The Centre for Children and Families at the University of Worcester specialises in the design of courses and training with a focus on professional practice. The expertise to design such training programmes comes from tutors and is enhanced by their involvement in research and publications.
Most recently, published research has explored ways of enhancing children’s language development as well as ways to promote student learning and evaluate the effect of courses on practice. Publications are also produced by tutors who work collaboratively with other colleagues as well as with other universities in the UK and overseas. Indeed, the list of publications has grown considerably over recent years.
The Centre expertise is therfore represented in well-respected academic journals and there is online publication of research thesis and writing for online newsletters. The list of books includes those which explore key aspects of early education practice, ways to engage in practice-led research, early education leadership, enhancing practice-led learning, reflective practice, and how to document children’s learning.
Tutors are also invited to contribute chapters to books authored by academics from other universities. Importantly, the published material is used to support teaching at the university and plays an essential part in the provision of high quality information to support student learning.
Collaborative Working with Children, Young People and Families (FdA FDL)
Collaborative Working with Children, Young People and Families (FdA FDL) provides a 21st-century academic environment to better understand the meaning of family support in a rapidly changing political and practice landscape.
It responds directly to the concern that, as funding for children’s and family services is cut and services restructured, children, young people and families face increasingly acute challenges with less support on the ground to support them.
This course prepares us to reconsider the qualities of the workforce necessary to be effective in these unprecedented times, rather than bemoan the quantity of services available. Its underpinning principle is that support should be a collaboration between children, young people, families and the services available to them.
Collaborative Working with Children, Young People and Families (FDA FDL) intends to qualify all excellent professional practice that supports children, young people and families to overcome substantial difficulties and secures their welfare and wellbeing in challenging times.
The course the boundaries of excellent family support practice through a collaborative annual conference aiming at establishing benchmarks of family support excellence in challenging times. The course also provides the opportunity to consider the possibility of creating local and sustainable children’s services.
Early Childhood Professional Practice BA (Hons)
Practice-based learning: a unique selling point of the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Professional Practice.
In the Centre for Children and Families, we are committed to working with our students to be the best they can be possibly be in terms of working with children. We believe that key to becoming the best is having the opportunity to work with children in early years settings. Nothing can prepare you for the demands of working with children in the same way that spending blocks of time in baby and toddler rooms, pre-school, foundation and key stage one environments. As one of our students, you will be encouraged to work in other environments such as Children’s Centres and also to experience the challenges of working with childminders and with children who have special educational needs.
Our practice-based learning is only as excellent as our students’ performance in PBL. And we know they’re excellent because our placement providers tell us how brilliant they are. May settings offer our students paid employment and this is reflected in the high employability rates of our students.
Part of the reason that our students perform so well in PBL is because of the organisation and support that is put in place in selecting and planning placement experiences. Julie Woodhouse, our PBL Administrator is so good at supporting our students, she was nominated for the outstanding level of support she gave to students last year in the student-led awards.
To show evidence of your learning in PBL, you will produce an Evidence File, again you are supported by your Personal Academic Tutor to complete your file. Students take great pride in their Evidence Files which can be useful talking points at interviews.
Finally, our PBL approach is special because it has been developed in partnership with our students and with employers. Our approach has been published in a book which was written by students, practitioners and staff in the Centre for Children and Families.
Everyone has a story to tell
Erica Brown – Honorary Senior Research Fellow
My recent position as Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University Worcester has caused me to take stock of my professional journey.
Over the half century that has elapsed, I have reflected on the insights I have gained from the children and families who have become my travelling companions in my roles as a practitioner, leader and most recently as a qualitative researcher.
We are all researchers. It is a dimension of everyday life as we embark on domestic projects, use our learning to guide our present and future decisions and reflect on the meaning of events that have shaped who we are. One dimension of qualitative research is narrative inquiry, a relatively new methodology which sets out to study human experience. Sometimes a person’s experiences may be emotionally painful and it may seem to them that their thoughts are too muddled to articulate. However, recounting their experience to another person can be therapeutic, emotionally and psychologically and can add structure to their thoughts and experiences, enabling them to reflect on ‘what’ they feel and ‘why’. A person’s search for meaning may be expressed in many ways, direct and indirect, in metaphor or silence, in gesture, symbol and art or, perhaps most importantly of all through storytelling which has emerged as a vital currency in people reporting adverse life events.
Telling stories is an integral part of social human communication, helping people to sequence events into an identifiable ‘storyline’ or plot having a beginning, middle and end. Stories are also one of the most significant mediums through which people define and shape their human interactions. People live within and by the stories they affirm and re-affirm throughout their lives from early childhood onwards. Thus, personal and shared stories are a crucial and an integral ‘modus operandi’ – a means by which people make sense of their lives and shape their identity. However, although everyone has a story to tell, people often narrate their experiences in different ways and they rarely tell their stories in chronological sequence. For many adults stories are particularly important at times of life-transition or change, helping them make sense of the shifting ground of their lives. Often they continue to live their experiences as they tell their stories over time.
The narrative researcher is in a privileged position, gaining insight into the narrator’s daily routines, fears, desires and the traditions that shape their life. And this is the rub, because in order to justify the research paradigm that has shaped my work, it has been important to defend my chosen method. It is my belief that through deeper understanding of children and family lived experience lies the potential to inform change, improve practice and influence policy. Narrative approaches to data collection and analysis have opened up a range of innovative ways to access and capture human experience.
Rigorously conducted narrative research can offer a lens through which we may gain a more nuanced understanding of the impact that people’s life experiences have on them. However, there is no single way to capture the experiences of children and their families. Yet, there are avenues open to each of us who work in Early Childhood education. The starting point is to travel alongside people and to listen to their words and to be aware of the ways they choose to communicate. We need to pace ourselves and to be sensitive to people’s need to be key players in their life stories. We must never intrude. We need to show that we care, but keep sight of the emotional price that we pay for our commitment, seeking guidance ourselves. But most importantly, we should ‘be there’ and trust the children and the families who participate in our research to be our guides.