Research Activities

The role of research in our organisation

Crossfields Institute’s strategy regarding research is to promote and encourage a research based approach within the organisation and the organisations we serve. Research is viewed as one of the primary areas where we can work collaboratively with peer organisations to learn, share practice and develop strategic links.

The promotion of research within the organisation has to do particularly with the development of our own practice. Our staff are actively encouraged to engage in learning and research as an integrated part of their job role. Two members of staff have recently completed PhDs and a further member is close to completion. We also have a member of staff who is in the final stages of completing a Masters programme.

A further example of a research project in our organisation was an action research project called ‘Crossfields 100’. This research explored the impact on staff productivity and wellbeing of short but regular periods of reflective personal time during the working day. All staff were invited to take part in this project as participants and co-researchers.

Research Conferences

A further important aspect of research at Crossfields Institute is our research conferences, which we organise in collaboration with universities and partner organisations. Our aim here is to create open and creative spaces for raising and addressing challenging issues in education, in academia and in educational leadership. Our underlying aim in these conferences is to build collaborative networks of researchers, practitioners and academics who care passionately about education and its potential for personal and social transformation. We have organised a number of conferences in the series and you can see an example of some of them below.

Here are some examples of our research conferences:

The Poetics of Leadership

Creativity, art and story in enabling meaningful change

This conference took place in September 2018 and was organised in collaboration with University of Cumbria’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) and Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics.

Conference theme:

Decision-makers need to be bold and agile to help their organisations and communities respond to rapid changes in their environments. Actions based on existing patterns of thought and behaviour will often not suffice. What stimulates the necessary creativity to think afresh about contexts and choices? In this two-day event, we will explore methods available for leadership practice and development. Topics will include: creative writing as a method for personal leadership, poetry as an aid for exploring emotions, the visual and performing arts as a means of enabling new ideas, storytelling as a method for leadership communications, physical play as a means of reducing inhibitions, and outdoor activities as opportunities for deepening insight. We will experience such methods and discuss them in the context of both classical and contemporary theories on the role of creativity and arts in personal and social change.

Leadership, Ethics and Working with Unknowing

This conference took place in March 2017 and was organised in collaboration with Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at University West of England and Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics.

Conference theme:

The focus on ethical values in leadership has been sharpened through a string of recent world events, and it seems that the need for truly ethical leadership has never been greater. Yet in what do genuine ethical values really lie? Is ethical leadership something that individuals can cultivate? And can ethical values be instilled into organisational culture in such a way that it is both evolving and sustainable?

This conference sets out to encourage inquiry and stimulate debate on these questions. We will address the theme from a range of perspectives and we will specifically consider the importance of working creatively with unknowing. Here, the idea is that ethical inspiration and ethical action can arise as much out of states of openness and emptiness as it can out of solution-focused effort.

The poet John Keats called this ’negative capability’ and we will be examining what this means and what its relevance for ethical leadership practice might be. The conference offers contributions from scholars in the field and practicing leaders in a blend of key-note presentations and interactive workshops. The conference is for leaders, managers, academics, students, philosophers and anyone else interested in the practice of ethical leadership today.

Inner and Outer Dimensions of Thinking

This conference took place in May 2016 and was organised in collaboration with the Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy at Witten-Herdecke University (Germany) and Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics.

Conference theme:

Thinking is deeply embedded into every aspect of human life. It informs how we experience ourselves and it informs how we experience the world. It also plays a major role in determining the kind of social, cultural and technological environments we collectively create. And yet for all its importance, there is still little general consensus about what thinking is or how it functions.

Cognitive science has tended to reduce thinking to ‚outer‘ physical factors. Traditionally this has been understood as computation-like activity in the physical brain, but more recently it is seen as the activity of the brain and body in living interaction with the physical environment. Other approaches to thinking focus on how we use words and how language is structured. Still other approaches adopt first-person and phenomenological methods to describe the conscious experience of thinking from the ‚inside‘.

At this conference we will address the question of the nature of thinking from both outer and inner dimensions. There will be keynote lectures, workshops and paper presentations that draw from different disciplines, including philosophy, phenomenology, psychology, the arts and neuroscience. The aim is that out of this transdisciplinary approach, new insights emerge that go across and beyond the different disciplines.

The conference is for academics, researchers, educators and students from any discipline who are interested in deepening their understanding of what thinking is and how it functions.

Transforming Moments: Dissonance, Liminality and Action as Learning Experiences

This conference took place in January 2016 and was organised in collaboration with the School of Politics and International Relations at Universtiy of Kent and Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics.

Conference theme:

What should be the role of transformative learning in today’s educational institutions and practices? How does the notion of transformative learning square with the pressures of employability, and can transformative learning give learners greater autonomy vis-à-vis such pressures? This conference is for educators, practitioners, researchers and students from different disciplines who are interested in exploring theories and practices of transformative learning. A wide range of questions will be considered, for example: Are theories of transformative learning correct to suggest that transformation begins with a loss of orientation, with dissonance and with liminality? How can we incorporate dissonance in our teaching in a manner that is deliberate without being patronising? And how can such dissonance creatively enhance, rather than undermine, our ability to act in a complex world?

Role of Humanities, Arts and Transdisciplinary Practice in Higher Education

This conference took place in May 2015 and was organised in collaboration with Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics and Niederrhein University (Germany)

Conference theme:

With career pathways and employability increasingly defining higher education, what is the role and importance of subjects such as literature, philosophy and the arts? And is there still a place in higher education for pursuing a love of learning for its own sake?

In this conference we will explore the possibility of higher education as a journey into the unknown, a place, perhaps, for finding an individual calling or life’s task, a place for self-discovery and selftransformation, a place for exploring questions of human experience and human existence. What is the relevance of this notion of higher education today, both at the individual level of spiritual meaning and fulfilment and at the more general level of social cohesion and resilience?

Our aim for this conference is to create an open space for collaborative dialogue, creative thinking and critical enquiry, with the hope that this will promote new insights for practical ways forward. The conference is for educators, practitioners, students, researchers and anyone interested in the future of higher education.

Reimagining the University: New approaches to teaching and learning in higher education

This conference took place in October 2014 and was organised in collaboration with University of Gloucestershire and Alanus University’s Institute for Philosophy and Aesthetics.

Conference theme:

What were the original ideals of the university and how do they relate to what the university has become today? How can new ideas of ethical, embodied transformative practice help to reimagine and revitalize the university? The conference is for educators, practitioners and researchers from different disciplines who are interested in innovative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education including: