Kindred Spirit: A SCoTENS Research Project Report on Kindness in Teacher Education

Kindred Spirit Kindness in teacher education

This project was undertaken to explore and honour the role of kindness in teacher education under the auspices of the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENs) as a collaboration between researchers in Dublin City University (DCU) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). It originally aimed to do this through the development of a digital game about kindness. In talking to teacher students and teacher educators as the project progressed however, we pivoted to a postdigital, unplugged approach. As a counterpoint to the sometimes-relentless march of the digital in education we created a printed comic on kindness in education, via a form of multimodal narrative enquiry. This artefact was developed based on testimony from interviews with 20 student teachers in Dublin City University (DCU) on the role of kindness in teaching conducted following research ethics committee approval. A storyboard was created by the project team in a form of narrative analysis which included our reflections on the process, links with relevant literature, and participant testimonies to illustrate understandings of kindness expressed between teachers and students. Workshops were held with a graphic designer and illustrator, Bryan Mathers, who was contracted to the project to help generate graphics to illustrate the comic. His “visual thinkery” was a key element in allowing us to translate our research findings into invitations for ongoing conversations with students and teachers in a unique way. Our results indicated that kindness as a concept can be problematic and subject to appropriation but happily, we also found that kindness in teaching is alive and well. Student teachers gave examples of different forms of kindness in teaching and rich examples of kindness in their teaching practice and teacher education. This kindness was both a formative component of their teacher identity and also a lived reality of their practice. A key aim of the project was to remind teachers of the nature of the work they do in this regard and honour its examples. The published comic book was shared by three unplugged means. Firstly, the comic was posted in the terrestrial mail to selected teachers, colleagues and teacher educators in the project’s networks. Secondly the comic was distributed in both QUB and DCU at events and conferences. Lastly the comic was shared with educators in a capstone workshop event in Belfast. This event was opened with a keynote address on kindness by invited speaker Dr Catherine Cronin and participants engaged in a drawing exercise with the artist Bryan Matters and in a shared silent reading of the comic. In this workshop participants discussed and visualized kindness as a lived practice both in teacher education and in higher education. The project was further disseminated at the Open Educational Resources (OER23) conference in Inverness on 6th April 2023, the European Distance and Elearning Network (EDEN) conference in Dublin on 20th June, the Irish Learning Technology (ILTA) annual EdTech conference on June 2nd in Dublin and has been accepted to ECER 2023 conference in August 2023 in Glasgow. The project was promoted online through the Dublin City University website and through social media on Twitter and Linkedin. The project was called out for commendationduring the keynote address of Dr Maren Deepwell to over 200 delegates at the EDEN conference. A key success factor in this project was the contribution of a student teacher as a full member of the project team. Following the participatory principle of “nothing about us without us”, this undergraduate student teacher (Ms Ruby Cooney) played a key role as a co-participant in all aspects of the project and deserves special mention and thanks for her great contribution. The project team is deeply grateful to SCoTENs for funding this work and for its indispensable role in providing a supportive framework for collaborative research and professional activities in teacher education North and South. We express our deepest thanks for the opportunity to have contributed to its objectives during this project and to the student teachers who taught us so much about the value of kindness. kindness.