Research and Teaching
Our research and teaching are interlinked, inseparable and mutually informed.
As teachers and educators we don't only impart knowledge, we also co-create, co-design, collaborate and 'collude' with our students as researchers.
We involve our students in the design of projects, in the collection and generation of data, in co-authored publications and in the building of partnerships.
Through researching and making together, we believe our students become citizens of the world and future shapers: civic-minded; critical; creative forces; intellectually independent; caring; curious.
Read our case studies below:
'Social Justice in the North East of England: Community-based Research in Politics
Community-based Research in Politics aims to give final year Politics undergraduates the opportunity to develop their practical research skills by conducting policy-relevant research for a voluntary or public sector organisations in the North East of England. Student research teams with three or four members work with partner organisations to co-design small research projects, that are an alternative to doing a undergraduate dissertation The main aim is to produce a research output that the organisations can use in their campaigning or to inform or improve their services.
Each group of students writes a 5,000-word report and presents the findings at a public workshop which is attended by our partner organisations, academic staff and other interested stakeholders (e.g. local politicians and chief executives of regionally based community and voluntary sector organisations).
We have worked with partners, including Carers Northumberland, Newcastle Citizens Advice, Changing Lives, West End Refugees Service, Youth Focus North East, Age UK and South Tyneside Council, and our research topics have included: “The spatial injustice faced by unpaid carers in Northumberland”; “Accessing public services for those experiencing homelessness”; “Media effects on perceptions of food poverty”; “In-person advice services in a digital world” and the “Impact of neighbourhood characteristics on the elderly experiencing loneliness”.
Students taking this module gain extensive knowledge of an area of policy research relevant to the North East of England and get the opportunity to develop and practice important skills that they will use in their careers, including presentation and communication skills, leadership, teamwork, time management, project management and working with external partners. The research projects often present our students with opportunities to meet with and develop a new understanding of the lives and circumstances of people that they might otherwise not encounter.
Finally, our students and the partner organisations have been very positive about their experiences and we are always keen to discuss future projects with potential partners from the voluntary and community or public sectors.
Module leader: Dr. Emily Clough
Placement organiser: Mary Hull
Testing Ground: A collaborative constructive design research programme based in Northumberland
Testing Ground seeks to involve local communities and volunteer groups in both the design and construction process. A design event at Stonehaugh Village (left) and a student design presentation at Byrness Village (right).
Testing Ground is an ongoing programme of constructive design research (established in 2012) situated within the contrasting landscapes of the Northumberland National Park and the Kielder Forest Park. The work engages with multiple external partners and actively explores the synergies between design practice, pedagogy, public engagement and academic research. Testing Ground deploys design-build practice as research method and has so far produced six small-scale permanent architectural projects that seek to explore environmental and social sustainability by working directly with external partners.
Each year a group of students works closely with an organisation or group to design and construct a small-scale structure or building and each project aims to provide practical training opportunities as well as social and economic benefits for local communities. The students write up the built projects as pieces of reflective practice with the aim of developing a wider understanding of the possibilities of design as a research method.
As a piece of academic research, Testing Ground is exploring expanded methods for producing environmental knowledge and extends previously published research into the theoretical and technical dimensions of sustainability. It is grounded in the understanding that sustainable design should extend beyond a discourse of resource efficiency to encompass and utilise the proximate knowledge of varied actors who have the latent abilities to imagine how new technologies building and spaces can operate sustainably in specific local contexts.
The Stonehaugh Stargazing Pavilion was built with the local community using locally sourced and recycled materials. It provides a venue for educational events and stargazing activities.
Testing Ground is genuinely collaborative and utilises the processes and product of the student design-build projects to both reflect upon and to explore situated environmental knowledges and also to interrogate the wider theoretical, practical and pedagogical opportunities afforded to design-based disciplines should they relinquish models of practice defined by an autonomy and 'critical' distance from everyday life. In particular, Testing Ground is exploring the ways in which co-designed and co-constructed physical artefacts can empower local communities to better understand, conserve, enhance and celebrate the unique character of the Northumberland landscape whilst also seeking to build the future resilience of its heritage and identity.
Clockwise from top left: The Rochester Roundhouse, Rochester; The Warm Room, Kielder Village; Calvert Shelter, The Calvert Trust; Wildlife Hide, Bakethin Conservation Area, Kielder.
Testing Ground has developed into a substantial 'live' design research programme and is unique in higher education in the UK. It has secured funding and support from numerous sources including The Heritage Lottery Fund, EPSRC and DEFRA. It is working with organisations such as Northumbrian Water, The Northumberland Wildlife Trust, The Calvert Trust, The Forestry Commission and the Northumberland National Park. It is generating academic publications and has featured in the professional press. It has been recognised in numerous awards including the Architects Journal Small Projects award, The North East Culture Awards and the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal MacEwen Award.
Representing Restoration Drama by Women on the Internet
James Harriman-Smith, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics
In the last five years, there has been an increase in interest in plays written during the decades that followed the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, with productions at the National Theatre, The Globe and by the Royal Shakespeare Company of works by Thomas Otway, George Farquhar and Mary Pix. Despite this resurgence of interest, theatre companies have tended to perform the work of a small number of (largely male) writers, responding in part to the lack of information on plays (particularly plays by women) in this period.
My research aims to broaden contemporary understanding of Restoration drama by studying writing about and for the stage at this time. In particular, I wish to demonstrate what today’s performers, directors, writers and critics can learn from the theatre of 300 years ago. One key area concerns the way in which plays of this period invited and managed audience interaction, creating ‘dramatic collusion’ rather than ‘dramatic illusion’.
Modern theatres, locked in competition with screen media, are already experimenting with greater levels of interaction (including the casting of stand-up comedians, like the RSC’s Nicky Priest), and I believe that the texts and practices of the past contain valuable material for enriching 21st-century productions’ efforts to involve their publics.
‘Dramatic collusion’ is the theme of one of my first lectures for ‘SEL3392: Between the Acts’, which introduces students to the full range of Restoration drama. Yet, like the theatre practitioners of the late 17th century, I have no desire for my students to be a passive audience.
My module ‘colludes’ with those who choose it, teaching them to share the aims of my lectures and introduce others to this period through the use of student-led group blogs. Not only does such a project help to inculcate module teaching, it also provides the students with an opportunity both to hone transferable skills in web communication and to intervene in the popular reception of the very material that they are studying.
In the first week of term, a group of four or five students are given access to a Wordpress blog on Newcastle University servers. They are also assigned a play written by a woman between 1660 and 1720 and which has no recent performance history nor publication. Working from a facsimile of the original 17th-century script (see figure 1), the group publishes four blog posts, each of which tackles an aspect of the play: a plot summary, the analysis of a scene, a biography of the writer or one of the performers, and a response to a relevant piece of recent criticism or critical theory. Every group member also produces an individual blog post on a subject of their choice. This has so far included: plans for a modern staging of the play, electronic text analysis, modern editions of a section, and feminist re-readings of the texts.
With permission from my students, I have made the most successful websites public. The two blogs made public in 2017-18 were:
- Agnes de Castro (a play by Catharine Trotter from 1696; figures 1 and 2 show, respectively, the script the students worked with and the homepage of the blog they produced) - https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/sel3392-agnes-de-castro/
- Queen Catharine (a play by Mary Pix from 1698) - https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/sel3392-queen-catharine/
My hope is that my store of online introductions to Restoration dramas by women will increase each year, providing a level of representation for these long-ignored writers and an inspiration for 21st-century companies who are now becoming interested in the writing of this period.
Once I have enough online introductions, I will contact local companies with invitations to stage these dramas and thus to discover the same emotional power and contemporary relevance that my students and I have already found in them.