This article summarises an interview with co-chair of the opening session of the UKFIET conference for early career professionals: Katie Godfrey, CAMFED  and Emma Jackson, University of York

The 2021 virtual UKFIET conference will open on Monday 13 September with keynote speakers addressing the overall theme of: Building Back Better in Education and Training: Reimagining, Reorienting and Redistributing. This will be followed by a session sharing learning and research by early career researchers and practitioners. There will be five short presentations and the session will be divided into two halves – focusing on research methods and COVID-19. All are welcome – this brief introduction gives you an insight into what to expect.

What excites you about the two themes – research methods and COVID-19?

Methodology can be seen to be a dry area to focus on, however, there are many emerging innovative methodologies and new exciting ways to collaborate with participants during the research process. Data can be expressed through different art forms and media that allow academic research to be accessible to groups that otherwise would not have the opportunity to engage with it. The implications of COVID-19 restrictions around the world have also necessitated creative adaptations and innovations within methodologies, with researchers finding that some are better suited to adaptation than others.

How does this link to the overall 2021 conference theme of Building Back Better in Education and Training? 

The impact of COVID-19 and its associated restrictions has exacerbated inequalities, and the impact of the pandemic has been felt most strongly in poorer regions. Access to education has been denied to already disadvantaged students, with schools worldwide being closed for prolonged periods and many alternative or ‘hybrid’ systems being inaccessible to tech-poor students. By focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on education, we hope that we will draw attention to both areas that require support, as well as highlighting interesting and effective initiatives that have emerged during this difficult time. 

What kind of sessions/ papers can we expect to find?

The papers that have been selected are all looking at a problem in a new way or highlighting a theme that we consider to be under-researched. Education has many facets and the research in this area is innovative and with real potential to aid social change; we hope the early career session will highlight this.

The papers include a critical look at methodology, including: exploration of researcher positionality and power; how to decolonise methodology; and discussion of poetic inquiry. As part of the COVID-19 theme, papers include an examination of stress levels of students during COVID-19, the learning experience of Chinese students in the UK through the pandemic and the potential of hybrid learning environments.