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June 30, 2023

A year in a blog

I took over editorship of the SIoE blog at the start of this academic year with an idea of what I wanted it to be: a forum to debate current or controversial issues in education; a forum to share teaching innovations and our creative classroom practice; and a forum for us to learn more about each other’s research. As I read back over the posts this year, I have not been disappointed.

Issues and answers

Professor Sam Twiselton provided the inaugural post for the relaunched blog, which focused on the importance of not only recruiting but also retaining teachers. She outlined the role SHU is playing in supporting new teachers and underscored the need to retain mid and later career members of the profession. In our October post, Professor Colin McCaig shifted the focus to undergraduates and the so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda. In the post, Colin drew on his policy expertise to shed light on policy changes associated with levelling up and the potential implications for students and our university. November’s post was prompted by King Charles’ visit to the Repair Shop, in which he let slip his view that we need more technical education in the UK. Cue Principal Research Fellow Charlynne Pullen to bring us up to date on the state of apprenticeships and what we can expect in the coming years.

Express yourself

Our Christmas post was written by Senior Lecturer Alison Hramiak, an expert in post-16 teacher training and a published poet. Inspired by a chance meeting with a teacher and pupils in Boroughbridge, Alison explored through poetry the experiences of young people with special educational needs. In March, Dr Luke Beardon also responded creatively to my invitation to write for the blog; his powerful post enabled us to experience two imaginary and contrasting induction-weeks as seen through the eyes of a student with autism.

Innovating the classroom

The creativity continued with our April post on teaching innovation. Alison returned along with Senior Lecturer Chloe Hindmarsh to report on their use of poetry to promote reflection among trainee teachers. The post is a good reminder that pedagogy can and should be a site of creativity and experimentation, and I look forward to publishing more posts on teaching innovation next year.

Sharing our research

And last but not least, there’s our research. Two posts dealt with research as a topic in itself. In February, Professors Mike Coldwell and Bronwen Maxwell posted on the importance of research in education and the value of a ‘systems lens’. And Lucy Clague, Senior Research fellow in SIRKE and GDPR expert, tackled the complexities of sharing data among universities. COVID 19, perhaps not surprisingly, was a recurring theme in other research-based posts. In January, Senior Lecturer Caron Carter drew on her recent papers to provide concrete strategies for parents to mitigate the impact of the school closures and other measures taken in light of the pandemic. Bernadette Stiell and Ben Willis provided the other side of the coin, reporting the results of their DfE commissioned report on schools’ response to COVID. Finally, Professor Sally Pearse used her February post to highlight the research affiliated to Sheffield Hallam’s Early Years Community Research Centre, and the centre’s role in supporting local families recovering from the isolation of lockdown.

Where do we go from here?

I have taken something from each and every blog post this year. I have used Caron’s post alongside Benadette and Ben’s to teach critical reading with my MA Education students. I will be putting Lucy’s blog on the students’ ethics reading list next year and referring to it as I complete my Converis application for a collaborative research project. Luke’s post will be on my mind as I plan induction materials and correspond with the next cohort of MA Education students in preparation for their arrival. I may even search for the poetry in data analysis as I prepare module 4 for the EdD students!

But I think the next step is to look beyond ourselves as the audience for our blog. I want to encourage our students, partners in the community and the wider public to engage with us. As Mahrt and Pushmann (2014) point out, blogs such as ours can be a powerful contributor to the ‘democratization of science’, with the potential to demystify the academy and contribute to public understanding of education policy and practice. Please do promote our blog among your colleagues, networks and friends, and get in touch if you have ideas as to how we can ensure our posts reach the wider community.

Thank you to everyone who wrote for or read or shared or commented on our blog this year.

We’ll be back in September.


Mahrt, M. and Puschmann, C. (2014). Science blogging: An exploratory study of motives, styles, and audience reactions. Journal of Science Communication, 13(3), 1–17.


Lisa McGrath is an Associate Professor in the SIoE and the SIoE Blog editor.