‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 4BTIn 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).
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 symposium seeks to ask what ‘close reading’ is like now, how it is exercised in education at different levels and how it might differ from or resemble ‘codes’ of reading.
The symposium will include presentations from academics as well as teachers in secondary education.
Ourfree conferencefor English teachers (mentioned in our previous post) is just under three weeks away. The last date to register is next Monday, 31st October.
This will be a really fun and useful event. Teachers always respond positively to the opportunity to step outside the classroom to exchange ideas, to hear about current research, and to consider how to apply some of these ideas in class. Some of the sessions will focus on developing specific resources and activities for class.