BERA/SAGE Awards 2010 – we interview the winners

The winners of the 2010 BERA/SAGE Practitioner Research Awards were announced yesterday at the annual British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference in Warwick.

Dr Karen Graham, Director of Active Childcare Ltd, based in Wrexham, won the 16+ award for her project improving vocational education in childcare and health and social care settings.

The Schools, early years and social and health care settings award was presented to Kate

Wilson, co-owner and Manager of Little Star Nursery, Bristol. Her research explored the effects of
being outside on the behaviour of pre-school boys and the implications for teaching.

Now in their fourth year, the BERA/SAGE awards recognize practitioners who have demonstrated

excellence in the application of research in practice, both in a school setting and in a 16+ learning environment. Each winner receives prize money of £500, plus a selection of SAGE books.


We interviewed our two winners to find out more about their projects:


16+ Award – Karen Graham

What is your project?

A twist of the kaleidoscope: Bridging the theory practice divide in work based learning


Describe what your research project aimed to do

The aim of this research was to bridge the theory / practice divide in work based learning. By aligning the goals of stakeholders (funding body, employers and employees) I aimed to identify a model of workforce development that simultaneously improved the delivery of qualifications and provision of services in the childcare and health and social care sectors.


Where and who were involved in the research?

The project involved one hundred participants in seven small and medium enterprise businesses in the residential care and childcare sectors based in North Wales. These participants, who were owners, managers and practitioners in day nurseries and residential care homes, were
engaged in individual professional development programmes undertaking a range of sector related qualifications from level two to level five.

What was your methodology?

The project employed a mixed methodology including statistical analysis of qualification outcomes, participant interviews and questionnaires. Participants were tracked throughout the qualifying process from initial assessment to completion of the qualification and beyond.

What were the chief findings?

It was difficult to predict the findings given the range of participating SME and varying levels of participant commitment to their CPD. The findings were pleasing in that the model of work based learning employed in the project:

  • resulted in high levels of qualification completion and success rates
  • supported a cycle of ongoing sustainable improvement in each workplace
  • was easily differentiated for each workplace
  • and could be replicated across sectors


How do you feel winning the BERA/SAGE award?

I am delighted to win this award. I am very pleased with this piece of research and it is really
rewarding that it is considered significant enough to be worthy of an award. I believe that this award will be of great benefit to me. I have a particular interest in workforce development and exploring ways that various forms of training and development can be utilised to maximum effect for all
stakeholders. Receiving this award is not only a tremendous honour, it adds weight to what I believe to be a very important area of research and it is my intention to continue to build upon the findings of this project and to undertake further research.


Schools, early years and social and health care settings – Kate Wilson

What is your project?

Boys and the outdoors: A case study to see how it can improve behaviour and thus their
learning


Describe what your research project aimed to do

I hoped to improve the quality of nursery life for both staff members and children by addressing how I could hope to improve the behaviour, attitudes and learning potentials in both a specific group of boys, but for boys in particular. I wanted to research how using the outdoor environment could do this.

Where and who were involved in the research?

I was concentrating on a specific group of 4 or 5 boys whose more boisterous behaviour was challenging to staff members and also other children in the group but I also encompassed other boys as part of the project. I consulted parents, staff and reception teachers at local schools to gain insight into boy’s interests, needs and also general perception of the qualities of outdoor play.

What was your methodology?

Mostly observation over the course of 3 months, comparing the quality of boy’s behaviour and the learning that was taking place. I used research and writings of other authors and of the local authority to help me and to re enforce ideas and conclusions. I also used questionnaires for
parents and teachers and shared observations with colleagues.


What were the chief findings?

My chief findings were that boys do not function much better socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually when they have the freedom that the outdoor environment offers them. We knew the benefits of having space to run in but it was interesting to assess the quality of learning taking place on every scale and in every area. One conclusion was that the type of play that boys engage in
(large scale, role play of “real” and fictional heroes in their world) outside needs to be fully understood, supported and extended by practitioners. They need to see that the learning taking place is in the action rather than the product.

Why did you decide to enter the BERA/SAGE Awards?

I was recommended by a practitioner at the ILRC (International Learning and Research
Centre) in Bath, with whom I had carried out the initial research project, where the findings
and conclusions are shared with other settings in the local authority. I feel passionately about the values of outdoor play and the need for it in boy’s development and my wish is that more settings
take these findings on board and ultimately can also be adopted throughout school life.

How do you feel winning the BERA/SAGE award?

It has given me a huge sense of pride in my own setting and the children I have supported and hopefully have gained much through the process of the research. It will give huge credence to my findings and hopefully ensure many more boys (and girls) are fulfilled during their pre school years (and ultimately beyond).


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