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‘I need you to jump out of your seat and go plant more flowers!’ What do primary school children in Lambeth want for their local parks?

It’s a cold, rainy morning outside Hillmead Primary School, but inside their assembly hall, the Year 3/4 (8-9 year olds) pupils are happy and engaged. Some of their classmates are delivering speeches about what they want from their local parks to three Lambeth councilors:

  • Councillor Rezina Chowdhury – Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council and Cabinet Member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air, Ward –
  • Councillor Donatus Anyanwu – Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Leisure and Sport, Ward – Brixton Windrush – Streatham Hill East
  • Councillor Scarlett O’Hara – Ward – Brixton Windrush

They’ve been assisted in researching their local park – Brockwell Park – by their teachers and Goldsmiths’ research partners and the “Soak Up Lambeth” Team at Lambeth Council. They have turned their research into powerful resources, including pictures of their perfect parks, leaflets to promote their ideas and persuasive speeches to convince their council to take action. The whole Parklife project is part of research set up by myself at Goldsmiths in 2022 from Strategic Funding from the Goldsmiths’ Research office and British Academy SHAPE funding. This academic year, 2023-2024, SHAPE funding has been used to support work in primary schools led by:

  • Laura Dempsey, founder of Volunteers for Future who deliver action-led climate programmes that equip young people with the skills, tools and confidence to build a better future for all
  • Rebecca Deegan, founder of I Have a Voice, an organisation which helps young people advocate for change.

Building on our previous Parklife project at John Donne Primary School, Laura and Rebecca have worked intensively with primary schools in Lambeth and Tower Hamlets to produce a ‘Parklife Toolkit’ which will enable primary schools and community groups working with young children to encourage them to become creative researchers into their local parks. Approximately 60 Year 3/4 pupils conducted research into Brockwell Park by visiting it, making observations about it, interviewing park users, and producing creative responses to the parks. In particular, they were encouraged to draw and label their perfect park:


The pupils also wrote speeches for their local councillors about how they would like Brockwell Park to be improved. Four key points emerged from their lively, entertaining speeches:

More wildlife areas. Many of the speeches outlined the pupils’ desire for Brockwell Park to become more of an ecological haven for animals, birds, bees, insects, and for plants and trees. One pupil memorably looked the councillors in the eye, and said, ‘I need you to jump out of your seat and go plant more flowers!’

  • Greater safety. The speeches often spoke about the pupils’ fear of dogs in the park. Many speeches asked for dog-free zones and/or designated areas for dogs.
  • Greater accessibility. Pupils wanted better access for wheelchair users in the park, and for people with mobility issues.
  • More facilities for playing. Many of the speeches spoke about the need for more sports facilities in the park, and for the existing areas of the park not to be flooded when it rains so children can play there easily.

The councillors were all very impressed with what the pupils said, and invited a group to go and speak at the full council meeting when it is in session.

Cllr Chowdhury, cabinet member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air, said: “The pupils at Hill Mead Primary School have been working incredibly hard to think about how they could suggest actual improvements to Brockwell Park. “They had three clear suggestions for us: create more biodiversity and habitats for wildlife, have separate places for people to play and walk their dogs, and to introduce more drainage to stop the park getting too muddy when it rains heavily. Their work was truly impressive, and they were really interested in how Brockwell Park can be improved by introducing measures to prevent flooding or what we can do to support the wildlife who live there. We will keep the pupils’ work in mind when we consider further enhancements to Brockwell Park and we really value their contribution.”

You can read more about this event on Lambeth’s website: Hill Mead Primary students pitch their Brockwell Park improvement ideas   – Hill Mead Primary students pitch their Brockwell Park improvement ideas   – Love LambethLove Lambeth

Four ways education can make the world more socially just

It was a very rainy cold night in New Cross, London, but it was warm in the Margaret McMillan Building on the Goldsmiths Campus! Several Educational Studies staff, former and current students, and prospective students had gathered both in the building and online to discuss a vital issue for our times: how can education make the world more socially just?

It is a huge topic, but a very important one to consider. The discussion was very fruitful and a few key points emerged by the end of the evening, which I’ll sum up here.

ONE: Make every voice count.

If there was one strident point to emerge from the evening, it was this. If we are going to institute social justice in the world, then both formal and informal educational settings need to foster listening cultures where everyone feels they can be heard and listened to with respect, kindness and consideration. This is not to say that there shouldn’t be disagreements, but the crucial issue here is that people should feel their opinions, their thoughts, their feelings, their experiences count. This is something that all the programmes at Goldsmiths encourage. The BA Education as Dr Amina Shareef, a lecturer and tutor on the degree, pointed out, is all about giving students the confidence to articulate their views, and to listen to other people. Equally, within the Masters’ programmes in Educational Studies, this theme was a constant. Dr Chris Millora, module leader on globalization and education on the MA Education, Culture, Language and Identity, highlighted what happens when people are not given a voice. He showed us a photograph of a bulldozer ploughing down homes in the Philippines, where he is from, in order to build a resort, and pointed out that while for some the bulldozer is a symbol for helping communities become richer by building a resort that fosters tourism, for other people, particularly the local community, the bulldozer represents losing their homes. His module and others on the MA interrogate these issues. Whose voice really counts in the world? Who is listened to and respected? Too often, the voices of the economically disadvantaged and of marginalized groups are ignored at best, and at worst obliterated.

 TWO: Help everyone become critical and creative thinkers.

Professor Vicky Macleroy, Head of the MA Children’s Literature, talked powerfully about the ways in which her MA explores the ways in which people, children and the world are represented in children’s literature. This MA is innovative in the way it helps students on the degree become critical and creative thinkers simultaneously. They read so many wonderful children’s texts – written by staff on the course like Professor Michael Rosen and alumni like Dean Atta – and then are given space to respond both critically and creatively with their own analytical essays, podcasts, pictures, and creative writing. On the MA Creative Writing and Education, students are encouraged to use creative writing in all sorts of educational ways: to use it as a form of self-healing, to get communities writing poems, plays and stories about the injustices they see around them. Seb Duncan, alumni of the MA Creative Writing and Education, is just about to publish a novel, The Book of Thunder and Lighting, which explores these issues in some depth. His time-travelling hero undergoes a fantastical psychic and physical journey through London’s past and learns about the injustices that have happened throughout the ages to emerge as a changed person.

 THREE: Foster the spirit of rebellion against injustice.

This was a theme that was raised initially by a student on the MA Creative Writing and Education, Denise Dixon Roberts. She’d run a wonderful workshop earlier in the term for the general public on Creative Rebels. She pointed out that it is often the rebels that change the world for the better. We talked about artists like William Blake and Linton Kwesi Johnson (Goldsmiths’ alumni) who fostered this spirit.

FOUR: To use research as a tool for social justice.

This was another theme that came up again and again. Dr Chris Millora talked about his own research into literacies in the Global South, and how the label ‘literacy’ can be oppressive when used in certain ways, if, for example, certain people and communities are labelled ‘illiterate’. Emeritus Professor Eve Gregory spoke about her research into literacy which had highlighted a similar issue in the United Kingdom and London. Her research conducted with many other academics over the years has shown that there are many hidden literacies amongst groups who are often labelled as lacking literacy skills, such as the Bangladeshi community and the white working class in the East End of London.

Exciting research within the Educational Studies Department with Social Justice as a key theme:


‘Becoming literate in faith settings: Language and literacy learning in the lives of new Londoners’ (BeLiFS) is a research project funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council. This is a 3-year long project on four faith groups: the Pentecostalist community from Ghana, the Catholic community from Poland, the Muslim community from Bangladesh and the Hindu community from South India/Sri Lanka.

Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project (

The Critical Connections Project, initiated in 2012 with funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, is about enabling young people across the primary and secondary age range to create and share multilingual digital stories. It offers an approach to language learning, literacy and citizenship which recognises that communication is enhanced when plurilingual and digital resources are drawn upon purposefully and creatively. Consistent with Project Based Language Learning (PBLL), the value of a wider cross-curricular orientation, particularly in relation to the arts (drama, music, visual art) is also viewed as highly significant.

Other MAs in the Department of Educational Studies which you might be interested in are:

MA Education: Culture Language and Identity, soon to be MA in Social Justice

The MA Education: Culture, Language and Identity has been developed into the MA Social Justice in Education (new from September 2024). We build very much upon the strong and popular basis that is the MA Education: Culture, Language and Identity drawing upon the expertise of talented and knowledgeable academics. This programme is designed for you if you are interested in how questions around social justice impact upon education as well as lived aspects of our lives. In part, this new MA  aims to address issues faced by those in informal learning contexts as well as formal educators at all levels, international settings and related fields.

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Children’s Literature

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Children’s Literature: Illustration Pathway

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Arts and Learning

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Multilingualism, Linguistics and Education

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA in Creative Writing and Education

You can learn more about the MA in Creative Writing and Education here. 

Spotlight Interview: Chris Millora

We have a series of blog posts introducing colleagues who have recently joined Goldsmiths’ Educational Studies Department. Find out more about their role at Goldsmiths, why they decided to join, the areas they teach and what they do during their spare time! This gives you a glimpse of the vibrant research and teaching community at our department.

Dr Chris Millora, Lecturer in Education, joined Goldsmiths in August 2023

What was your role before you came to Goldsmiths?

I was Senior Research Associate with the UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. I also completed my PhD at UEA in 2021.

Tell us a bit about your research and teaching expertise – what do you specialize in?

My research interest is around the role of literacy and learning in youth social movements. I currently lead a 3-year research project called Literacies of Dissent where I work with youth activists in the Philippines (where I’m from!) and Chile to explore how they learn in/through their activist work. More generally, I am interested in learning and literacy in everyday life (beyond school settings). I think we can learn a lot about social justice and social change by understanding how individuals acquire knowledge and skills through everyday tasks such as volunteering, praying together, setting up online campaigns etc! I also work a lot internationally – either researching in or collaborating with colleagues in places like Malawi, Nepal, Ethiopia, South Africa and of course, the Philippines. I am also concerned about how research can reach wider audiences so I work with civil society organisations with whom I share similar vision like the Global Campaign for Education (South Africa) and the International Association for Volunteer Effort. Here in the UK, I Chair the British Association of Literacy in Development.

What drew you to Goldsmiths? And to the department?

Like Goldsmiths, I also believe that social justice should be at the heart of what we learn and how we teach. I was also attracted to Goldsmiths’ long history of student activism: for many years many students and young people here have been working towards shaping the kind of education they want. That, for me, provides an excellent context for teaching and research.

Which programmes do you teach on here and what your contribution to those programmes?

I teach at the Department’s MA Education: Culture, Language and Identities (which will soon be renamed to MA Social Justice in Education). I contribute to various modules on topics such as educational reform and student movements, global education, family literacy and indigenous learning; youth social action and participatory research methods. I am also involved in MA dissertation supervision. In terms of research, I am part of the Centre for Identities and Social Justice – one of the many exciting research groups that you can be part of if you study MA or MPhil/PhD with us!

What makes the programme(s) interesting and important? How do you think potential students might benefit from taking the programme?

Our programmes at Goldsmiths explore fundamental questions on how education and social justice interlink. Our students are invited to think critically and radically with us – asking difficult questions. Our sessions are designed in a way that students are encouraged to draw from their own experiences and reflect on how our classroom discussions are applicable to their real-life situations and challenges. The programmes also have a strong ‘action’ component that students can then take further in their own work and interests! For me, these aspects make our programmes excellent foundations for advancing one’s career.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve been trying to get better at playing guitar and I promised myself to finally take guitar lessons (wish me luck!). I also like reading fiction. Last year I challenged myself to reading 12 novels for the year – I ended up doing 18! I also recently moved to London which is so exciting, so been trying to get to know the city more.

What reading/books/resources would you recommend  to students who might be thinking of taking your programme?

There’s a lot of really great scholars exploring education and social justice from various perspectives. You have the work of Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Arturo Escobar Encountering Development. If you’re interested in informal learning, I recommend Alan Rogers’ The Base of the Iceberg and Uta Papen’s Adult Literacy: More than Skills – both are excellents book where complex ideas are explained really simply.

Learn more about Dr Chris Millora’s teaching and research. 

Learn more about the Staff at the Educational Studies Department.

Learn more about the MA Education, Culture, Language and Identities and other MA Programmes.

Then, Now, and Beyond Goldsmiths – a great student voice event! Listen to what students really have to say!

A wonderful Department of Educational Studies initiative taking place in December is a Student Voice event –Then, Now, and Beyond Goldsmiths – online on Tuesday 12th at 18.30- 20.00. 


This evening session will have short presentations from a number of current students in the department and alumni. They will be discussing how their experiences of differing courses and programmes has impacted their thinking and/or careers. We have speakers who did their BA, PGCE’s, MA’s and PhD’s at Goldsmiths. If you would like to come and hear from these wonderful and inspiring people then please follow this Teams link. You may be a current student, or a new applicant or someone who is just interested in hearing more about the Educational Studies department.  We would love to see you there.


Beat the Christmas blues by freeing your creative voice! Come to our amazing conference — it’s free!

For many people, Christmas can be a very problematic time. On the MA in Creative Writing and Education which I run at Goldsmiths, we investigate the ways in which creative writing and creativity more generally can improve your wellbeing. Much research and practice shows that creative writing can have healing properties. The founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud argued that creative writers are daydreamers who find expression of their innermost desires in their writing. Most recently, James Pennebaker and his fellow researchers have found that expressive writing can help people suffering from a wide range of medical conditions, such as HIV.

On the MA in Creative Writing and Education we learn about these different types of research into creative writing and put quite a few of them into action, with students carrying out their own research. One of the key strategies that many of our students find liberating and healing is freewriting. On the course, they learn how and why this form of writing can be so successful. One of the recent gurus of freewriting, Peter Elbow explains what it is here and its benefits:

‘The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly. At least three times a week. They are sometimes called ‘automatic writing’, ‘babbling’, or ‘jabbering’ exercises. The idea is to write for 10 minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen-twenty). Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you’re doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just a squiggle or else write ‘I can’t think of it’. Just put something down. The easiest thing to do is put down whatever is in your mind.’ (Peter Elbow, Writing without Teachers, OUP, 1998, p. 3)

On the MA many of our students significantly improve their creative writing and their teaching of creative writing by instituting a regular routine of freewriting with themselves and their students.

In an upcoming conference on Freeing Creative Voice at Goldsmiths, many of the workshop leaders and lecturers will be showing how they have used freewriting and other strategies to find their voice as writers, as teachers, as people. The award winning writer Rachel Seiffert will l will lead an interactive workshop and offer suggestions on how writers from all backgrounds can encourage young students to free their creative minds and voices. Alumni and current students from the course will be sharing their wonderful research and creative outputs during interactive workshops on reciprocal teaching and journalling, using creative writing with language learners, writing privately and totally freely, psycho-analysis and poetry writing, using creative writing to engage in political debates, exploring abuse through creative writing, and connecting with one’s cultural heritage through creative writing. The conference will be topped off by the wonderful Victoria Bolavino who will explore how and why she wrote her novel Not Good for Maidens – A Goblin Market Re-telling (2022), and illustrate how she has freed her own creative writing voice

If you would like to be cheered up and you’re interested in writing, and/or teaching creative writing, do consider coming to the conference, it’s free. Tickets can be found here.

You can learn more about the MA in Creative Writing and Education here. 

Other MAs in the Department of Educational Studies which you might be interested in are:

MA Education: Culture Language and Identity, soon to be MA in Social Justice

The MA Education: Culture, Language and Identity has been developed into the MA Social Justice in Education (new from September 2024)

We build very much upon the strong and popular basis that is the MA Education: Culture, Language and Identity drawing upon the expertise of talented and knowledgeable academics.

This programme is designed for you if you are interested in how questions around social justice impact upon education as well as lived aspects of our lives. In part, this new MA  aims to address issues faced by those in informal learning contexts as well as formal educators at all levels, international settings and related fields.

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Children’s Literature

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Children’s Literature: Illustration Pathway

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Arts and Learning

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

MA Multilingualism, Linguistics and Education

You can find full details about this very popular MA on the website here:

Undergraduate BA programmes

Spreading good practice: developing the Parklife Toolkit

It is early July in Deptford Green schools and students from Goldsmiths, funded by the British Academy’s SHAPE initiative, are working with teachers and pupils at the school to co-create a ‘Parklife Toolkit’. They are looking at designs for possible websites for the Parklife Toolkit: considering fonts, colour schemes, lay outs. What will make the website attractive for other schools and community groups?

First, the pupils were asked by our website designer, a Media student at Goldsmiths, Yanning Tan, to:

Rank these 4 fonts (see above link) according to which would be best for the Parklife website? Don’t look too closely at the font in particular, instead focus on the overall vibe and impression of it! Do we want something more professional, or something more playful…or somewhere in between?

Then second, they were asked to consider:

Colours and possible logos – Which appeal most to them? Do the colours look visually appealing and do they fit the image of Parklife? If not what colours might be better? 

Website layouts and designs. Which one do they prefer and why? Any specific elements that they like about the design?

After some long discussions, the layout, fonts and colour schemes were agreed. You’ll have to wait until the website is launched to see the final result though, there was much debate and controversy amongst the pupils.

A series of other key ideas and concepts were considered, which are represented on these pieces of sugar paper. A key aspect of the Parklife project was doing creative research. The pupils and Goldsmiths students co-created this rather marvellous but simple series of steps.

The pupils considered the journey they went on during the Parklife Project so that they could put this into their Toolkit. This piece of sugar paper contains a rough series of points:

The Goldsmiths’ students helped the pupils discussed each of these important events and experiences connected with the Parklife Project:

Autumn Sharkey, a Goldsmiths student on the MA in Creative Writing and Education, summed up the timeline in this way:

1 Creative research

We split into three groups – the art group, the creative writing group and the litter picking group. We made a video of a hedgehog going through the woods and the forest using a 360 camera, we made a cottage poem and we painted artwork bringing to life what it could look like.

2 Advocacy day

Delegates from our local council joined together to listen to our manifesto. This included changes that needed to take place to impact safety, litter and engagement of the youth in our local park. The session started with the Parklife team presenting our creative research, which was followed by a Q&A session and a pledge writing activity, which were then followed up with. This helped us connect with the local community and bring change.

3 Following up on pledges from the council

The pledges were created from our short term and long term goals which were safety, litter and engaging young people. We collaborated, worked together and communicated by emailing the pledges back out to those who had attend the advocacy day to remind them about what they said they would do.

4 Meeting the mayor of Lewisham

Meeting the mayor of Lewisham was an important step that we have taken in order to achieve some changes in the park. During the meeting we used a shortened script from advocacy day in order to further advocate for our worries. We used the video to persuade and got some neutral response. They explained that the council doesn’t have enough resources to implement all of these changes, however we got to the point of agreement about a possible water fountain.

5 Building the water fountain

We prepared for the meeting with snacks and all of our creative work, and then the Lewisham Council came to school – we introduced ourselves and the project, explained how we want to change the park using our creative work. We asked them questions, and they took note, they said ‘no’ to a few, and discussed other points. We asked for the fountain and they built it.

6 Lewisham People’s Day

We went to Lewisham People’s Day to celebrate the work that we had created and spread awareness about park life. THis helped our confidence to stand up for our park and show others the significance of what we had done.

7 Meeting the NHS

We went to visit the local NHS workers to the park and discussed the flower garden that had been mentioned before in our meetings with Sarah Lang. The flower garden is being predicted to create 

8 Interviewing the police about park 

We were asking a lot of questions like how often does crime happen in the park, also we discussed the perception versus the reality of the park. We were discussing the statistics on how often crime happens and also the security of the park.

9 Major school survey about safety

We conducted a major school survey to determine the areas that cause the most fear. We discovered that the underpass caused the most feelings of lack of safety. We used this data to create our quiz.

10 Create an interactive quiz

The interactive quiz was first supposed to be made to raise awareness about our local green space. It was made as a Netflix film in order to engage as many as possible and make them realise the difference between perception and reality. However, later on we used it in our own climate conference in order to explain to the participants that were attending that although this relates to every park, it is better to check the reality rather than base our lives around possibilities.

11 Climate conference

We started practicing how to project our voices, we used what we’d already been doing to encourage other schools, and made a stand and a powerpoint to show how we’d changed the park – and then we added a quiz to stop them getting bored.

12 World Book Night

We collected together our best poems about Parklife, and then practised performing them to each other in a safe and kind way. We got in contact with the people who ran the local library and asked to present our poems to them and the local community. We were quite nervous when we presented the poems, but everyone was very appreciative. The local people asked us lots of questions about the project, and we were able to answer them very fully. It was a good experience to feel their interest and curiosity. They invited us back to do more events. It was a great connection to make. 

As you can see by the Powerpoint presentation painstakingly and lovingly created by our Creative Writing and Education student, Gabriella Sepsik, there were plenty of proud and memorable moments:

The project led to some wonderful creative work being produced:

A key feature of the project was to have clear goals and indicators of success. This poster illustrates this:

Christine Khisa supervised the last part of the creation of the Toolkit and really motivated the pupils to produce some great advice on how to run a Parklife project. These results will be shown in the upcoming Toolkit!

Meanwhile, Laura Dempsey at Volunteers for Future, and Rebecca Deegan, at I have a voice, two social enterprises that work with schools across the country, are devising their own Toolkit, which is aimed at primary school teachers and volunteer facilitators. It will also incorporate student research, ideation and design but aimed at a younger age group. We can’t wait to see what Toolkit they come up with as well!

The aim is that by the end of July, we will have two Toolkits in place: a toolkit aimed at teenagers, secondary schools and community groups and a toolkit aimed at primary school teachers. Both will go on the website that Yanning will create. In September, with the Toolkits published, we will start on the next phase of the Parklife project which will be test and trial the Toolkits with a number of schools: 3 secondary schools and/or local organisations, and 3 primary schools and/or groups which work with primary aged children. The final deadlines of the trialling and testing year have yet to be decided, but the funding has been secured so it’s definitely going to happen. We can’t wait to see how the Parklife Toolkits might work with other schools and organisations!


Why I wrote ‘Arts Methods for the Self-Representation of Undergraduate Students’ by Miranda Matthews


There are gathering national and global initiatives to develop further understanding of the experiences of undergraduate students, as they transition into their studies at university. This book is the first to present research on how arts methods integrated in taught curriculum and extra-curricular arts practice assist transitions into belonging in university cultures. Underrepresented groups can have particularly difficult times and experience anxiety and culture shock that affect their levels of confidence and participation.

In 2016 I started researching how arts methods could assist transitional experiences in UK universities. I questioned how participating in arts practice could enable greater bonding with study programmes, peer groups and environments. I wanted to find out how arts practice could increase self-representation and support the wellbeing of undergraduate students.

In Arts Methods for the Self-Representation of Undergraduate Students, a central argument is that all transitions into university cultures are sensory transitions, that involve adjustments to the types of sounds, accents, visual discourses, aesthetics and tastes and material presences of what it is like to be at university. When acknowledging the significance of sensory responses, university faculty need to consider whether learning and social spaces can offer welcoming, homing experiences. The architectural grandeur that celebrates traditions of knowledge, often has cultural subtexts of oppression that may be materially present in stone effigies. This cold, stone presence can impact the present day experiences of underrepresented students.

When talking about underrepresented groups, there is a focus on groups who are in minorities in higher education. However it must be remembered that students in racialised minorities and first-generation students are actually in global majorities. Mature students, parents, carers, and care-leavers, students with disabilities and non-binary students are also in minorities at university. The combined social oppressions associated with each of these identifications can add to the difficulties experienced when starting out in university cultures. This is where theories of intersectionality, that centralise the marginalised experiences of women of colour are particularly significant, and need to be centralised in our discussions of students’ experiences.

The feminist theories of Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Jennifer Nash and Gloria Ladson-Billings are centralised in my book. This book also connects with the diasporic cultural theory of Stuart Hall, and Paul Dash – for a relation to learning about the lived experiences of black people and people of colour. The multi-modal approach of this research approaches each university as a ‘pluriversity’ in which, as one of the participants says, ‘Every minority experience is probably different.’

Posthumanist theories of assemblage and affect are currently very significant for reflections on how university environments can become more responsive to the different needs of students, and more conscious of their impacts upon the environment. Universities assemble a vast range of diverse interests and specialist knowledges. They can also form caring and inclusive networks that respond to the sometimes preconscious ‘affective’ reactions of students who are affected by their feelings of difference.

In my book I present a reflexive accountability for my own whiteness as a researcher, with an inter-racial family. My parents did go to university, however they separated and my mother chose to work in the community, to be among the political grass-roots initiatives that were very important to her. As a young person I was therefore in close proximity to the experiences of people in racialised minorities and working-class people. My family has included black people and people of colour since I was a teenager.  My mixed-race niece who was born in 1990, was the first in her African-Caribbean family to go to university, and is now a thriving, professional woman.

In addition to centralising the experiences of people of colour,  UK HEIs are also called upon to address the experiences of mixed and white first-generation students, some of whom are more comfortable in urban and working-class communities, and are commuting into campus.

When exploring how arts methods can assist sensory transitions the historical contexts and cultural differences of the four nations of the UK need to be included in the discussion. There is an economic North-South divide in England, in Wales the rural white working-classes often have Welsh as their first language, in Scotland there is a significant class divide between students who take the Scottish Higher qualifications and those who can only take the Standards; this divide relates to the academic-vocational divide in England where A Levels are the traditional route to university. In Northern Ireland the legacy of ‘The Troubles’ still affects first-generation students.

These are some of the issues that lecturers working with arts methods are aware of and attempting to address. To justify the inclusion of arts methods, lecturers in subjects such as education, human geography, anthropology, psychology, sociology and English literature have had to argue for the inclusion of arts methods as they help students to achieve well in assessment.

Yet, the presence of arts practice has a far more extensive significance. My book documents how experiences of arts practice are enabling inclusivity, lateral social connectivity, collaboration, creative action and student leadership. There are significant differences of value for arts practice in UK HEIs; this book shows how an active value for arts practice can support flourishing inclusive university cultures that encompass many worlds of familiarity and difference.

Arts Methods for the Self-Representation of Undergraduate Students was published by Routledge in April 2023. You can find out more about this book here. 


Dr. Miranda Matthews is an artist, writer, arts educator and researcher. Miranda researches issues of self-representation, agency and inclusivity for students and practitioners. She also researches inclusive voice in ecological practice research. Miranda worked as an artist and then as a teacher of art, working in schools and colleges for ten years (2004-14). Miranda has a PhD in Educational Studies (2012, Goldsmiths, University of London). She has taught in Higher Education in the UK since 2011, and became a member of Goldsmiths Educational Studies Faculty in 2016. Miranda Matthews is currently Head of the Centre for Arts and Learning at Goldsmiths, University of London (2019- ); she is also Associate Head of School for Student Experience in Professional Studies, Science and Technology (2023-2025).





Unlocking Identity for the 21st Century – Building Identity Literacy with Children

Mass displacement and migration due to climate change, resource wars and sea-level rise are now near certainty, meaning that many communities will likely experience a greater influx of ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity.

Political polarization, racial, ethnic and religious disharmony and conflict already characterise the nature of community life for increasing numbers of people around the world. The potential for the problems in the global economy to exacerbate the large-scale migration we have seen over the last decade seems higher than ever.

How, then, can we prepare our communities and our children for an increasingly complex future? Can we resist and counteract division as fear is used to turn ordinary men and women against those that are seen as different? Can we equip children with the ability to resist propaganda disseminated through social media and the pressures of their peers, parents and manipulative influencers?

Can we give them the resilience needed to fulfil their potential and maximise their development? What can we do now to better prepare the next generation to cooperate and thrive in the rapidly changing world that is unfolding?

The Potential Power of Identity

 One path forward is harnessing the latest understanding of how identities work – as a psychological and social system that helps to fulfil universal human needs and solve everyday problems. With increased identity literacy we can empower ourselves to self-actualise, build resilience and find freedom from self-concepts which lead to division.

Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen, states that the richness of identity comes from the fact that “…the same person can be, without any contradiction, a Norwegian citizen, of Asian origin, with Bangladeshi ancestry, a Muslim, a socialist, a woman, a vegetarian, a jazz musician, a doctor, a poet, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights”. This plurality means that identities can and should be entities that empower and liberate us to fulfil our potential and stimulate us to grow.

However, when this ‘state of plurality, of multiplicity and choice’ is diminished and restricted, we are only able to see ourselves in singular ways such as members of only one ethnic, religious or political group, diminishing the ability to meet our core human needs through many different expressions of identity.

For example, during terrorist or gang recruitment or in preparation for genocide, an individual’s identity options are gradually stripped away. The subject’s sense of who they are, where they come from, and who their enemy is is rewritten. A “depluralised” identity can convince people that they are divided from one another, severing their ability to feel an affinity with manufactured enemies and potentially turning these targets of manipulation into weapons capable of orchestrating terrible acts of violence.

With the ever-expanding reach of the internet and social media, these manipulations of identities are now easier and more scalable than ever before in human history. When compounded with the disruptive climatic and demographic trends we face, these technological vulnerabilities represent an existential threat to humanity as we know it.

Identity Literacy in Education

But there is hope. Schools and educators are in a powerful position to recognise and help solve this urgent problem. By identifying the risk of ‘identity depluralisation’ in each child as well as in the community in which the school serves, we can intervene effectively in the early stages. And we can do more than just safeguard and protect. All those involved with children can learn to empower them with the understanding and mastery of how their own identities function, in turn helping them to recognise and maintain flexible and diverse identities.

Helping children to build “Identity literacy” will allow children to better understand the deeper roots of their own and others’ behaviours, build empathy, and hone their skills to effectively resolve issues at their root. As a consequence, mastering identity not only allows more effective learning experiences to take place within and beyond the classroom, but also increases the resilience and actualisation of the child and, eventually, the wider community.

We believe that identity literacy must be integrated into our education as it is the foundation of our lived experience and a critical component in how we prepare for and thrive within the increasingly complex and diverse world of the 21st Century.

The Organisation for Identity and Cultural Development (OICD) has developed a program to help educators and schools incorporate identity literacy into their classrooms, policies and communities. The organisation offers schools the ability to conduct an ‘identity audit’, as well as train staff with a CPD course ‘Helping Children to be Identity Literate’ available through Goldsmiths University’s Teaching Hub.

For more information on the OICD’s work on Identity Literacy in Education and how it might be useful to your institution, contact Chikara Shimasaki at



Welcome to the Department of Educational Studies blog

This is the first ever post on what aims to become an important blog for both Goldsmiths and for the world of education more generally. This blog will host all the wonderful programmes that make up the Department of Educational Studies.

It is a more informal space than our official webpages, which you can find here.

This blog seeks to be a lively, thought-provoking commentary on what is happening in our department; it should be at all times illuminating and engaging, sometimes controversial and rarely boring!

So sit back, relax and enjoy reading it!