PENCIL Project

By Kasia Mika and Elizabeth Watkins (University of Leeds –

In its second year, PENCIL (Postgraduate Engagement Network for Creativity in Learning) offers an innovative model for collaborative public engagement projects. PENCIL focuses on the relationship between creativity, curriculum, and postgraduate research, committed to making measurable change by fostering lasting collaborations between local schools, universities and regional and national educational organisations.

pencilPENCIL, co-founded by Jay Parker (University of Leeds) and Catherine Laing (Linguistics and Language Studies Pathway, University of York), responds to the need for a sustained, collaborative inquiry into the role and significance of creativity in learning. PENCIL is an ongoing research and public engagement initiative between: three White Rose Universities (Leeds, York, Sheffield), The Brigshaw Trust (a co-operative trust which supports the work of eight primary schools in West Yorkshire) and CapeUK.

With support from the White Rose Interdisciplinary Network Funding Scheme (student-led), the project ran from May to July 2014 in five primary schools across West Yorkshire. It consisted of two workshops and five classroom sessions, with a focus on the relationship between creativity and digital technology, science, literacy skills, drama, and outdoors education. Significant improvements were noticed across the five projects in areas of academic performance, classroom behaviours and student ownership of the learning process. The project also had a very positive impact on participating teachers, fostering confidence and encouraging them to be more creative and inventive when it comes to lesson planning.

The second year of PENCIL, co-led by Elizabeth Watkins (University of Leeds) and Kasia Mika (University of Leeds), builds on the success of these collaborations and continues the aims of the project. It also extends its scope by forging new partnerships with non-mainstream educational institutions (for example, local Steiner and Montessori Schools) and by emphasising to a greater extent the sharing of knowledge, skills and experiences between all participants. The project aims to foster non-hierarchical collegial relationships between teachers, postgraduate facilitators and supporting educational organisations as well as facilitating a classroom project-based and theoretically informed enquiry into the value and place of creativity as a key learning attribute. We will run two workshops for all participants at each end of the project, three to five in-school sessions led jointly by teachers and postgraduate facilitators, as well as an introductory session for postgraduate facilitators.

PENCIL is currently seeking postgraduate facilitators from the three White Rose Universities who are keen to get involved. We are looking for enthusiastic postgraduates from all disciplines who have a keen interest in creativity, education, learning, and public policy.

To get involved and for more information please email Liz and Kasia at