Teach Online – Reflections from a Virtual Staffroom

Caring for Those who Teach Online – Reflections from a Virtual Staffroom

When schools and higher education institutions closed their doors in March 2020, some of the implicit and informal supports for teacher educators disappeared. As teacher educators migrated to new modes of teaching and learning, institutional supports such as IT upskilling, educational technologies, professional development, and assistance from HR were provided. However, many staff commented that the burden of the expectations placed on them often exceeded what they felt capable of responding to in a personal capacity. With this as the backdrop, I want to reflect on how staff in one institution developed more informal ways of supporting each other and building community in a time of isolation and fragmentation.

The imperative to create what Noddings calls ‘a climate in which caring relations can flourish’, and through which a sense of belonging can be maintained, led to us setting up a virtual staff room. The staff room doors opened for a coffee break from 11.00 to 12.00 every morning. To date, this has happened on over 120 occasions with more than 90 colleagues engaging in the staff room at different times. This casual drop-in space was hosted on Zoom with a reminder sent to all staff ten minutes before the room was opened. The live interaction was supported by emails, phone calls, and some shared photography and cooking projects.

As with any staff room, the tone was set by the people in the room at any given time.  Ultimately what emerged was a supportive conversational space which broke down barriers as people swapped the small details and intimacies of everyday living and allowed colleagues glimpses into one another’s lives. This online space was characterised by a framework of CARE: a space for free-flowing conversation on a range of topics from the sublime to the ridiculous, attention to each other, deepening relationships with colleagues, and an increasing empathy as we observed something of each other’s homes and family lives. What we learned from the virtual staff room is that each element of this framework of CARE has to be supported by a number of integrated principles for practice: presence, production, performance, persona, personal, pastoral, and peer-to-peer. 

Presence: Developing and maintaining a supportive space for conversation demands the fully engaged presence of the host in the virtual space. The host cannot dominate the conversation but will have to facilitate it. The continuity of having the same host, meeting at the same time, and sending a regular reminder, offered people a sense of assurance that some things stayed the same. As one colleague noted: ‘Just knowing that there are opportunities like this to connect goes a long way to help you feel more connected right away’.

Production: We learned that there should be no agenda or expectation of having to engage in quizzes or activities so that participants have the chance to ‘switch-off’ from having to do something. Participants wanted to ‘be’ with each other rather than to ‘do’.

Performance: Some personality types were comfortable adopting a virtual persona and spoke comfortably to the camera in the early stages of the virtual staff room, whereas it took others time to be comfortable in the space. Trying to ensure that all participants can be seen on one screen is vital for bringing quieter participants into the chat.

Persona: During the early weeks of meeting each other, there was a sense that participants were conscious of performing for the camera and projecting a positive persona. This mitigated against revealing what was really happening for them. Empathic conversations ensued when someone risked saying that things were not going so well for them.

Personal: The host has to ensure that people are introduced to each other as many colleagues may not have met in real-life. Deepening relationships in a CARE framework means that the virtual staffroom welcomed children, partners, and pets and provided glimpses of each other’s homes and gardens as part of caring for each other. In the words of one participant: ‘I like meeting people’s children and pets and seeing their homes and gardens – makes me feel more connected.’

Pastoral: Taking a CARE approach to hosting the virtual staff room will occasionally draw the host into providing pastoral support for some participants. CARE will sometimes call for actions that we might not have anticipated.

Peer-to-peer: CARE is ultimately a peer-to-peer activity based on the realisation, again in the words of a participant, ‘that we are in this together, I look forward to seeing the familiar faces.’ The virtual staff room extended people’s social network by creating new links and new modes of engagement between colleagues.

 

What began as an informal approach to caring for staff and keeping us connected with each other, the virtual staff room has become an example of how taking a CARE approach to an online space can provide a positive space for conversation, characterised by empathic attention to each other in our evolving relationships.

The door remains open, and the kettle is on.

Dr Sandra Cullen

Dr Sandra Cullen

Assistant Professor of Religious Education, Dublin City University

Dr. Sandra Cullen is Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Dublin City University where she specialises in second-level religious education. As Director of the ICRE (Irish Centre for Religious Education) she supports research and teaching in religious education in a variety of contexts. She is the APF (Area of Professional Focus) leader for Religious Education on the Doctor of Education Programme at DCU, and serves on the Executive of EFTRE (the European Forum for Teachers of Religious Education) and on the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Religious Education.

Education Outside the Classroom – An Innovative Teaching Concept During COVID-19

Education Outside the Classroom – An Innovative Teaching Concept During COVID-19

These days, pupils’ everyday life is characterized by health-endangering behaviors e.g. lack of physical activity or excessive sedentary times, resulting in physical but also mental health problems.

Additionally, pupils nowadays have to deal with unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Imposed restrictions of contact and limitations of recreational activities or sport might affect their physical and mental health status negatively. 

Pupils – mandatorily – spend most of their waking hours in schools. Schools further have been identified as stress-provoking, which can be a source of mental health problems. Consequently, schools represent an ideal setting for health-related interventions reaching all kids and adolescents. This is where Education Outside the Classroom (EOtC) comes in. EOtC represents a health-related intervention in terms of a teaching concept which aims to counteract the abovementioned health risks and further support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what is Education Outside the Classroom (EOtC) exactly?

Is EOtC an outdoor excursion over several consecutive days in summer, detached from the core curriculum? No!

EotC is integrated into the regular curriculum. On a regular and long-term basis, learning environments are deliberately moved outside the regular classroom setting.

EOtC typically takes place in nature, e.g. in forests, fields, or parks. Places of cultural, political, and social significance, such as museums, libraries, and other public institutions, further represent suitable learning environments.

Wherever EOtC takes place, the outdoor location most often becomes part of the object of learning. EOtC is by no means limited to subjects that everyone would immediately associate with outdoor lessons, such as biology, physical education, or geography. EOtC can be integrated into the regular curriculum and enhance teaching of all school subjects.

Research into EOtC

In a systematic literature review, we found several studies reporting positive effects of EOtC on pupils’ social interaction, learning motivation, physical activity, and mental health. Our early results from this evolving research field—both on a practical and scientific level—are supported by more recent findings, e.g.:

Practical Implementation of Education Outside the Classroom

In our opinion, teachers cannot simply transfer indoor teaching and the respective teaching methods to an outdoor learning environment. Similar to regular classroom teaching, teaching outside the classroom requires thorough planning geared to the respective setting in order to enable EOtC to its highest potential.

EOtC involves e.g. the following characteristic features:

  • no walls limiting the learning environment
  • unpredictable and changing weather conditions
  • new and unknown materials
  • a variety of affordances and stimuli (e.g. interaction with natural elements such as trees, rivers, living animals)
  • several logistical challenges (e.g. active transport to the outdoor learning environment, transport of material for an outdoor laboratory)

EOtC’s organization differs depending on e.g. the school subject, weather, and location. If schools have a suitable permanent outdoor location nearby, classes can e.g. build long-term shelters with branches for rainy days, plant their own vegetables or use tree trunks as seating accommodations. Regardless of the general variety and flexibility in EOtC, fixed routines can provide clarity and promote discipline as well as motivation.

EOtC has great potential to enable pupil-centered and hands-on learning experiences in which teachers support pupils’ autonomy in their learning process by e.g. transferring responsibility to the students. Examples in this regard are learning by doing, trial and error, and the experience of competence or social relatedness.  

Education Outside the Classroom during COVID-19 

EOtC is a teaching concept that might help to reduce the risk of a SARS-CoV-2 infection as study results indicate that the risk of infection is highly increased in closed environments via aerosols in comparison to outdoor environments. Outdoor infection is very unlikely if distance and hygiene rules are being followed (Nishiura et al., 2020; Qian et al., 2020).

During the tuberculosis-pandemic in the 20th century, ill pupils or pupils suspected to have tuberculosis were taught outside (Open-Air-Schools) to separate them from healthy children. Instead of getting the infectious disease or becoming more ill, most pupils stayed healthy or recovered in the Open-Air Schools. In these Open-Air Schools, pupils sat on their normal tables in open-air environments, such as rooftops, factories without windows, walls, or gardens. In a New York Times article, Open-Air Schools were lately reconsidered as a promising approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to the idea of Open-Air-Schools, EOtC could enhance teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. The outdoor learning environment on the one hand involves a provably reduced – but by no means non-existent – risk of infection. On the other hand, EOtC might issue a challenge to teachers as well as students – and their parents – who are not used to outdoor teaching and learning. By our work, we aim to meet these challenges and form a basis which facilitates including EOtC into everyday teaching – now and in the future.

We hope that the current need for innovative teaching concepts which involve minimal risk of infection and enable regular classroom teaching will create awareness of EOtC’s various possibilities.

Together with colleagues from the German Forest Conservation Society, we publish EOtC teaching materials for various subjects and grade levels open access. These documents may help interested teachers taking their pupils outdoors more often. 

If now is not the time to teach pupils outside the classroom in forests, on fields, in parks, or anywhere in nature, when will it be?

References and Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you can find out more about our research here. 

 Global trends in insufficient physical activity among adolescents: a pooled analysis of 298 population-based surveys with 1·6 million participants – Guthold, Stevens, Riley, & Bull, 2020

Analysis of Sedentary Times of Children and Adolescents between 4 and 20 YearsHubert & Köppel, 2017

The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health, Kohl et al,. 2012

Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: evidence for action Kieling et al., 2011

Sources of stress and worry in the development of stress-related mental health problems: A longitudinal investigation from early- to mid-adolescence – Anniko et al., 2018

The extent and dissemination of udeskole in Danish schools Bentsen et al., 2009

 Effects of Regular Classes in Outdoor Education Settings: A Systematic Review on Students’ Learning, Social and Health DimensionsBecker et al., 2017

 Stress in School. Some Empirical Hints on the Circadian Cortisol Rhythm of Children in Outdoor and Indoor Classes Dettweiler et al., 2017

 Stress Response and Cognitive Performance Modulation in Classroom versus Natural Environments: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Study with Children – Mygind, et al., 2018a

 Stress in School. Some Empirical Hints on the Circadian Cortisol Rhythm of Children in Outdoor and Indoor Classes – Dettweiler et al., 2017; Becker et al., 2019

 Children’s physical activity during a segmented school week: results from a quasi-experimental education outside the classroom intervention – Schneller et al., 2017

 The association between education outside the classroom and students’ school motivation: Results from a one-school-year quasi-experiment – Bølling et al., 2018

 Primary teachers’ experiences with weekly education outside the classroom during a year  – Mygind et al., 2018b

 Closed environments facilitate secondary transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)Nishiura et al., 2020

 Indoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2Qian et al., 2020

Dr. Christoph Mall

Dr. Christoph Mall

Senior Research Fellow at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Christoph is a sports scientist particularly interested in student physical activity, health, and learning motivation during Education Outside the Classroom. He furthermore studies how interventions taking place in open community spaces promote children’s and adolescents’ physical as well as psychological well-being. He is the project leader of Active City Innovation within the international Sports-Innovation-Network (SINN-i). He is the founding member of the Play, Learn and Teach Outdoors Network (PLaTO-Net).

See Christophs’ Twitter, Researchgate and ORCID profiles.

Jan Ellinger

Jan Ellinger

2nd Year PhD Student, Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Jan is a sports scientist and works at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health, Department of Sport and Health Sciences at TUM. His doctoral research focuses on health promotion and prevention in the population of children and adolescents. Jan’s research focuses on the school setting, but also considers other living environments, such as the community.

Leslie Bernhardt

Leslie Bernhardt

Student Assistant, Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Leslie studies Health Science in the 5th semester at TUM and works as a student assistant at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health at TUM. She is involved in the project Education Outside the Classroom which investigates the effects of regular school lessons outside the classroom on the behavior and health of pupils. She will graduate in 2021.

How Design Thinking in Education can Help During COVID-19

How Design Thinking in Education can Help During COVID-19

In April 2020, Dr Fiona Chambers, a Senior Lecturer in PE and Sport Pedagogy at University College Cork in Ireland, drew an idea on the back of an envelope. She envisioned a plan to kickstart sport and physical activity during and beyond the pandemic, using the principle of Design Thinking in Education.

This idea has become the first Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity. Here she tells us the reason behind this challenge and how she went about organising it. But first, we wanted to know – what is Design Thinking and how does it work in the field of Education?

Design Thinking in Education

Design thinking is universally used in innovation to solve intractable human-centred problems (Buchanan 1992) in any field, including education. It can be used to innovate processes, products, or services. In so doing, it engages creative multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder teams to use a systematic and collaborative approach to identifying and creatively solving problem (Luchs, Swann and Griffin, 2016, p. 2).

Design thinking brings ‘designers’ principles, approaches, methods, and tools to problem-solving’ (Brown, 2008, p.1). Lockwood (2016) asserts that the design thinking process ‘emphasises observation, collaboration, fast learning, visualization of ideas, rapid concept prototyping, and concurrent business analysis’  (n.p.). The defining pillars of design thinking (Brown, 2008) are problem centeredness, nonlinearity, optionality, and the presence of uncertainty and ambiguity (Liedtka, 2015).

Design challenges are wicked (complex) as they are ‘not stable but continually evolving and mutating and had many causal levels’ (Blackman et al, 2006, p.70) and adding to this complexity, there are intergenerational, multisectoral, and multicultural stakeholders associated with the challenge that hold a range of philosophical views. Design thinkers use empathy to understand the end-user and spend 80% of their time defining the problem before moving into the solution space.

Design thinkers have a particular mindset (open, optimistic, comfortable with ambiguity), follow a process (six stages), and use space as a tool for optimising creativity. Design Thinking can be used to develop educational strategy, innovate curricula, assessment, and develop new ways of researching the experiences of young people and all stakeholders in the field of education.

Design Thinking, Education and COVID-19

We are seeing empty football stadiums, matches taking place behind closed doors, and sports clubs of all kinds restricting access. Social distancing restrictions are making training different and changing the nature of participation in sport. At the same time, people are more conscious than ever of the need to stay physically active. The ‘free to enter’ global challenge we set was designed to ask  the question:

How might we sustainably redesign sport and physical activity for children and families, the young and the not-so-young, for participants, spectators, fans, and community groups, so that it is inclusive, accessible, attainable – and fun! –  during the pandemic and afterwards?

We drew together some of Ireland’s leading sporting organisations, and a range of world organisations, to launch this global design challenge aimed at reimagining what sport and physical activity might look like during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sport Ireland, the Federation of Irish Sport, the Irish National Centre for Outdoor Education and Training, University College Cork Sport, Cork Local Sports Partnership, ISCA, TAFISA, TACTHUB, Deporte para la Educación y la Salud, and Sport for Life Canada looked for the best ideas on how sport and physical activity could survive and thrive in a world remarkably different from what has gone before.

Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity

The Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity took place over the weekend of the 26 – 28 June 2020, with teams asked to submit ideas online.  In all, 189 teams took part.

When coming up with ideas, participants considered some of the following dimensions:

  • What is the potential of sport and physical activity to help moderate the impact of Covid-19?
  • Can you evaluate the current methods for managing the safe use of sport and physical activity locations during and after the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How can we improve the clinical care of people with Covid-19 infections through sport and physical activity?
  • How can we reduce disparities in sport and physical activity opportunities during crises and post-crisis?

The registered teams were provided with free support in the form of a preliminary one-hour Workshop on Design, with Judie Russell of the Vidacademy providing video-making resources to help participants prepare their pitch.

Having completed the judging in July, there are now 37 finalist teams from across 40 countries and 12 time zones. These teams are now entering the eight-month incubation phase (September 2020 to April 2021) where Partners/Incubators will help teams to test their ideas and to seek funding. Successful teams are also being mentored by experts from across all sectors.

The Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity is being observed by UNESCO, Commonwealth Secretariat, and the World Health Organisation.

Many research organisations are supporting the Challenge, including AIESEP, and PHE Canada and EERA, in particular, NW18 Research in Sport Pedagogy i.e. Dr Rachel Sandford and her team of convenors. 

You can find the other participant videos here

“We are using the principles of Design Thinking to reimagine a world of sport and physical activity and we invite the best ideas from around the globe”.

If you want to know more:

Here is our website: https://www.tacthub.com/sportinnovation

Follow us on

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/globaldesignchallengesport/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalDesignChallenge/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlobalDesignCh1

 

Global Design Challenge 2.0 will be launched in May 2021

Dr Fiona Chambers

Dr Fiona Chambers

Head of the School of Education, University College Cork in Ireland

I am the Head of the School of Education, a Senior Lecturer in PE and Sport Pedagogy at University College Cork in Ireland. I am also a Hasso-Plattner Institute-certified Design Thinking Coach and the Programme Director for the new PGDip in Innovation through Design Thinking at my university.

My teaching, research and civic engagement focuses  particularly on the areas of (a) Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, (b)  Mentoring, and (c) Social Innovation. Since 2009, I have been a reviewer on 12 international high impact peer review journals and a reviewer for Routledge books. Since 2009, I have published 4 edited books, 14 books, 27 book chapters, 18 peer reviewed articles and 115 conference papers. I am (i) an Invited Member of UNESCO Scientific Committee for Physical Activity; (ii) Secretary General, Association Internationale des Écoles Superiéure d’Éducation Physique (AIESEP); (iii) Co-founder and Convenor of European Educational Research Association (EERA) Network on Research in Sport Pedagogy (iv) founder of the Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity.

http://publish.ucc.ie/researchprofiles/A013/fchambers

5 More Tips for Completing your PhD during COVID 19

5 More Tips for Completing your PhD during COVID 19

Following the positive response we received after publishing Emily’s Top 5 Tips on coping with the COVID 19 pandemic while writing your PhD, we asked if she had any more advice to share. She dug deep and came up with five more ideas for you to keep your head while the world spins around you!

Break down your thesis into smaller, more manageable chunks

Break down your thesis into smaller, more manageable chunks that you can test out through conference, seminars, and blog posts. Engaging with others will help re-connect you with your community and will support the development of your ideas through feedback and conversation.

Your thesis is an opportunity to build your own community and collaborate with other students, early career researchers as well as your supervisors.

Ale Okada, an educational researcher at the Open University, suggests attending and participating in a variety of events.

If conferences and IRL talks are suspended, then look out for webinars and online conferences. As an example, the Johns Hopkins SNF Agora Institute has offered weekly webcasts on a wide variety of timely topics.

And of course, EERA offers a range of opportunities to gather feedback on your work, such as the Emerging Researchers’ Group and their LinkedIn community. The pandemic may have forced the cancellation of the European Conference for Educational Research in 2020, but the Reconnecting EERA online conference was a resounding success.

Be Patient with Yourself

Remind yourself learning is not linear and that all your emotions are expressions of your investment in your thesis.

“Set daily goals that are reasonable and keep you moving forward,” recommends Nadine Janes, Director of Undergraduate Nursing and Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, “and find someone to hold you accountable to those goals”.

Shuxuan Zheng similarly underlines that “little things are what make big things happen, and keeping this in mind is necessary to collectively overcome the viral pandemic”.

Look After Your Body and Mind

Eat something healthy before midday every day. Drink water. And take yourself for a walk in the evening. The extensive social distancing adaptations mean fewer opportunities to be physically active. Studying from home can entrench the sedentary lifestyle fostered by long hours of writing, reading or editing.

This article from researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sydney and Western Australia details some ways you can stay fit and active.

Developing an achievable routine that you can feel good about for your wellbeing is vital. Find out if there is a walking group at your university. Exchange healthy recipes with your peers.  

If you aren’t managing your goal, then aim smaller. Being good to yourself includes setting yourself up to win.

 

Things Will go Wrong Again and Again

But the sun, too, will rise again, and that disaster might be the making of your PhD, or you, or a total disaster with no redeeming features and that’s ok too.

Reflecting on her experience, final year student Carolyn Cooke explains:

“The second year was the year where things changed the most – change of literature base, change of methodology too. These changes meant I had written much which I then felt wasn’t useful anymore but rather surprisingly (to me!) I have come back to a huge amount of it in the last couple of months when writing up as there were things I could develop. So, nothing (no writing, no exploring, no “tangents”) is wasted effort – it’s all part of the process!”.

For a wide range of ideas for how to adapt your project during the pandemic, this crowdsourced document initiated by Deborah Lupton is a great place to brainstorm.

Practice Identifying Yourself in Different Ways

Deborah Lupton recommends taking the time to listen to good quality radio programmes and podcasts, to read the newspaper and engage with others socially.

Finding your academic identity is part of the research journey so read broadly when you can and cultivate connections to your interests including those that cross your departmental or disciplinary boundaries.

“I recommend thinking ahead to say 5 to 10 years down the road and answering the following questions: what do I want my ‘academic identity’ to be? Which academic community do I belong to long term and what do I want to be known for within that community?”, shares Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru professor of business and enterprise at the Judge Business School, Cambridge, “Once you have some clarity about that, then work backwards and ask yourself: what do I need to do now to get there?”. 

Emily Dowdeswell

Emily Dowdeswell

2nd Year PhD Student

Emily Dowdeswell is approaching the end of her first year of doctoral research at the Open University’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS).

Her area of study includes the intersections between anthropology, the arts, creativity and education.

You can find out more about Emily’s research at http://wels.open.ac.uk/rumpus or on Twitter https://twitter.com/intracommons