Conference report: The annual BERA conference in Liverpool 2022

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Maria Howding
Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University


The British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference 2022 took place in Liverpool at the Liverpool John Moore University, 6–8 September 2022. BERA is a membership association and learned society which aims to inform the development of policy and practice by promoting educational research. BERA was founded back in 1974, and organizes a three-day conference annually in the UK, inviting scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. The conference this year gathered approximately 750 participants, mostly from the UK but also from the rest of the English-speaking world.

This report is not a complete summary of the scientific program, but rather an overarching reflection on what it was like attending the conference from the perspective of the doctoral students in the Swedish graduate school of physical education didactics for PETE educators. Eight out of ten doctoral students, which are presented further ahead in this report, had the opportunity to attend the conference together with some of the supervisors and representatives of the graduate school: Dean Barker, Suzanne Lundvall, Gunn Nyberg, Paul Sjöblom, Joacim Andersson, Katarina Schenker, Mikael Quennerstedt, Håkan Larsson and Tomas Peterson.

Yesterday

Before attending the conference, we all joined a one-day Invisible college-day in a Special Interest Group (SIG) in the Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy research community (PESP).

The SIG opened with a welcome by Dr Colum Cronin (LJMU) and Annette Stride (PESP convenor), was introduced by Dr Tom Quarmby,and went on with a distinguished Scholar Lecture by Professor Hayley Fitzgerald. Then we were provided with three interesting parallel sessions on physical literacy (PL), curriculum, and intersectionality. Dr Lawrence Foweather presented “Shaping a PL consensus statement for England” and Ceriann Macgill chaired “Bringing research communities together” where Dr Rachel Sandford and Dr Shirley Gray lead an interactive workshop stimulating dialogue, debate and discussion on PE curricula across different contexts. Dr Ashley Casey, PESP, awarded the best reviewer of the year which was Tim Fletcher. The award for the best paper this year went to Antonio Calderón, Dylan Scanlon, Ann MacPhail and Brigitte Moody for ”An integrated blended learning approach for physical education teacher education programmes: teacher educators’ and pre-service teachers’ experiences” and to Ashley Casey, Ann MacPhail, Håkan Larsson and Mikael Quennerstedt for “Between hope and happening: Problematizing the M and the P in models-based practice”.

The BERA conference took place in Liverpool.

After lunch and networking, Cath Walker chaired Dr Gavin Ward and Dr Ronnie Richards presenting “Space, place and embodied experiences: Using Dewey and Intersectionality to understand Physical Education at University”, whilst Dr Ashley Casey chaired “Three minute thesis – Research for doctoral students and early career researchers”.

The SIG-day was a full day of meeting familiar as well as new faces, good networking and interesting presentations with important topics. We felt that starting up the conference in this format really supported us as doctoral students to share experiences with other doctoral students and to connect with researchers, share ideas, and recognize future research in PE and Sport Pedagogy. At the Liverpool John Moore University there were several sport facilities and we were offered to play a game of table tennis or volleyball, take a spinning class or go to the gym, before continuing with a social event. Liverpool showed us a nice summer evening where we could take a stroll in town and have a nice dinner.

Here Comes the Sun

After the SIG-day it was time for the three-day BERA conference. At registration we received our name tags and a folder with information, program and giveaways. Professor Mhairi Beaton and Professor Dominic Wyse opened the conference with a warm welcome back to everyone after covid and presented this year´s keynotes.

First out was Professor David James with a plenary session on “Reading the REF: Reflections and implications for the discipline”, followed by parallel sessions, ECR reception, poster viewing, and the John Nisbet awards. Finally, we had the opportunity to attend Professor Vivienne Baumfield plenary session “Presidential address: BERA: Who are we? How did we get her? Where are we going?”. Baumfield is Professor of Professional Learning at the University of Exeter. She is interested in the interaction of research, policy and practice when university-based researchers work with practitioners in the creation and translation of knowledge across contexts.

Welcome to the BERA annual Conference 2022.

The next keynote speaker was Rachel C Boyle, Dean of Education at the Carnegie School of Education (Leeds Beckett University) who met Professor David Olusoga, a historian and broadcaster at University of Manchester, in an interesting conversation. Miss Boyle is the first woman of colour to be appointed as a Dean in her university’s history. Her research focuses on race, racism ethnicity and education. Professor David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and filmmaker. He combines history and journalism. He is a writer and the maker of award-winning TV and radio documentaries for example for BBC.

The third keynote speaker was Lucian Ciolan, Professor of Educational Policy and Research at University of Bucharest. He is in the top management team, as Vice-Chancellor with the portfolio on development projects, lifelong learning, and educational infrastructure. His keynote lecture focused in “A process perspective on educational policy: scratching the tip of the iceberg or altering the very fabric?”.

The conference had 19–20 parallel sessions, and all sessions concerned education from different perspectives. Examples of session themes that interested us was “Creativities in Education”, “Higher Education”, “Educational Research and Educational Policy Making”, “Social Justice”, “Teacher Education and Development”, “Climate and Sustainability Education”, “Nature, Outdoor, Learning and Health”, “Mental Health” and “Wellbeing and Education”.

Come Together

In the session for “Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy” there were two symposiums from the Swedish doctoral graduate school to be presented. The first symposium was chaired by Professor Mikael Quennerstedt and the second by Professor Håkan Larsson, both with the following abstract:

For several decades, academisation has been a recurring trend both in teacher education in general and specifically in physical education teacher education (PETE) (e.g., Kirk, 2010). This trend has meant an increased expectation that the education is to be research-based, that student teachers develop research-based perspectives and that they are educated in scientific methods. Consequently, a need has arisen for more research-competent teacher educators. However, the expansion of teacher education, and the challenges of attracting experienced teacher educators to postgraduate education, has meant that PETE today, at least in Sweden, is understaffed when it comes to research competent teacher educators. Moreover, there is a growing concern that important teacher educator experiences are lost because of the academisation.

As a response to the need for more research-competent teacher educators, in 2017, the Swedish government, through the Swedish Research Council, announced funding for postgraduate education of teacher educators without a doctoral degree. Responding to this call, all nine higher education institutions who host PETE joined together to apply for arranging a “Graduate school of physical education didactics for PETE educators.

The application was successful and in 2018, activities within the graduate school commenced as ten PETE educators were admitted as PhD candidates. All ten dissertation projects deal with issues that are highly topical within PETE.

Two of the doctoral students, Runa Westerlund, Umeå university, and Claes Nyberg, Karlstad university, had other commitments and could not attend at this conference. Eight projects within the graduate school were presented at the BERA conference in two symposiums.

Karin Andersson, Anna Rosén, Maria Howding, Andreas Isgren Karlsson, Louise Lindkvist, Christopher Engdahl in front of the University of Liverpool.

The first symposium included four projects that focus specifically on overarching issues with great relevance to PE:

Physical education teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards digital technology in outdoor education by Andreas Isgren Karlsson, Dalarna University.
Logics in Play: What “Rules of the Game” Regulate Swedish PE Teachers’ Decision-Making Processes in Policy Implementation? by Louise Lindkvist, Umeå University.
“Naturally we want the instruction to engage all of the students”: Didactic choices and gender patterns in PE by Inga Oliynyk, Linnaeus University.
Students’ experiences of Yoga Based Practices (YBP) in PETE by Anna Rosén, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.

 

The second symposium highlighted four projects that focus specifically on teaching within various subject areas, which have hitherto been rather under-researched:

How meanings of friluftsliv are established in PETE practice by Karin Andersson, Örebro University.
Teaching Creative Dance in PETE by Christopher Engdahl, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.
Exploring friluftsliv in PETE through Participatory Action Research by Maria Howding, Malmö University.
Transmission and transformation of ball games as pedagogic discourse from university to school placements within physical education teacher education by Jan Mustell, Örebro University.

 

All presenters performed with high quality, supported with constructive questions from the audience that has relevance for further development of the projects. Even though each presentation came with a quite tense doctoral student, the completions of the sessions signals that there were a lot of learning and suggestions of further development for all the projects. We would like to believe it had a lot to do with the nice atmosphere and the good intentions from other highly regarded researchers in the room and the warm support and sharp summation of the symposiums from chair Dr Ashley Casey.

Liverpool is the home town of the Beatles and Liverpool FC.

I’ve Got a Feeling

In the session for “Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy” we also found and attended a lot of interesting research presented by colleagues from Sweden and other parts of the world: Oliver Hooper and Tom Quarnby, Working with trauma-affected students in physical education: The importance of teacher self-care; Hayley Fitzgerald and Annette Stride, “You can’t be what you can’t see”: The lived experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Physical Education teachers; Petter Erik Leirhaug, Fair play in physical education – a concept different from fair play in sports?; Lars Bjørke, Practising collaboration in model implementation in Physical Education; Lars Bjørke and Kjersti Mordal Moen, Rethinking effective CPD in PE: The perceptions of teachers’ and school owners’; Anna Maria Gatt, The role of Physical Education in promoting Mental Health and Well-Being: the perception of Maltese Physical Education teachers and Sport lectures; Göran Gerdin, Petter Erik Leirhaug, Katarina Lundin, Amanda Mooney, Rod Philpot and Katarina Schenker, EDUHEALTH 2.0 (Re)examining and developing pedagogies for social justice in Health and Physical Education; Ashley Casey and Mikael Quennerstedt, Busier, happier and good(er) – 40 years from “busy, happy and good” as success in teaching PE; and Erik Aasland, “Easy Street” meets educational practices/values in Physical Education. Experiences from a one-year action research project. All very interesting and educative presentations which gave a lot of thought and new perspectives with a new width of current research that is ongoing in in PE and Sport Pedagogy.

I Feel Fine

All four conference days were intense and time flies by when you, as a doctoral student are on your toes all the time. Breaks with traditional English lunch (sandwich and crisps, preferably salt and vinegar) and “teatime” with coffee and a cake were nice in the intense schedule. The welcome reception as well as the conference dinner were new experiences and gave us opportunities to socialize. Walks between the hotel and the Liverpool John Moore University were also appreciated, allowing time for the graduate school members to exchange new experiences and share reflections.

A first and common reflection from the doctoral students in the graduate school after the four days in Liverpool, is that we feel very privileged. We have engaging milieus for working and the support from our supervisors and the leaders of the graduate school is fantastic. Thank you all.

Another reflection is how evolving and developing it is to take part of an (for us) international conference. The chance to visit other researchers’ presentations and discover new perspectives is very beneficial. We interpreted the conference buzzword as “critical”, since it was highlighted in many titles and presentations. Critical pedagogy, critical theory and methodology, critical research, being critical, critical reflection and so on. A buzzword to keep in mind when we’re continuing our thesis journey.

The Swedish graduate school of physical education didactics for PETE educators.

A third reflection is that networking is hard work but a necessary and a welcome part of the job at the conference. Attending workshops and presentations offers the possibility to meet and exchange experiences with other researchers interested in Physical Education and Physical Education Teacher Education. We met researchers from for example Australia, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand, Malta and the UK. There were several opportunities to make new contacts for future work. Experienced and well-known researchers took time for a chat with an inviting attitude which was very appreciated. Good conversations that will contribute to future work.

With a Little Help from My Friends

We returned home with memories and new experiences that will continue to guide us in our personal development and for finishing up our theses. Attending a conference is intensive, exciting, educative, and fun! We experienced a lot of scholars and interesting research but also had a glimpse of the city of Liverpool, experienced afternoon crazy rain, the Beatles – and, of course, that special Liverpool FC atmosphere. Much laughter, hard work and a great time was had together in the graduate school! The school has been valuable in many ways, but the BERA conference was nevertheless an important checkpoint to continue our path of becoming new researchers in the field.

Maria Howding, Malmö University wrote this report, cheered on and supported by the rest of the group: Louise Lindkvist, Umeå University; Jan Mustell, Örebro University; Karin Andersson, Örebro University; Andreas Isgren Karlsson, Dalarna University; Inga Oliynyk, Linneaus University; Christopher Engdahl, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences; and Anna Rosén, The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.

Copyright © Maria Howding 2022


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