Tübingen Reloaded: Insights
In the “Tübingen Reloaded: Insights” series, we interview research alumni who have returned to the University of Tübingen on a Tübingen Reloaded grant. The series offers insights into the highly varied research undertaken by UT research alumni and the international collaborations at the University of Tübingen.
Today’s guest is Dr. Nicholas McGuinn who was invited back to the University of Tübingen by Professor Uwe Küchler (English Department). Nicholas McGuinn works at the Department of Education at the University of York, where he is a Visiting Fellow and undertakes research in Secondary Education, Teacher Education and Teaching Methods. He was the Ottilie Wildermuth Visiting Professor at the University of Tübingen for the winter term 2019/20 and returned to Tübingen on a Tübingen Reloaded grant in December 2022.
What brought you to Tübingen?
I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity of sharing the Ottilie Wildermuth Visiting Chair of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Tübingen University’s English Department for the academic year of 2019/20. My colleague from the Department of Education at York, Amanda Naylor, held the post for the summer semester and I followed for the winter semester. In December 2022, I returned to participate in the “Fachtag Englisch” and to develop the existing writing and research collaborations between my department and the UT English Department which the Wildermuth initiative has made possible.
Tell us about your research and the projects you are currently working on.
My field of research has been exploring the relationship between drama in education and citizenship. Recently, however, I have been working on a further project: together with colleagues from Norway and Pakistan, I am connecting undergraduate students from three different countries, Norway, Pakistan and the UK, inviting them to share the experience of studying the same literary text. At the moment, we are looking at Lord of the Flies by William Golding from an ecological viewpoint. It has been very enriching to see how students from different backgrounds explore the same literary themes. To date, we have published two papers on our work in the Cambridge Journal of Education. One entitled We are invited to imagine: using a literary text to encourage cross-cultural dialogue about citizenship and the other ‘I lost the faith in humanity.’ Using William Golding’s Lord of the Flies to explore ethical and moral issues through transnational, online literary exchange.
Is this work part of a larger project?
In a way, yes. We want to widen the focus of our work by exploring this collaboration as a model for teachers and academics who are interested in designing their own professional development programme and regaining a sense of agency through that process. Within the current English educational system, there is a perception amongst some teachers that they have little agency when it comes to professional development. There is the sense that professional development tends to be imposed from the top down within schools. We seek to explore what happens when a group of teachers gets together and decides for themselves how they want to develop as professionals, what they want to study, and how they can support each other. In this context, it was particularly valuable, during and after my time at Tübingen, to work on a teaching and research project with staff from Weingarten Gymnasium (publication forthcoming: 2023).
What else are you working on?
The relationship between drama and citizenship. I am interested for example in “forum theatre”, the kind of applied theatre that gives a voice to people who, in the current system, do not usually have a voice or much sense of agency. Forum theatre is a type of theatre that invites people to act out the issues they are dealing with in a dramatic space and, crucially, to rehearse alternative responses within a ‘forum’ that is both nurturing and encouraging of imaginative engagement. Non-professional actors use drama techniques to play out and to discuss the key issues that they have in their lives. I was very pleased that the drama practitoner Jonathan Sharp, a colleague whom I met at Tübingen, was able to contribute a chapter to the volume International Perspectives on Drama and Citizenship Education: Acting Globally. Abingdon and New York: Routledge Education that I edited together with two colleagues.
What surprised you the most during your stay in Tübingen?
I didn't realize that Ottilie Wildermuth was a near contemporary of George Eliot (Marian Evans)! My academic work began with a PhD in George Eliot and feminism, and I feel like my time in Tübingen was a nice way, on a personal level, of completing the circle. ‘Surprised’ is not the appropriate word here; but it was fascinating to compare our respective departments’ approaches to the teaching and assessment of undergraduate students and trainee teachers. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed my teaching experiences at Tübingen as well as the many opportunities for on-going collaborative work with colleagues which the Wildermuth Chair has made possible. I would like to extend particular thanks to Professor Uwe Küchler for facilitating my stay and for making me so welcome. It is good to know that we will continue to write and publish together.
Dr. Nicholas McGuinn
University of York
Department of Education