my research


If you looked at my publications, my research agenda might look somewhat haphazard. But I’ve been pursuing two related questions for quite some time.

The first question is about how change happens in organisations and communities, particularly through the arts.

I’m not interested in any old change, but change which makes life chances and everyday life better for the people that policy and social institutions generally do badly by and for. That means that my research might focus on groups of people who are having a hard time in times of austerity, or on practices that are affirming and offer horizons of hope and possibility. At present I am doing action research with colleagues to generate new curriculum and working with community theatre practitioners to create spaces for community narratives and knowledges. This also means that sometimes I do deconstructive policy analyses. Recently this has also extended to thinking about change via social media.

The second question is how we can ‘see’ and understand what happens when people are engaged in (broadly defined) learning experiences. How are they changed? What do we look for to understand what is happening?

This interest has led me to questions of formative evaluation and how we make judgements about what counts as ‘impact’ and ‘value’. I mainly pursue this question through ethnographic and case study research. Ive most recently worked on this question in relation to community theatre and in work on professional development and public engagement in galleries and museums. One of these projects can be seen via this archived blog on Performing Impact. Im also interested in young people who miss out on their educational entitlement.

Also see my current research project sites:

TALE – Tracking arts learning and engagement, with the Royal Shakespeare Company Education and Tate Learning, funded by Arts Council England.

Quality in alternative education, a project funded by the Princes Trust.

GET WET – an action research project with Papplewick Pumping Station, five artists, four teachers and four university researchers.

Signature pedagogies – a study of the practices of artists working with young people

Filming Live Art as research method – a cultural value project funded by the AHRC which looks at how we can understand young people’s understandings of the value of learning about live art.

CP archive – an AHRC funded project looking at how cultural value of the programme was understood and researched.

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