Whilst undertaking my Educational Doctorate, I was desperately seeking college comrades to discuss my research with. I knew people were doing masters and at least one other was doing a doctorate, but I didn’t know what their research interests were and wasn’t sure how to connect with them. After attending an online event put on by Huddersfield University and the Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) about research in FE, I eventually developed a college based Microsoft Teams space called Think HuB, an ongoing project that has led to some fabulous, connected thinking.
Feelings of not being ‘good enough’ are rife in FE. We love our jobs, and we want to be even better teachers, but time is always a factor to our development. As a teacher educator, involved with CPD across the college I work in, I saw it all too often; sparks of inspiration that then go nowhere because of time. I was introduced to Thinking Environment (Nancy Kline) in 2019 by an online training event through the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the wonderful Lou Mycroft. It opened my eyes to the transformative potential of thinking. It does seem obvious now, but at the time, the space to think, just wasn’t valued by me, my managers or by my colleagues.
When I set up Think HuB, I knew the Thinking Environment would be the central method of collaboration and communication. The original premise was to connect with other researchers, but I quickly realised that I was excluding so many from that space if they weren’t ‘officially’ doing research. So, I invited everyone at the college to join us, to attend a Think HuB lunchtime hour, to just share our thinking about research in FE. I got 25 people attending, including directors, library staff and teaching assistants. It was a threshold moment for me, to see what the gift of space to think can do and importantly the opportunity for all voices to be heard, carefully supported by the Thinking Environment components.
Think HuB has had its peaks and troughs since then, I am busy, everyone is busy and at pinch points in the year, it hasn’t been as well attended but it has enabled some ideas to develop through thinking and listening. Some shoots have sprouted rhizomatically from this initial stem. In sharing what I was doing with Think HuB, other practitioners (largely in the Edu Twittersphere) were intrigued and asked how I had done it. In the setting up, I was supported by others (Naomi Knott, Bryony Evett, Norman Crowther to name a few) and so I offered to support others. It seemed natural to do this in a Thinking Environment space, and #CuriousFE was launched to ‘think’ with others about the setting up of research groups in FE. A spin off from that was an event entitled #FEThinks which brought together FE practitioners to discuss the concepts of Joy, Solidarity and Curiosity in FE. And those discussions have led to me and a colleague @thetroomuk working together on a proposal to support teachers in working with transgender students, as well as many other projects and connections nationwide.
The original intention of Think HuB has perhaps morphed, but the outcomes have been everything that is wonderfully organic about research in FE. I’m not sure where it will go next as I am just the facilitator, but I am excited to see the fruition of many new ideas, born in a space given over to think.