Theoretical approaches to the study of fundamental British values (FBV)

Jane Louise McDonnell
Manchester Metropolitan University
Keywords: Fundamental British values, Radical democracy

This article explores some of the critical instruments available to researchers investigating civic nationalist policy and practice via a review of the theoretical approaches that have been brought to bear on one such instance of national education policy, i.e. ‘fundamental British values’ (FBV) in England.

The article offers a review of some key theoretical perspectives that have been applied to the study of FBV before offering some reflection on additional theoretical resources that might extend and compliment the insights that these provide. Specifically, I argue that concepts and interventions from the theoretical literature described as ‘radical democracy’ might be of particular use in complementing and extending some of the analysis of FBV in the existing literature.

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What happens when you miss out the child? Confessions of a reformed posthuman feminist new materialist researcher of early childhood

As an early childhood education (ECE) teacher educator I spend much of my waking hours pontificating on the remarkable capacity of young children to learn. But as a researcher   interested in how children are observed and documented, I imagine the classroom as more of an entanglement between the human and more than human (Fox and Alldred, 2017; Taylor, 2016). Consequently, I get overexcited about the documentation itself and what it does in classroom spaces. Murris and Osgood (2020) made a recent call for papers based on the idea that posthuman research practices can risk erasure of the child. This caused me to pause and ask, where is the child in my research?

ECE documentation practices involve the observation of children’s playful learning and are used for multiple purposes (Fleet, Patterson and Robertson, 2017). With posthuman and feminist new materialist theories (Strom et al. 2019) I framed documentation as having agency and able to be put to work in influential ways when its actions (rather than meanings) within spaces are foregrounded (Albin-Clark, 2020).  According to Barad (2007) agency does not reside in individuals but rather emerged through intra-action (rather than interaction). I positioned documentation as performative in pedagogical practice and an apparatus that produced knowledge (Lenz-Taguchi, 2010 p.18). So, I asked questions like what is documentation doing?  But when I shift my focus back to the children observed in making that documentation, I realised I missed out on the lived knowledge of the children themselves in answering that question.

The documentation data I collected took the form of a large scrapbook made by a nursery teacher Michelle, who had documented through photographs and written narration two boys (KC and Ethan) and their understanding of animals and growth.  The process involved Michelle and the boys making a physical mind map with small props and images of babies, animals, food and plants (Warden, 2012). In particular, the expertise of KC was captured who surprised Michelle by picking up a small pot of soil and instead of discussing it in relation to plant growth, focused on it as a place where animals lived (‘for wiggly worms’). Additionally, KC used his knowledge to support Ethan who hesitated when he selected a small tin of dog food to talk about (‘I’ll show you, I’ll show you, Ethan.).  

In my first analysis of this documentation, I skirted over how teachers make sense of what counts as valid knowledge. Children’s interests and lived experiences are important contributors to how knowledge is constructed according to Chesworth (2019). Beforehand, KC was considered a child who lacked language proficiency, and this was conflated with his capacity to conform to social norms ‘He has really poor speech and language. He’s got a bit of a name for being called a naughty boy’ (Michelle).  In contrast,Ethan was described as a socially competent and conforming pupil ‘quite a bright little boy and is held in quite a lot of high regard in his peer group’ (Michelle).   As KC demonstrated his interest and knowledge of animals and shared it to help Ethan, he became aware of what that knowledge socially enabled;

‘I was so proud of him, he immediately got all that feedback from all the adults that everybody is proper impressed with me, since then he has been on an upward trajectory in his learning and development. His speech is much better, he has loved everything we have been doing, he has loved the tadpoles, he just loves the chicks. You can see him holding the chicks and just talking to them, it was an actual magic moment.’ (Michelle)

When I shift my gaze to the children, I see that what documentation was doing was acting as a re-signification of status for KC in Michelle’s eyes, but I missed thinking about KC’s lived knowledge as part of that entanglement.

So, when I think about documentation as agential and as an apparatus that produces knowledge (Lenz Taguchi, 2010 p.63) it becomes much richer when children’s knowledges are entwined back into the focus. There was much more at work than the agency of documentation: ‘Consequently, we need to ask ourselves what kind of knowledge we produce with the tools or ‘apparatuses’ we use in our learning activities with children and students.’ (Lenz-Taguchi, 2010 p.18).

In conclusion I find that bringing children’s knowledge back into the human and more than human entanglement feels a more pragmatic model of posthuman theorising by “keeping sight of the human” (Bennett, 2016 p.70). In taking children’s knowledges into account, I feel I can counter against the erasure of children in my own posthuman and feminist new materialist research practices. In short, as a researcher, I cannot afford to miss out the child.

Albin-Clark, J., 2020. What is documentation doing? Early childhood education teachers shifting from and between the meanings and actions of documentation practices. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press.

Bennett, L. (2016). Thinking like a brick. In Taylor, C. A., and Hughes, C. (Ed.), Posthuman research practices in education (pp. 58-74).  Palgrave Macmillan.

Chesworth, L., 2019. Theorising young children’s interests: making connections and in-the-moment happenings. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 23.

Fox, N. & Alldred, P. (2017). Sociology and the New Materialism: Theory, Research, Action.  Sage Publications Ltd.

Fleet, A., Patterson, C., and Robertson, J. (2017). Pedagogical documentation in early years practice: Seeing through multiple perspectives. SAGE Publications. 

Lenz Taguchi, H. (2010) Going beyond the theory, practice divide in early childhood education. Routledge.

Murris, K. And Osgood, J., 2020. Risking Erasure? Posthumanist Research Practices and Figurations of the Child. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood,  

Osgood. J. and Robinson, K. H. (2019) (Eds). Feminists Researching Gendered Childhoods: Generative Entanglements. Bloomsbury.

Strom, K., Ringrose, J., Osgood, J., & Renold, E. (2019). Editorial. PhEMaterialism: Response-able Research & Pedagogy, Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, 10(2-3).

Taylor, C. (2016) Edu-crafting a Cacophonous Ecology: Posthumanist Research Practices for Education. In: C. Taylor & C. Hughes (Eds) Posthuman Research Practices in Education. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 5-24.

Warden, C. (2012). Talking and thinking floorbooks: Using ‘big book planners’ to consult children (2nd ed.). Mindstretchers. 

Early view: An Anti-Racist reading of the notion of ‘fundamental British values’

Ümit Yıldız
The University of Manchester
Keywords: Fundamental British values, Prevent, Anti-racism, Decolonising the curriculum


The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests were a reminder that structural racism (Sivanandan, 2008) remains prevalent at every level within British society. The movement to decolonise the curriculum has gained momentum amongst educators and students, in recognition that the education system is one of the means by which racism is reproduced.

The compulsory promotion of the notion of ‘fundamental British values (FBVs)’ is a mechanism within this production line. ‘FBVs’ play a dual role, firstly as a tool to identify the signs of ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ amongst young, predominantly Muslim people. Secondly, it acts as an assimilationist, racist educational policy which promotes the superiority of ‘British values’ over covertly identified ‘Other’ values. This paper argues that opposing the promotion of ‘FBVs’ is an integral part of decolonising the curriculum and anti-racist schooling.

Read the full paper here: Link

Early view: White Man face, order words and deviance detectors: a Deleuzoguattarian analysis of fundamental British values

DOI: Fundamental British values, Deleuze and Guattari, Civic nationalism, White Man face


This article is a critical discussion of the requirement placed upon teachers by the United Kingdom (UK) government to promote fundamental British values. Using Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the White Man face, I argue that fundamental British values operate as a racial deviance detector whose purpose is to discipline, reform and reintegrate student and teacher subjects who do not conform to the norms of state sanctioned British identity fundamental British values define. To dismantle the British values policy assemblage, the article calls for experimental anti- racist educational alliances that question and reveal the power structures that give rise to the racial politics of the White Man face.

Read the full paper here: Link

Prism Early View – Beyond binaries and before becoming: the affective dimensions of academic-level resistance

Drawing from the tensions within non-representational and human practice perspectives on affect, this paper continues the task of re-conceptualising academic-level resistance in the context of UK higher education. Such re-conceptualisation is underpinned by the belief that illustrating the breadth of resistant possibility within and between universities can assist in the development of action against the competitive and for-profit imperatives currently overwhelming this educational sphere. Indeed, while resistance research is increasingly interested in the (dis)connections between overt and “everyday” (Scott, 1985) forms of action (e.g. Contu, 2008; Zembylas, 2019), HE researchers have paid little attention to the latter. Consequently, academic-level resistance remains normatively portrayed as exceptional, novel and less influential than that it rejects.

For the sake of contributing a counternarrative, this paper employs a diffractive methodology to examine the affective roles of emotion, meaning making practices and pre-personal factors. By speculating how academic-level resistance derives from not only consciously undertaken cost-benefit analyses but from the entanglement of material and non-material elements, this discussion emphasises the notion of “becoming” and so problematises reductive binaries of overt/covert, high-cost/low-cost, resister/complier. Irrespective of the resounding difficulties that accompany efforts to exploit the affective dimensions of resistance, this emphasis nevertheless situates possibility at the heart of UK higher education and the actions pushing against its neoliberal form.

DOI: Affect, Resistance, Higher education, poststructural, binaries

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Marx on workplace alienation

I recently wrote a blog about David Harvey’s podcast, and new book, The Anti-Capitalist Chronicles. There are several disparate themes in the book; probably, too many to cover in one blog. So, I have picked one subject that has always fascinated me: the Marxist notion of alienation.

We all know what alienation means, but I was surprised to learn that some people argue it was derived from the Latin word for selling. When we sell something, we alienate it. A legal definition of alienation is that it is the transfer of the ownership of property rights. Take my childhood home, a big part of my life is now owned by someone else. In a sense I am alienated from it, but the family home is not just a technical matter there is a sense of the separation of things that belong together. I once had a discussion with a colleague about his divorce; he had become separated from his wife. Once there was intimacy but now just alienation. They confront one another as strangers.

Of course, selling in itself may not be alienating, only selling something you regret parting with or do not wish to sell has the power to alienate. You might sell your collection of 1980’s CD’s for example and be glad to see the back of it. This is not alienation. You might on the other hand love your CD collection and deeply regret getting rid of it. This is alienation because you experience it as a loss.

Marx saw alienation as something more than a technical or personal issue; he also saw it as work related. When we go to work, we sell our labour in the marketplace and we alienate it. A key part of our lives: our time, skill, and effort are now someone else’s to control and deploy as they see fit. The product of our labour, what we make and to an extent who we are, is subject to control. In effect, we are alienated at work. Again, this selling of labour may not be problematic, you may love your job. Not all work, therefore, is alienated.

Capitalists are also subject to what Marx describes as the coercive laws of competition or market forces. The capitalist must be competitive in the marketplace and much of their decision making is determined by the need to compete. They experience the market as a separate ‘force’ that is independent of them. Market forces may force them to make decisions they deeply regret like laying off a valued staff member or filing for bankruptcy. Capitalists cede their ability to control their own and their workers lives to the markets. This is a specific form of alienation that Marx calls fetishism. Capitalists create the markets and then the markets begin to exert some control over the people that created it.

The world we construct, therefore, confronts us as an alien force that attempts to exert control over us. It is important to note, however, that alienation is a diagnosis of a social ill, not a cure. It does, however, set up some interesting areas for future investigation.

We like to think, or at least I do, work need not be alienating. All we need to do is to figure out how to live in unalienated ways. Sadly, the theory of alienation does not tell us how; we have to figure that out for ourselves.


Harvey, D., 2020. Anti-Capitalist Chronicles. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 21 10 2020].

Freedom and the anti-capitalist chronicles

I must admit I find podcasts a useful way to learn. One of my favourites is the Anti-capitalist chronicles by David Harvey (2020), an influential Marxist theorist. I mention this because Prof Harvey has just released a book based on the podcasts, which in time I will review in my guise as literary editor of Prism journal. 

I thought a blog about one of the major themes would be interesting. One chapter addresses the question of whether socialism affects freedom. I am particularly interested in the dialectical nature of such propositions as they manifest themselves in contemporary political debate.

Somewhat fortuitously, as I sat down to write this blog, the current Conservative government banned anti-capitalist materials from schools (and frowned upon promoting divisive or victim narratives) (Department for Education, 2020). You cannot help but feel the anti-capitalist materials alluded to are probably socialist in origin; regardless, it certainly helped me to frame this blog.

Hayek (1944), a key influence on Government economic policy, argued that socialism is: “the destruction of the indispensable environment in which the traditional moral values alone can flourish, namely personal freedom”. It is worth noting that this tells us what freedom is not; it does not tell us what it is.

Hayek’s book, The road to serfdom, suggests that planning leads to serfdom: ‘the more the state plans’, the more difficult planning becomes for the individual”. At face value it is true, the more the individual is told what to do the less freedom they have to do it for themselves. Yet, it is a simplistic argument, which assumes individuals act with complete authority except for that exerted by the state. It does not account for the cultural power asserted by those with influence: newspaper proprietors, influencers in the media, large corporates etc. Of course, he was writing at a time when state planning was widespread and socialism increasingly influential amongst policy-makers. It is probably true to say that Hayek, who was teaching at the LSE at the time, was somewhat unfashionable in the 60s.

Harvey argues that right-wing commentators successfully pursue a socialism verse freedom argument and is keen to show that freedom and socialism are entirely compatible. He argues that the left need to take back the language of freedom. Unfortunately, Prof Harvey is not entirely successful. Quoting Marx, he suggests that it is only when material necessity ends that “the true realm of individual freedom could begin”. Like Hayek, this tells us what freedom is not; it does not say what it is. 

Harvey creates a freedom/unfreedom dialectic:

So, on the one side, we are building cities and building housing in a way which provides tremendous freedom for the upper classes, at the same time as it actually produces un-freedom for the rest of the population. This is what I think was meant when Marx did make that kind of famous comment that the realm of necessity actually has to be overcome in order for the realm of freedom to be achieved. 

It seems to me that passages like these not only represent examples of anti-capitalism that the government wants to ban from schools, but they also represent a divisive victim narrative. Some are unfree because they do not have access to the gleaming cities and big houses that others have. This is a specifically Hegelian approach (Gilles Deleuze, 1983), which is vulnerable to critique because it makes a clear disjuncture between the classes. The problem for the left is the relative complexity of pitching one person’s individual freedom against another. As opposed to the right pitching individual freedom against an impersonal state.

Thankfully, I do not imagine Prof Harvey will be insulted by accusations of Hegelianism. I think his reading of Marx is very dialectical. Nor will he be unduly concerned about accusations of anti-capitalism when those accusations are aimed at a narrative designed to defend the underdog.

Prof Harvey gives some positive definitions in the podcast like freedom is the collective effort to produce life chances open to us all. Marx echoes that definition, especially in his early work; it is hard to imagine anyone disagreeing. His most positive and concrete proposal, however, is that everyone should receive the basics necessities of life as a right. The right to shelter, food, education etc. but it is still not clear what freedom is and that is the point.

The winner in this dialectic will have as vague a definition of freedom as possible. It is useful to construct a vague half imagined sunlit uplands, while being extremely clear about what is currently causing our unfreedom or dissatisfaction. Arguably, the right has an easier argument to make because of its simplicity; unfortunately, reclaiming the language of freedom may not be as easy as it sounds  


Department for Education, 2020. Plan your relationships, sex and health curriculum. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 21 10 2020].

Gilles Deleuze, 1983. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Paris: Athlone Press.

Harvey, D., 2020. Anti-Capitalist Chronicles. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 21 10 2020].

Hayek, F., 1944. The Road to Serfdom. New York: Routledge.

Our Creative Selves

This blog intends to wish our readers a happy and prosperous New Year and to offer a reminder of our recent issue, Our Creative Selves, published at the end of last year.

When the editorial team (Emma Gillaspy, Anna Hunter, Neil Withnell, Chrissi Nerantzi) started work on this themed issue of PRISM, more than 12 months ago, we could not have envisaged the world into which this collection of work would emerge. The effects of the COVID19 pandemic have been – and continue to be – felt around the world, and have been transformative with regard to the way in which Higher Education is delivered. As the established, time-worn ‘norms’ of Higher Education have become untenable, there has been a call to educators in all countries to truly engage with their creative selves. Whilst isolated, remote, worried and distracted, we all have to learn to thrive in the new possibilities of digital learning environments, in order to deliver the most meaningful educational experience possible to our students.

As we set out our plans for this PRISM themed issue, we were certain of one thing: that it should focus on the notion of individual creativity, by inviting contributors and readers alike to explore what creativity means for them. Now more than ever, we see the importance of harnessing our creative selves – in our work, in our personal creative spaces, and in our responses to the world around us.

The authors that have contributed to this special edition each explore how creativity has facilitated engagement, connection, personal and professional development, and ultimately the way in which creativity has shaped their worlds. These contributions were produced and submitted in late 2019, and speak to a world before COVID; yet despite the fact that all of the papers in this collection were written before the onset of the pandemic, they all thematically centre on a number of core principles that are perhaps even more relevant as we navigate the uncertain territory of 2020 and beyond.

These themes are encapsulated within this word cloud; we invite you to reflect on these and from them create your own meanings, as are relevant to you and your practice:

Within this themed issue we present a treasure trove of creative practice, drawn from a range of practitioner stories and creative applications, across a range of disciplines and professional areas.

All of these accounts showcase a creative idea, practice, intervention or experience, which has enabled the authors to develop their creative confidence through taking risks and being committed to their creative practice.

Link to issue Vol3 No 1 (2020):

On the educated person in the Post-capitalist digital society

In the midst of a crisis, it is tempting to look to the past for answers. Perhaps, unsurprisingly Karl Marx is making a comeback not least because we have not yet fully recovered from the 2007-2008 meltdown.

As George Magnus described, almost ten years ago:

Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize we’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it.

(Bloomberg Business Week, Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy. August 28, 2011).

Alright, Marx was wrong; capitalism has not fallen, but he did bequeath tools to consider the current economic state of the world. Back to the future? Maybe, but we do require novel ways of addressing global economic change post-covid19. Suffice to say education will be central to it.

As Peter Drucker put it:

(…) one thing is predictable: the greatest change will be the change in knowledge; in its form and content; in its meaning; in its responsibility; and in what it means to be an Educated Person.

So, what will the nature of change be and what has it to do with Marxism? At the risk of being simplistic, Marxists argue that capitalist economic models work by exploiting labour and material resources. In an ideal world, this leads to better products and services because it encourages innovation and risk; the surplus is re-invested to create more wealth and prosperity.

However, there are inherent contradictions; first, those resources are finite. If success is dependent upon exploiting labour and material resources, then how do you measure success? When workers cannot afford to live, or the planet is not able to sustain life? Second, there is nothing to prevent those who generate a surplus from taking it for themselves. Or, not re-investing it in the kind of technology and human resource, which leads to improved productivity, higher wages and increased profits. It is a vicious circle but also a familiar narrative.

In the past, scientific innovation has come to the rescue, green initiatives such as solar and wind-generated energy replacing fossil fuel is just one example; however, science is struggling to keep up because the pace of change is increasing.

Srnicek and Williams describe the extent of the digital revolution:

The most recent wave of automation is poised to change this distribution of the labour market drastically, as it comes to encompass every aspect of the economy: data collection (radio-frequency identification, big data); new kinds of production (the flexible production of robots, additive manufacturing, automated fast food); services (AI customer assistance, care for the elderly); decision-making (computational models, software agents); financial allocation (algorithmic trading); and especially distribution (the logistics revolution, self-driving cars, drone container ships and automated warehouses).

In every single function of the economy – from production to distribution to management to retail – we see large-scale tendencies towards automation.

As Paul Mason describes, this creates new contradictions that capitalist systems have to negotiate. 

The main contradiction today is between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy, between old forms of society moulded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next.

More pressingly, what happens to human resource when a rapidly automating system designed to exploit it no longer needs it? On the flip side, could workers benefit from this paradigm shift and become more autonomous, enjoying a better work-life balance? Perhaps salvation for capitalism could be the recognition that there is profit in well-being and enhanced productivity beyond the marketing opportunities.

There is a second related problem for capitalism. If the capitalist economic equilibrium is being-disrupted, then so are its democratic processes. Tribal loyalties are changing evidenced by the collapse of the red wall, in the 2020 UK general election. The reasons for the collapse are complicated, but the party that traditionally represented labour seemingly cannot rely on its support anymore. The main principle of a two-party parliamentary democracy is both parties can win, or at least provide checks and balances when in opposition. As Iversen and Soskice point out, there is a complementarity between capital and labour in capitalist democracies. The relationship between the two is always evolving, but what happens when it faces permanent disruption? Answers on a post-card.

Of course, we have been here before, Engels predicted the end of capitalism over 150 years ago; he was wrong. Capitalism may yet survive, but the Educated Person will still be central to its survival.

If we can ignore the provocative nature of such a concept, we can perhaps ponder what constitutes it? In my view, the Educated Person is not a category with some included and others not; it is a way of knowing applied to a multiplicity of human endeavours. A healthy democracy cannot afford to leave a sizeable number of its citizens behind.

In his book, Drucker identifies two contentious opposing categories positing a view on the nature of the Educated Person. On one side, there is the post-Marxists, radical feminists and other antis who argue against the idea of an Educated Person because each gender, ethnic group, race, minority, requires its own separate culture and identity.

On the other, are the humanists who scorn the present system demanding a return to the nineteenth century, to the Liberal Arts, the Classics, the German Gebildete Mensch. Drucker argues that both are wrong; the knowledge society must have at its core the concept of the Educated Person precisely because it is global: in its money, its economics, its careers, its technology, its central issues, and, above all, in its information.

According to Drucker, the Educated Person will need to appreciate other cultures and traditions citing the example of the great heritages of China, Japan; in addition to, the philosophers and great religions of the Orient and Islam. The Educated Person will receive a far less exclusive and traditionally classical education than the Liberal Education of the Humanists; for example, training in social perception would be as useful as statistical analysis.

Drucker imagines this new kind of person emerging as a hybrid fusion of the managerial and intellectual classes. The ability of the manager to apply knowledge combined with the intellectual’s use of pure concepts. Such an individual would be the opposite of the polymath; those rare people who are simultaneously expert in Mandarin Chinese and nuclear physics. The Educated Person would, on the contrary, be able to run with the output of expert research; for example, applying chaos theory to economics, data mining to social history or neuroscience to customer service.

In purely curriculum terms, the Educated Person needs to understand the epistemic and disciplinary aspects of a field more than its knowledge base. More than that, the Educated Person needs to understand its digital landscape and be able to leverage an extensive personal network to interact with others on its unfolding paradigms.


Technology will eventually pose a serious threat to the capitalist economy and its democratic processes. It will facilitate the spreading of fake news by uber-networks of political actors both for and against the status quo. It will also disrupt the relations between capital and labour; neither market nor state will be able to prevent such disruption because they are inextricably linked.

The Post-capitalist digital economy, therefore, cannot be built on the opposing ideologies of market or state but, as Drucker points out, it needs the ability to fuse:

(… ) separate traditions onto a common and shared commitment to values, onto a common concept of excellence, and onto mutual respect.

Individuals cannot resist change, but the power of a critically aware networked collective will protect the many from the few. The challenge facing education is not only to deliver the knowledge and skills required to drive this new Post-capitalist paradigm but also to educate the future citizen to participate in future democracy without traditional tribal loyalties. 

The sad reality is that education cannot implement a simple algorithm. Worse, it surprised few when it all went wrong. As ministers seek to divert blame you do wonder who is going to inspire change?

Your guess is as good as mine!


Most of the ideas are derived from the following thinkers:

Drucker, P. F. (1994). Post-capitalist society. Routledge.

Fuchs, C., & Mosco, V. (2016). Introduction: Marx is back–the importance of Marxist theory and research for critical communication studies today. In Marx in the age of digital capitalism (pp. 1-21). 

Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2020). Response to Carles Boix’s review of Democracy and Prosperity: Reinventing Capitalism through a Turbulent Century. Perspectives on Politics18(2), 547-548.

Marx, K. (2018). Das kapital. e-artnow.

Mason, P. (2016). Postcapitalism: A guide to our future. Macmillan.

Srnicek, N., & Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the future: Postcapitalism and a world without work. Verso Books.

‘Developing a creative pedagogy to understand the university experience of non-traditional students’: the authors’ story


Someone should write a paper on chance meetings in academia. It could be called Facets of Serendipity which would immediately make it sound much more serious and impressive than ‘I bumped into Joe Bloggs.’ Why? Because it is through chance meetings and the formation of personal bonds that truly creative and innovative partnerships are made and, indeed, sustained. Most universities seem to view innovative partnership working as being something to do with knowledge exchange, typically between the higher education and business sector, which will, in turn, result in income generation. Hurrah! then for the unplanned encounter at a conference, the hurried conversation by the photocopier or, in our case, a very dull training session where two of the authors met, and in response to a questionable PowerPoint slide simultaneously uttered ‘Bollocks!

At the time, we, the authors, were doing very different work. On the surface, it would seem that criminal justice has little in common with creative writing and ordinarily, we would never meet. But our chance meeting, alongside a shared interest in people and their stories, brought our personal and professional curiosity together. Through conversation and sharing our stories, we became more than a facilitator of writing and better able to explore the realms of criminal justice through a creative lens.

Since September 2016, Dr Helena Gosling and Professor Lol Burke have delivered a university-based Learning Together programme for males and females who have personal and/or professional experience of the criminal justice system, to learn alongside postgraduate students from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). It is the only initiative based within a higher education setting that works alongside criminal justice services to create a community of practice, populated by people with academic, professional and/or lived experience of criminal justice (Gosling et al., 2020). As the article, published by PRISM highlights, students were keen to share stories about their life experiences but there was nowhere in formal taught sessions to capture such insight or, perhaps more importantly, reflect them back to the tellers. Rather, the stories were loitering in the shadows of lectures and seminars – which felt like a wasted opportunity.

Subsequently, thanks to that one chance meeting, the authors worked together to integrate creative response sessions to provide a space for all Learning Together students to share and capture stories. Not planning beyond that very basic notion meant that we did not have any preconceived ideas of where the research was going to take us – which feels innovative and creative in itself. And credit where credit is due, University managers allowed us to find the time and space to accommodate this investigation. What we later discovered, over two separate iterations of the project, was that we had created a space where Learning Together participants could establish their own, individually created sense of belonging. Again, you may ask, why is this important? Well because (based on our experience) if a student with lived experience of the criminal justice system is not confident in their newly acquired role as a student, then sharing and telling stories of their interactions with the wider world in their tried and tested role of human being helps to build confidence and indeed creative capital: the capacity to imagine and express new possibilities through creative activity (Creating Quality, 2012). We are clear in our position that students are the experts in their own lives and their lived experience has value. Plus, above all else, they were, as Adiche (2009) said ‘more than one story,’ and in curating these stories, our students were in charge of reshaping their identity and university experience.

Through the medium of creative pedagogy students engage in an ongoing process of storytelling: (re)framing narrative that not only works towards building the authentic self (Vanlit, 2017) but allows students to develop ideas, which means that they understand, trust and respect themselves (Vanlit, 2017). This blog post is an amuse bouche to whet the appetite. It’s not written in formal academic language because we did not start off sharing stories in formal academic language and our co-story tellers, the Learning Together students who participated in the sessions, did not use that ‘telephone voice’ either. We hope that you decide to read the paper but, if not, please take one thing from this: at the next conference (Zoom or otherwise), or meeting with a colleague from outside your own sphere of work, share a story and encourage that other person to do the same. Make a connection on a human level. Swap ideas. Listen. Discuss. Be interested and brave. Above all else, use the phrase ‘Shall we…?’ and see where it takes you.

Reference List

Adichie, C. (2009) The Danger of a Single Story – Transcript courtesy of TED. Available on-line at: accessed on 24.01.2020]

Creating Quality (2012) The Concept of Creative Capital. Blog Post. Available on-line at: [accessed on 14.01.2020]

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