Pat attended the first seminar of the BERA Commission on STEAM education, held at Aberdeen University.

The focus of this commission is to explore, analyze and collate new understandings of science, how these relate and interface with changes in education and how this might enrich current debates. Reconceptualising school science has crucial implications for pedagogic practices. Specifically the commission will explore:

  • the changing conceptualization of science and arts, and the implications for science education;
  • the relationship between formal school science as it is currently taught and the differential access to science knowledge affecting groups inside and outside schools;
  • the potential of arts-based, creative pedagogies to foster inclusive, participatory and interdisciplinary learning in science.

One of the tasks of the Commission is to develop a literature review and much of this first seminar was taken up with discussion how this might be achieved, and what had been done to date.

We also engaged in an arts based activity, working with clay to make a hand – with our eyes closed. Our inability use the usual ‘seeing’ mode of knowing/working meant that we had to pay attention to our sense of touch – this made us all very focused on what we were doing in the moment. We were only thinking forward as far as imagining the finished product. This of course aroused quite a bit of anxiety for most of us, as we were all afraid about what the final product might look like! We were in what our ‘teacher’ Jan van Boeckel * described as a liminal, becoming space.

Jan then invited us to collectively reflect on our experiences and to develop our thoughts into insights about our ,and potentially other people’s, learning practices and the implications for pedagogy. And how, we asked ourselves, might this experience help us understand the potential of STEAM education?


The Commission has  twitter account @steamresearch and is planning a regular blog.

  • Jan is an anthropologist, artist-educator and film-maker; he has made his PhD on  environmental art practices available to download.

creativity in classrooms



On Thursday 11 February CRACL hosted a public seminar by Paul Collard, the Chief Executive of the education charity Creativity, Culture and Education. Paul is also a Special Professor in CRACL. Around sixty people – teachers, researchers, local artists, students – attended. Paul talked about the work of Creative Partnerships (2003-2011) and the ways in which CCE is now taking this work further in many other locations, including Wales, Scotland, Pakistan, Hungary, Austria, Norway and Germany.


Paul reported research undertaken in Hungary where three groups of students had very different responses to questions about how much they needed to be interested in something to learn it. The poorer the students, the more they said they only learnt when they were interested. The implications of this research present a challenge to teachers; we must think about how to make topics interesting for students, at the same time as getting them more accustomed to learning things that are not initially of interest, but may nevertheless be important.


Paul told the audience that CCE has developed a research informed heuristic for professional development activities with artists and teachers. The heuristic highlights the differences between ‘high and low functioning’ classrooms. High functioning classrooms are where teachers for example: offer challenging activities; have a flexible use of time; approach and manage the classroom as a workshop;  and focus their pedagogy on building self-managing student practice.

We did record the lecture and this is an unedited version of it – note that it needs a quicktime plugin. The sound quality is pretty variable, but you can see the slides and video clips, and listen to Pauls’ two hour seminar.