Louise Dearden

I have been teaching English Language, English Literature and Drama for almost 30 years and I consider myself fortunate to have worked in a diverse range of educational contexts in Europe and the UK. I began my career teaching EFL to adults with The British Council in Europe. Following this, I moved to an international school where I taught in both Primary and Secondary. It was during this period that I began to explore how people learn and communicate at the intersection of language and the arts and how creative pedagogies have the potential to open spaces for meaningful engagement in the classroom. Since my return to the UK in 2015, I have been teaching ESOL at an adult education institute and this is where I am currently carrying out my doctoral research with migrant learners.

My PhD project has taken a change in direction over the past year due to repercussions from the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in collaboration with Birmingham Opera Company, my original intention was to investigate the impact on identity of language learners’ participation in community opera. However, the inevitable cancellation of the event has led to a shift in focus. I am now exploring what constitutes meaningful participation in language learning. To this end I am examining how participatory patterns change across various social contexts within the learning environment and the relationship these patterns have with the way learners perform identities.

I am passionate about teaching but also about learning; I would describe myself as a committed life-long learner. When I returned to the UK in 2015, it was to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Birmingham. This experience has shaped my research interests since then.

Research interests

My MA dissertation was a narrative inquiry into language teacher cognition, more specifically, the role of moral values in primary language teacher lives. This stimulated an interest in exploring the moral, ethical, social and political dimensions of language teaching and learning in an age of globalisation.

Seminar Three Provocation: Story-telling as a space of encountering the Other

My PhD project is a phenomenological study that details the genesis of the relationship between myself, a language teacher/researcher and Henry, an ESOL student from Iran. The research was conducted in an Adult Education institute over a period of 9 months. The data gathered within this period comprise an abundance of fieldnotes, recordings and images taken from a series of situated encounters in different contexts within the institute: classroom activities, interviews, informal chats and an artistic workshop. Any one of the student participants in the class could have been the focus of my study, but there was something about my encounters with Henry that awakened a curiosity. He has aspirations of attending university to complete a PhD in aerospace engineering; he already has an MSc in the same field, which he gained in Iran. Despite this ambition, he appears disengaged in class. Yet he purposefully seeks out opportunities to engage with me on a one-to one basis. These encounters are characterised by a telling of stories; Henry tells, I listen.

This provocation focuses on the analysis chapter of my project, which is simply entitled ‘The Novel’. There are 3 episodes to this novel: The Lorry, The Story, The Pandemic. In this presentation I read an excerpt from the beginning of ‘The Story’, a tale which unravels on several levels. The impetus was a story-telling project organised by the institute called My Voice. The expectation was that each ESOL student would record or write a personal story and some of these would be chosen for inclusion on the website. Based on our informal chats which he peppers with stories, I thought Henry might relish this story-telling challenge. But there are 3 things you might need to know about Henry before you listen to my reading:

He came to the UK by boat.

He can’t swim.

He did his very best to avoid this story-telling task to the bitter end.

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