The Bedford College Group Research Network: Past, present and future

The Bedford College Group Research Network is an informal meeting of researchers and those interest in research to support and share each other's work

Our past:

The network of teachers and support staff from across the college was created in 2014 with three aims:

  1. To develop each other as researchers
  2. To spread evidence across the college
  3. To promote research across the Further Education sector

The network has grown in the last 6 years and now has members across Bedford, Shuttleworth and Tresham Colleges.  We’ve worked within and outside the college to share our research; to this end we’ve shared our research internationally at conferences, books and journals.  This has helped up to shape research in the sector and how the sector sees itself, in recent conferences and sector-based books we have out-represented leading research focused Higher Education institutions allowing the sector to frame and represent itself to a greater extent.

Within the college we have successfully lobbied for the return for financial support of post-graduate qualifications and support for those undertaking research.

Our present:

At present we are trying to develop membership and networks across the three colleges, trying to find better ways of meeting, collaborating and sharing.  We are supporting PhD researchers and sector bodies to conduct research as well as research ourselves. 

Most recently we have been leading on the development of ChIRPS, the College Improvement Research Projects.  These projects aim to support any staff member from across the who want to change or improve something about the college financially as well as with support in the research process.

The future:

In our future we would like to continue the normalisation and support of research and innovation across the college.  We would like to welcome in staff who want to share non-research-based ways of developing knowledge through project evaluation, practice and updating.

We also envisage a future where staff and academic research evidence is used to inform college decision making in the same way as marketing research presently does. 

» Anastassia Parsons

A Parsons

I have been a member of the Bedford College Research Network since it started in 2014. The support I had from the Research Network has ranged from recruiting teachers and students for my research, finding out about opportunities to present the research (Research in Post-Compulsory Education 2nd International Conference in 2016, University of Oxford) and getting the confidence and support to publish my research ‘Accessibility and Use of VLEs by Students in Further Education’ (Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 2017, Vol 22).

The Research Network has been the hub for collaboration with other practitioners who are involved in research or interested in current research issues.

My research interests are in the area of inclusion and diversity, for instance accessibility, mentoring and strategies for improving outcomes for students from minority or disadvantaged groups.

» Jamie Heywood

Jamie Heywood

I joined The Bedford College Group in 2014 as a Personal Tutor before progressing into a lecturing position and more recently a Course Manager role. I manage Higher Education courses in the area of Social Studies and deliver on Teacher Education courses such as the PGCE, DET and AET and Psychology units across the BA Psychology & Criminal Behaviour degree and Access to HE Psychology Pathway.

My primary research interests involve the use of digital technologies in teaching, mainly specialising in how staff can be supported to develop their digital skills and embed digital technologies into their practice further.

I joined the Research Network in 2017 after completing Action Research during my PGCE as I wanted to enhance my research skills further and network with other practitioners conducting research. This took me to completing an MA in Education where my thesis explored the attitudes of FE Lecturers towards their own Digital Skills and Digital Teaching.

In 2019, I was selected to be part of the first cohort of College Innovation Research Projects, examining strategies to support digital development. I am a passionate advocate of practitioner led research and would like to continue welcoming new professionals to the Research Network.

» Kevin Norley

Kevin Norley

I joined Bedford College in 2009, as course manager in Basic Skills.  Teaching maths and English to a diverse range of students, enabled me to develop some projects I’d begun, writing course textbooks in functional skills maths and English for adults, and then later GCSE maths.

Reflecting on my own reading, and experiences in teaching, has enabled me to write papers including multicultural education, mentoring, technology and teaching methods, maths education, the development of writing skills, and methods to improve the language learning of EAL learners.  The papers have been published in a range of journals and books, and been presented at conferences within the UK (including the ARPCE, the UK Literacy Association, the Festival of Education and the British Congress of Mathematics Education) and abroad (including the Korean Association of Multicultural Education and the World Education Research Association).  Following an invitation to present at an international conference as a keynote speaker, I co-edited a book entitled, ‘Contemporary approaches to education’.

I joined the BCRN in 2014.  The network has allowed me to share my experiences and find out more about, and learn from, the research others are doing in the FE/He sector.  My main research interest currently is the correlation between social class, language and achievement in education.

» Natalie Morris

I joined The Bedford College Group in 2014 as the Advanced Practitioner and Course Manager for the Access to higher Education department, before progressing into the Quality Department as Quality Manager. My role now allows me to work with heads of Department across the college group to support them in maintaining high levels of quality within their departments. 

I also have responsibility for professional development across the group and am currently creating a new professional development strategy – watch this space!

As a lecturer my subject specialisms are Social Sciences and Education which I have taught at levels 2 – 6. I studied Social Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire, which is also where I completed my PGCE, Management and Mentoring qualifications. 

I studied Education Studies at the Institute of Education (UCL) and went on to combine these two interests at the University of Cambridge, where I earned my PGDip and also MA studies at the University of Sunderland. My ongoing research interests are related to inequality of educational outcomes for students from different social groups.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to publish some of my work in journals, books and at conferences, with thanks to the research network for their support to do this.

» Sam Jones

Sam Jones

I joined Bedford College Group in 2005 as the Advanced Practitioner for the Business department before progressing into Teacher Education. My role as Advanced Practitioner now focuses on the development of research and scholarship across the group and in this role I chair the Bedford College Group Research Network and I devised and supervise the ChIRPs (College Improvement Research Projects).

My primary research interests are the development of teachers and their knowledge. I finished my Master’s in Learning and Teaching from Oxford in 2017. This course really sparked my interest in research and practitioner research, it was one of the stimuli for creating the Bedford College Group Research Network with Catherine Lloyd which led to my creating the FEResearchmeet movement, which brings together lecturers, practitioner-researchers and others to share and develop ideas and research.

This movement has now brought together almost 500 further education staff over four years through the hard work of FE workers and supporters. Outside the college I have presented and published widely and am presently undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge which focuses on the development of teacher knowledge.

» Sarah Davies

I join​​ed the Bedford College Group in 2013 as a lecturer in Computing, after over a decade working as an Online Education developer, with an MA in Multimedia Design. At present, I am currently a Personal Achievement Tutor at the Bedford Sixth Form.

Owing to my past career, I have a keen interest in online learning, with a focus on how this can be utilised holistically within the educational experience. Focusing on my current role, I am also concerned, research-wise, with student wellbeing and engagement and am interested to see how this can be integrated and addressed in a digital learning environment.

I joined the Research Network in 2016, and began by looking at the attitudes to flipped learning in the classroom. At present, one area I am interested in looking into is how student –teacher communication and interaction has fared over the last few months of lockdown, where digital learning has become a norm and how this might develop in the future.