Our research journey
The journey at The Bedford College Group (BCG) started in 2014 with the creation of our research network. The network formed with three initial objectives, to support each other in research, to encourage the use of research to inform decision making in the college and to support the development of research across the sector. Quite ambitious aims for what was, at that time, a few post-graduate researchers in a small FE college.
Within the college, the members of the research network supported each other to publish and to pass work on to the senior management team. These first tentative steps allowed us to develop new identities, to share experience and create new meanings for our work. This creates a supportive ‘space’ in the college to develop and grow.
However supportive our network is, initially our experiences were that it was much easier to network and share outside the college. Twitter, academic conferences and bodies such as the Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) gave us the opportunities to share more widely and network. These spaces helped us to develop our voices and identity, which is something two of our members write about in the article published documenting our experiences: https://doi.org/10.1080/13596748.2018.1420731
Bringing these networks into our college became an important part of TBCG journey. We think we may have been the first FE college to host a British Education Research Association Special Interest Group, we have regularly hosted our local LSRN group and we are pleased to say that #FEResearchmeets both originated from a member of our staff and we hosted the first ever meet, kickstarting meetings across England and Wales. What this has meant for TBCG is that we have had cutting edge ideas brought into the college and have been able to share our own ideas and research. This work has been picked up by our PGCE students, shaping the future of our teaching staff, been excellent CPD for existing staff, it has encouraged our staff to start their own research projects or undertake post-graduate qualifications and even facilitated cross-sector collaborations.
It has also changed practice on the ground. This activity has bought us into contact with academic posters, which were first used in the Teacher Education department, and are now increasingly used across our HE provision – in 2020 we hosted a poster conference with over 100 posters. Within the college practitioner research has informed a new CPD programme that looks at taking risks from trying things in your classroom, through to action research and external research and sharing and has proven itself to be useful to staff when making decisions, so much so we now have research projects funded by the college.
Looking forward we are really developing our capacity for research, we are training and developing supervisors and focusing on how to present our research so it is useful to both leaders and others making decisions at a policy or classroom level. We are developing a research repository and are looking for new ways to disseminate and engage staff with our work. We are also having discussions about broadening ideas of scholarship and research in FE colleges which have to consider knowledge from industry and academic forms of knowledge.
We think the future is bright in what we call knowledge leadership and look forward to taking a shaping role in this work.