Brian Williamson

Brian WilliamsonI want to teach, research; and to see more clearly what education is; and what it could become.
In 1973, at the age of 18, I went to university to study maths. I grew a fascination for abstract algebra, believing that one day it would help me solve problems and answer important questions. So, when an opportunity came along to apply for a Meat and Livestock Commission scholarship to research heritability estimation in large commercial pig breeding unit in Yorkshire, I jumped at the chance.
My experience as a research student was challenging, to me and to my supervisors. In 1980 my highly idealistic theoretical thesis was reviewed by an applied scientist who did not share my enthusiasm for abstract algebra. So, I eventually wrote a second more applied thesis around the first, resubmitted and passed my PhD in 1984.
This roller-coaster of a research studentship sparked off my interest in pedagogy and ‘the other’. So, I became a one-to-one tutor to find out what other peoples’ learning roller-coasters are like.   
When working at my tutor role at the University of Liverpool (2003 – 2014), I was invited to join the pedagogy research group, which reconnected me with research.  I read widely and listened intently, struggling to find a new way in. My struggle to understand the relationship between abstract thoughts and empirical research took a leap forwards when, by chance, I read Jack Whitehead’s 1989 paper Creating a living educational theory from questions of the kind, "How do I improve my practice?”