practice-based research

Resources: assessing unessays

The IEF seminar on unessays allowed me to present my conception of unessays to a group of interested and enthusiastic staff, all of whom had some excellent input into the assessment of the unessays.

The introduction and presentation of unessays – and my plea for help – are found in the PowerPoint slides: Unessay presentation – assessment

The key take-home messages I had from this exercise was firstly that I was overcomplicating things, it’s important to recognise commitment and engagement, a strong narrative is important, and that it was perfectly fine to have generic, subjective criteria. After a further discussion, a framework for supporting the further development of the assessment into a portfolio approach was set up.

As a result, I have decided on the following approach – one for this year (within my existing assessment framework) and one for next year, where I can change the framework to suit a more integrated unessay approach.

The key messages I want to integrate into this assessment criteria is a set of objective set criteria and a set of more subjective generic criteria. This will allow for students to have a grounding to their approach.

2017/18 Requirements

  • Unessay, one page artist statement and bibliography of supporting literature
  • Mid point informal review, present your idea to the class & get feedback (mid-Feb)
  • Due in class (and filmed if a one-off presentation); photographed for magazine
  • Submit supporting material (e.g. any written components, links to websites, etc.) electronically
  • Unessay show

2018/19 Requirements

In 2018/19 I will remove several other assessments and replace them with a more integrated assessment (remove pilot study write up; remove reflective journal; remove unessay as of 2017/18).

  • Agreement between tutor and student on the approach and topic by end December
  • Unessay, including: portfolio, showing engagement & planning; unessay with 1 page artist statement
  • Midpoint review, initial feedback: 3 min presentation on your unessay idea & plan (mid-Feb); peer reviewed
  • Submission in class (filmed if one-off); photographed for magazine
  • Submission electronically for written components (e.g. lyrics, articles, etc., links to websites)
  • Unessay show (physical items; photographs/videos, etc.)

Requirements for portfolio:

  • Weekly write up of surgery sessions (at least 5) and midpoint review.
  • Production journal for unessay.
  • Any associated material (e.g. drafts, sketches, design documents, photographs)
  • Bibliography of supporting literature
  • Unessay
  • 1 page artist statement

General Marking Scheme (items in brackets for 2018/19)

Objective criteria:

  • Agreed by tutor
  • Accuracy of information used
  • Production quality commensurate with approach
  • Aimed at non-specialists in the subject

Subjective criteria:

  • Artist statement (and portfolio) shows underlying thought and link with the final year project
  • Depth of commitment and engagement (shown through portfolio)
  • Compelling:
  • Critical and active engagement with the source material
  • Clear and insightful connection with research
  • Effective
  • Chosen medium works persuasively with the design and polish of the unessay
  • Strong narrative present

Overall it was a very successful workshop and I would like to thank the participants for their constructive discussion and assistance in applying this approach in my teaching!

Researching with marginalised communities ethically: Contradictions in ‘doing’ feminist research

This month’s seminar was delivered by Sana Rizvi, who explored the contradictions of ‘doing’ feminist research, and how the materiality of engaging in fieldwork magnifies the gap between ‘ideal’ versus ‘actual’ feminist ways of conducting research. Drawing on her doctoral research with British-Pakistani mothers of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities, she explored the ethical, and methodological challenges of engaging with feminist methodology and how this contributes value to the research process when working with marginalised groups. In the talk, she examined feminist principles for engaging in research and showed that traditional feminist methods may not always be more ethical, and that as feminist researchers we must be willing to adopt a holistic view of feminist values, where vulnerability of researcher and participants are both respected and where methodology is adjusted accordingly.

A recording of Sana’s talk is available via Panopto, here.

The accompanying paper is at:

Rizvi, S. (2017) Exploring British Pakistani mothers’ perception of their child with disability: insights from a UK context. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 17: 87–97. doi:10.1111/1471-3802.12111

Evidence-informed practice – much talk and little action

Professor Sarah Younie, Professor of Educational Innovation at De Montfort University, writes about evidence-informed practice in education contexts.

This blog was first published as a BERA Blog in October 2017.

Note: MESH is an international education sector owned and managed initiative, developed by volunteers, with MESHGuide research summaries quality assured as are academic journal articles. For updates register to receive the newsletter and follow the Tweets (@meshguides). To ensure sustainability, MESH is a voluntary education sector led initiative funded by contributions of time from a wide range of members and supporters.


Evidence-informed practice in classrooms (EPiC practice) is a growing issue for teachers in schools and interestingly a Google search on the topic gives a million and a half returns.

Over recent years as those of us in the MESH (Mapping Education Specialist knowHow)network have canvassed colleagues about practice in other countries, we find there is little action beyond expressions of concern by policy makers and the recurrent commissioning of reports which yield nothing new (DFE, 2017).

As a co-author of the major textbooks used for secondary teacher training in the UK, I am only too aware of the extensive professional knowledge base that authors need to draw on in writing the textbooks.

High quality teaching requires a high degree of pedagogic knowledge as well as up-to-date subject content knowledge. However, we find that in many areas, the research underpinning practice is either not available or not easily accessible to teachers. Academic papers, are, after all, written as conversations between academics. Arguably, they are not and never will be designed to meet the needs of practitioners.

As reported at the BERA conference, in the ‘Educational Research and Policy Making’ SIG discussion on the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals about improving the quality of teaching, the MESHGuide research summaries provide one answer to the need for translational research ie translating theory to practice in education.

MESH supports the use of scalable and low cost technologies to enable educators to engage in research collaborations and publications around topics they consider will make a difference to student’s learning. We are at the beginning of a long journey pooling, sharing and testing our collective research-based knowledge including knowledge about how to diagnose problems learners face and interventions that help them overcome barriers to learning. We estimate thousands of concepts need to be included in the MESHGuide list. This is a challenging task.

We define evidence-informed practice as requiring both research/evidence and teacher professional judgement about the context and learners ie explicit knowledge + tacit knowledge. In our view, all teachers can be EPiC practitioners if they are given the tools – as a minimum, this means access to research based knowledge translated to relate to practice.

You are invited to Get Involved in what ever way suits your knowledge, expertise, experience and interests. Join the MESHConnect Open Door group on www.khub.net/MESHConnect to read more and set the email alerts to be kept up to date or email enquiries@meshguides.org to volunteer.