A-level English reform and English at University

In the 2018 University English meeting, Billy Clark and Andrea Macrae discussed academics’ perceptions and awareness of A-level English reform. The survey, funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme, was conducted  by the ‘Integrating English‘ dream team: Andrea, Billy, and Marcello Giovanelli. You can find a visualisation of their findings here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, English subject leaders feel that they and their teaching staff are little informed about changes to A-levels. In fact, the overwhelming majority of English degrees in the UK are making no (55%) or minor (33%)  changes changes to the curriculum to support the transition of students who are taking the reformed A-Levels.

Professor Billy Clark at the Heads of Department & Subject Leaders’ Networking Day (13th April), University of Lancaster

On a more positive note, the Lang/Lit A-level is more positively viewed in Higher Education than in schools. 95% of university English subject leaders perceive it as useful in preparing students for English degree programmes. In fact, this is tallies with our own anecdotal evidence. A couple of days ago, at a local college visit, the Lang/Lit teacher was telling how the English Literature A-Level still carries much more prestige and is more popular with staff and pupils than the Lang/Lit A-Level.

And finally, a third of English degrees do not require any of the three English A-Levels (English Language, English Literature and English Lang/Lit). It looks like we are not that unique at Middlesex!

So what can we do in higher education to help the transition of our students from secondary to tertiary education?

Billy explained the importance of connecting with secondary teachers and students, awarding bodies, even our PGCE colleagues. He also showed the importance of helping first-year undergraduate students understand how university work differs from school-level work.

Jenny Stevens (Teacher of English and freelance writer and editor) presenting the post-16 perspective on English teaching and learning suggested that HE sector can help by:

  • Getting  involved in GCSE & A Level qualification;
  • Communicating with A-level student, parents and teachers via university website (podcasts/screencasts);
  • Cross sector collaborations on social media (e.g. linking with Centre for English & Media);
  • Joining the English Association Secondary Education Committee.

A good life: citizenship, skills and employability in English studies

‘How can English Studies overcome instrumentalism when it comes to the employability agenda? Is it possible to move beyond having to prove that our degrees are good value because they lead to good careers? Can we work together with students to consider how to live ‘good lives’ through education?’

On the 13th and 14th of April, I attended my first ever University English  Annual General Meeting & Heads of English networking event at the University of Lancaster. The two-day meeting had everything: innovative practices in learning, teaching and assessment of English at University level, discussion of hiring and promotion practices in the sector, surviving your first year as Head of Department, recent A Level reforms, and of course TEF and REF 2021.

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I found the panel on Employability really interesting, as it showcased some exciting and innovative ways of connecting students with the wider world.

Dr Fiona Douglas (Leeds) talked about the great (but also tricky to organise) module on Heritage & Dialect that takes students outside the classroom and into local museums and blends teaching, research and public engagement.

Dr Clare Egan (Lancaster) emphasised the importance of treating degrees not as tools to get a job but as central to developing skills for everything we are doing. She showed the importance of problem-solving learning, moving from ‘careers talks’ to ‘career-focused problem solving’, helping students develop critical reflection and self awareness, and discussed modules that fully integrate work in the field: local schools, arts organisations etc.

Yvonne  Battle-Felton, co-founder of  Stories at The Storey (true story open mic night) and North West Lit Salon and Creative Writing PhD spoke about the PhD creative writing student as entrepreneur.  

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Middlesex and Haringey Sixth Form College students shortlisting submissions for ‘Haringey Unchained’ magazine

We are already incorporating many of these ideas in the BA English at Middlesex. To name just a few examples:

  • First-year modules, such as Global Englishes, include problem-solving based learning. Students have to work in groups to design and carry out an experiment testing a hypothesis. Through their empirical projects, they develop high level research skills but, perhaps more crucially, really valuable interpersonal, negotiation, leadership and teamworking skills.
  • Our students develop employability skills by mentoring local 6th form college students in producing a literary magazine, Haringey Unchained.
  • Also, from 2018-19 we will extend students’ opportunities to volunteer at local schools, act as ambassadors for English and make a positive impact to their communities through the two third-year modules ‘Work Placement’ and ‘Teaching Englishes’.
  • Students get to work with acclaimed writers and practitioners of a range of genres. These include their own tutors but also guest speakers. For example this year, second year BA English students invited and interviewed Ian McGuire, author of the celebrated novel and soon-to-be BBC series The North Water.
  • From 2018, BA English students will be involved in the organisation of the 2019 North London Story Festival.

Sneak peak on this year’s ‘Haringey Unchained’ magazine

We are very happy to report that all content (poems, short fiction, illustrations, photographs etc.) that we have submitted this year has  been added to the Haringey Unchained blog.

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Please visit here: https://haringeyunchained.wordpress.com.

 

At the top of the page, there is the following link, which reflects the partnership between students and staff of English from Middlesex University and Haringey Sixth Form Centre:

https://haringeyunchained.wordpress.com/university-partnerships/

Submission on the blog are anonymised. Anything submitted by Middlesex is demarcated by a * in the title.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be updating the blog so that it is a premium account so the URL will eventually change to: www.haringeyunchained.com.

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Our next and final editorial session together will be Thursday 3rd May at 4:30 pm. We are going to have to be merciless about the items we cut in order to get it to fit 52 pages.  We will spent the time placing pieces along the flat plan together.

Really looking forward to seeing the finalised version of the print magazine!

New Partnership with Haringey Unchained

We are absolutely delighted to be the 2017-18 University partner of the Haringey Unchained. Haringey Unchained is a collective of students aiming to showcase the creative talent of Haringey Sixth Form Centre in Tottenham, London.

This collective publishes a volume of creative writing every year. Below is their 2017 collection, in collaboration with the University of Warwick.

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The collection is a great read and was launched on June 22nd, at  the final show of the Haringey Unchained and We Move Creative Arts Festival. Poetry readings were combined with dance performances inspired by the poems in the collection. Industry experts in the audience enjoyed the show as much as we did.

To find more about the work of Haringey Unchained check their website: https://haringeyunchained.wordpress.com/

We are really looking forward to working with students and staff at Haringey Sixth Form College. Our Middlesex students at BA English will work with and mentor Haringey students in editing volume 3 of Haringey Unchained.

All submissions welcome!

Day schedule for Symposium on Close Reading

The full schedule for the day symposium on Close Reading, Codes and Interpretation is now confirmed:

MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY

Room H116 (Hatchcroft building)

13 June 2017

0900 – 0930 Registration

0930 – 1015 PAUL COBLEY (Middlesex University)
‘The magic of codes: semiotics and close reading’
1015-1100 BARBARA BLEIMAN (English and Media Centre)
‘Close reading in Secondary English – practices, problems and solutions’

1100 – 1115 tea/coffee

1115 – 1200 ADRIAN PABLÉ (University of Hong Kong)
‘Interpretation, radical indeterminacy and close reading’
1200 – 1245 STEFAN PETO (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys)
‘Close reading at the chalk-face: strategies and observations in Key Stage 3’

1245 – 1345 Lunch & Launch of the undergraduate magazine Mesh

1345 – 1430 JON ORMAN (University of Hong Kong)
‘Thick description and/as close reading: some language-philosophical reflections’
1430 – 1515 BILLY CLARK (Middlesex University)
‘Pragmatic inference and reading processes’
1515 – 1600 MARCELLO GIOVANELLI (Aston University) and JESS MASON (Sheffield Hallam University)
‘Whose close reading?: emphasis, attention and cognition in the literature classroom’

1600 -1615 tea/coffee

1615 – 1700 ANDREA MACRAE (Oxford Brookes University)
‘Close reading as process and product’
1700 – 1745 LOUISA ENSTONE (Darrickwood School)
‘Is it time to stop pee-ing? A grassroots study into teaching reading and essay writing at Secondary’
1745 – 1800 JOHAN SIEBERS (Middlesex University)
‘Only the furthest distance would be closeness – semantic anarchism, close reading and academic practice’

1800 – 1900 Book launch: Critical Humanist Perspectives: The Integrational Turn in Philosophy of Language and Communication, edited by Adrian Pablé (Routledge, 2017).

For more information, and to register click here.

‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’ – booking open and line-up confirmed

ooking to our one-day symposium on ‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’, hosted by the Language & Communication is now open.

book message cloud shape Book here.

When? 9 am-7 pm, Tuesday 13th June 2017
Where?
Room H116, Middlesex University, Hendon Campus, London, NW4 4BT

In some reckonings, ‘close reading’ is now around 90 years old, having been inaugurated in I. A. Richards’ Principles of Literary Criticism (1926) and Practical Criticism (1929). The close reading of texts has become arguably the central activity of the humanities and close reading is carried out across different levels of education and through a number of disciplines. As its practitioners recognize, procedures of close reading can become ossified into routine practices of code identification rather than active interpretation.

This day symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education in different contexts and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading. It features papers by teachers in Higher Education, Further Education and Secondary Education, including:

  • BARBARA BLEIMAN (English and Media Centre): ‘Close reading in Secondary English –  practices, problems and solutions’
  • BILLY CLARK (Middlesex University): ‘Pragmatic inference and reading processes’
  • PAUL COBLEY (Middlesex University): ‘The magic of codes: semiotics and close reading’
  • LOUISA ENSTONE (Darrickwood School): ‘Is it time to stop pee-ing? A grassroots study into teaching reading and essay writing at Secondary’
  • MARCELLO GIOVANELLI (Aston University) and JESS MASON (Sheffield Hallam University): ‘Whose close reading?: emphasis, attention and cognition in the literature classroom’
  • ANDREA MACRAE (Oxford Brookes University): ‘Close reading as process and product’
  • JON ORMAN (University of Hong Kong): ‘Thick description and/as close reading: some language-philosophical reflections’
  • ADRIAN PABLÉ (University of Hong Kong): ‘Interpretation, radical indeterminacy and close reading’
  • STEFAN PETO (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys): ‘Close reading at the chalk-face: strategies and observations in Key Stage 3’
  • JOHAN SIEBERS (Middlesex University): ‘Only the furthest distance would be closeness – semantic anarchism, close reading and academic practice’what-reading

Cost: £10 flat fee (includes lunch and refreshments)

For the full day schedule, click here.

For any questions, please email Billy Clark b.clark@mdx.ac.uk or Paul Cobley p.cobley@mdx.ac.uk

Close reading, codes and interpretation: Speakers and room confirmed

Our Language & Communication research cluster warmly invites you the one-day symposium on ‘Close reading, codes and interpretation’. Room number and speakers have now been confirmed

When? 9 am-7 pm, Tuesday 13th June 2017

Where? Room H116, Middlesex University, Hendon Campus, London, NW4 4BTmdxIn some reckonings, ‘close reading’ is now around 90 years old, having been inaugurated in I. A. Richards’ Principles of Literary Criticism (1926) and Practical Criticism (1929). The close reading of texts has become arguably the central activity of the humanities and close reading is carried out across different levels of education and through a number of disciplines. As its practitioners recognize, procedures of close reading can become ossified into routine practices of code identification rather than active interpretation.

This day symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education in different contexts and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading. It features talks by experts in education, including school teachers and university academics. Our speakers are:

  • Barbara Bleiman (English and Media Centre)
  • Billy Clark (Middlesex University)
  • Paul Cobley (Middlesex University)
  • Louisa Enstone (Darrick Wood School)
  • Marcello Giovanelli (Aston University) and Jess Mason (Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Andrea Macrae (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Jon Orman (University of Hong Kong)
  • Adrian Pablé (University of Hong Kong)
  • Stefan Peto (Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys)
  • Johan Siebers (Middlesex University)

Cost: £10 flat fee (includes lunch and refreshments).

Registration opens soon.

For further details in the meantime, please email Paul Cobley p.cobley@mdx.ac.uk