Developing a community of practice through the special interest group (SIG) on inclusion and social justice

Paliokosta, Panagiota

Impact Summary

The SIG on Inclusion and Social Justice was the first SIG to be launched in the school of education (2010) by Dr Paty Paliokosta and built a research and scholarship friendly environment through opportunities for practice papers, invited talks, and CPD events for staff and students. This Special Interest Group (SIG) alongside other SIGs that were developed later, formed the core of the Education Research Group (ERG); existing SIGs are described at our school website as ‘catalysts for the development of conceptual, theoretical and empirical-based knowledge generation with dissemination through a range of publications, including books, book chapters, journals in addition to conferences, seminars and workshops’ (extract for university’s outward-looking page). The activity of the SIG has enabled and supported the ‘school of education’s strong and long-standing commitment to continuing professional development and practitioner research and a portfolio of award-bearing programmes’, e.g Inclusive Curricula Award (2018); TEAN Commendation for Effective Practice in Teacher Education (2019); AdvanceHE Connect on-boarding grant (2020). The SIG’s activity and its dissemination through social media has attracted the interest of an increased number of requests by external collaborators, prospective PhD students, local schools, multi-academy trusts and the voluntary and charity sector. It is very pleasing that this network is growing.

Key Achievements

  1. Organised high-quality co-teaching with local and international peer scholars and produced peer-reviewed papers that inform lectures (e.g. Paliokosta and Proyer, 2015)
  2. Developed collaboration and knowledge exchange with the SEN Department of University of Vienna and subsequently the international MARG-IN group with 5 international universities.
  3. The SIG recently became a multi-disciplinary hub that hosts sub-projects with students and staff (the 'Equality Diversity and Inclusion Audit', the ‘Inclusion Passport’, the 'AdvanceHE Supporting Students Inclusive Practice Placements' Network’) and H2H (
  4. The reach of the community of the multi-disciplinary practice has been expanding and includes external members (RBK Achieving for Children (Local authority), schools, multi-academy trusts, two charities, university of East Anglia, UCL CDLD Lab)
  5. Participated and/or led successful project bid-funding (DfE, TDA, Life-long Learning fund, Heritage Lottery fund) that led to REFable project outputs (ICS in Education) and T&L material for HE, schools and the community (Disability Awareness resource).
  6. Provided opportunities for colleagues’ CPD and mentoring on inclusive curriculum (e.g. EDI Audit; Inclusion Passport) in the context of SIG meetings, committee meetings, conferences and events, run by the SIG
  7. Invited by other organisations schools across the university (LTEC, Developing Minds Lab, School of Psychology).

Key Aims

Recognising the potential and capacity for multi and interdisciplinary perspective within FHSCE, the SIG actively sought to develop and extend networks within and beyond the University; cross discipline-related thresholds and create synergy between theory and practice; promote and support a research culture and establish capacity for research within my discipline. There was a need for the development of a critical mash for reflection and academic enquiry in a department that was known for its excellence in teaching and learning. Through initially organising termly events for colleagues at the school of education and gradually across faculty and beyond, the SIG’s aims were to: share expertise; discuss research and current or future projects; discuss teaching and learning issues in relation to inclusive education and special educational needs for different courses; link to wider organisations; offer peer mentoring for development of research and co-authoring; link to wider academic forums; apply for research bids; disseminate scholarly work and participate in conferences. Ultimately, the aim was to develop a community of practice that enhances the teaching and learning offer at my school, faculty and beyond, through research-led, civic engagement, multi-disciplinary activity.


Following the model of ‘productive pedagogies’, according to which issues of social justice, equity and inclusion are central, not supplementary, to good practice (Allan, 2003) and always aiming for knowledge co-production (Freire, 2013), opportunities for knowledge transfer were created for academics and postgraduate students across university; this was facilitated through presentations, mini-conferences, a centenary talk and webinars involving prominent national and international activists and academics in the field of SEN/Inclusion: e.g. Richard Rieser (Disabled educator and Activist), Prof. Gottfried Biewer (Lead academic on the field of SEND at the University of Vienna), Prof. Lesley Saunders (Oxford University), Sonia Blandford (AfA CEO and visiting professor at UCL). Local charity representatives (Kingston Centre for Independent Living) and social enterprise ‘Achieving for Children’ have also joined more recent SIG meetings and cascade information to the community and schools. As a co-director of H2H since 2018, Dr Paliokosta cross-fertilised approaches of relational pedagogy, and social justice in education, through innovative learning and teaching experiences in collaboration with external bodies (e.g. the National Trust and innovative learning opportunities in Ham House (see appendix). Such activities were disseminated to Y9 students from a multi-academy trust, in order to impact incoming generations of students and the way they connect their learning with the community.

Key Outcomes

The SIG has served as important CPD hub at different levels; According to the FSHEA panel (2018) ‘Dr Paliokosta’s commitment to inclusion and use of evidence-based approaches’ were evident. Enquiry through mentoring or collaboration with colleagues was facilitated on a variety of topics, including reasonable adjustments and multi-professionalism; preparing student teachers for inclusion; disability awareness and activism. There is evidence of colleagues’ engagement with research that led to papers dissemination and networking with other universities. The several projects developed in the context of the SIG have made the school of Education’s presence more prominent in the academic community through participation in conferences and through social media. The number of prospective PhD students has increased and postgraduate students can become part of the SIG. The SIG has increased the school’s visibility in the university leading to collaboration and knowledge exchange with the school of psychology and the university’s DARE team for supported research bids to external funders and philanthropists in health and social care (SALUTEM) (appendices). Invitations as key note speaker and panellist repeatedly occurred (e.g. Inside the Government, 2012) and knowledge transfer on innovative teaching strategies sustained (e.g. KU department of social work, university of East Anglia). The nurturing of the co-produced Inclusion Passport project has led to the on-boarding grant by AdvanceHE Connect for a Network on Supporting Students’ Practice Placements. The passport has been disseminated in the faculty through the Personal Tutor Forums, the HSCE PTS canvas module, and several committees; the Faculty Education Committee, the Faculty Practice Education group and the EDI committee. Developments have been made in the school of Nursing and Paramedic science and a submission for an Erasmus+ project will extend the claim internationally. It will be soon be transformed into an e-resource to support employability. The different development areas are shared through the Education Newsletter to KU Partnership schools promoting knowledge transfer and encouragement for teachers’ participation in this community of practice.

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