Early Career Researchers and Partnership Working: Reflections from the Field

Bryony Enright, Keri Facer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


Early Career Researchers and Partnership Working: Reflections from the Field Bryony Enright, Keri Facer University of Bristol, United Kingdom Presenting Author: Enright, Bryony Abstarct As education researchers we find ourselves caught up in a wave of enthusiasm for research undertaken in partnership with organisations, communities and individuals outside of universities (McIlrath et al 2012). Different approaches to partnership working are evident across Europe, for example the Scandinavian focus on action research (eg Work Research Institute, Oslo) or focuses on partnerships between the academy and industry (eg Department for Business Innovation and Skills in the UK). Linking these approaches across Europe is the use of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in much of the fieldwork and relationship building, for example as Research Assistants or placement based PhDs. This paper reflects upon the sorts of expertise that is needed in partnership working in education and makes recommendations for Principal Investigators (PIs) and those concerned with doctoral training, about the sorts of support and development that such researchers may need. Common themes underpinning partnership research in education are a sense of responsibility to include the knowledge, expertise, and informed voices of the people (e.g. students, teachers, communities, cultural organisations, policy makers) implicated in a research topic, and to embark on collaborative projects which produce mutually beneficial outcomes, that pursue social justice or tackle inequality. In addition to this sense of responsibility the recent emphasis on impact which stresses the need for educational research (and other social science and arts and humanities research) to show ‘demonstrable benefits to the wider economy and society’ (Higher Education Funding Council for England 2011) has also driven the need for researchers and educators to work in partnership with people, organisations and institutions outside the academy. While there have been a number of studies of partnership working (Jones 2012; Brydon-Miller & Greenwood 2006; Hart el al. 2013) and of engaged research in education (Edwards, 2007) this paper focuses in particular on the experience of the ECRs whose role in these projects is often to work on the ground and mediate between these different groups. Reflections on partnership working are taken from the authors’ work on the Connected Communities Programme (Arts and Humanities Research Council). The Connected Communities Programme is the AHRC’s largest programme of research and is dedicated to funding research which is co-produced with different community partners and across academic disciplines. Reflecting on our experiences and findings from this project we explore both issues of partnership working specific to education and whether these are a more general concern of ECRs in engaged research. Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used: In this paper we reflect on our own practices of partnership working from the perspective of educational researchers and from Dr. Enright as an ECR. These reflections are then located within wider research with ECRs working on in the Connected Communities Programme from Universities across the UK all of which incorporate different types of partnership working with community groups, young people, single parents and public organisations, amongst others. Over the past year and half Prof. Facer and Dr. Enright have worked in partnership with a wide range of different stakeholders some of which include: school children, teachers, girl-guide groups, museums and galleries, NGOs, artists, local community activists, the City Council and a wide range of public bodies. This research has incorporated a breadth of methodological techniques which we will talk about in the paper. Dr. Enright has conducted interviews and focus groups with ECRs from around the UK working with different partners on the Connected Communities programme. This data forms part of a larger project on the shared learning about collaborative research which is taking place across the programme. She has engaged in partnership as a volunteer with a local Bristol charity during research on positive psychology and happiness which involved a small auto-ethnography on her own happiness and wellbeing. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings: Through the progressive action and intervention that epitomises the Connected Communities Programme and the deep empirical and theoretical analysis of the programme by Prof. Facer and Dr. Enright, this paper discusses what happens when different knowledges and expertise encounter one another through partnership working. It takes a critical and innovative approach to this analysis by considering explicitly the role and influence of ECRs in this process. It addresses real practical issues on this matter as well as important theoretical absences relating to the mediation of knowledge and expertise in partnership working. The outcomes from this paper include practical recommendations as well as theoretical insight. It suggests practical considerations for PIs, ECRs and other academics when working in partnership with non-academic or educational stakeholders. In addition it draws on the experiences of ECRs to offer useful expertise, skills and experience which may facilitate partnership working. Moreover, it outlines our developing theoretical approach relating to engaged research in education which refers to and builds on Anne Edwards work on relational expertise (2005). References: Brydon-Miller, M., and Greenwood, D. 2006. A Re-examination of the Relationship between Action Research and Human Subjects Review Process. Action Research, 4(1), pp. 117-128. Edwards, A., Sebba, J., and Rickinson, M. 2007. Working with Users: Some Implications for Educational Research. British Educational Research Journal, 33(5), pp. 647-661. Edwards, A. 2005. Relational Agency: Learning to be a Resourceful Practitioner. International journal of Educational Research, 43(2005), pp. 168-182. Hart, A., Davies, C., Aumann, K., Wenger, E., Aranda, K., Heaver, B., and Wolff, D. 2013. Mobilising Knowledge in Community – University Partnerships: What Does a Community of Practice Approach Contribute? Contemporary Social Science, 2013, pp. 1-13. Jones, K., 2012. Connecting Research with Communities through Performative Social Science. The Qualitative Report, 17(18), pp. 1-8. McIlrath, L., Lyons, A., and Munck, R. 2012 (eds) Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives (New York: Palgrave Macmillan)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2014
EventECER Conference: The Past, Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe - Portugal, Porto, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sep 20145 Sep 2014


ConferenceECER Conference: The Past, Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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